Notre Dame junior linebacker Jaylon Smith has made the first round of cuts for two of the most prestigious defensive player awards on Monday when he was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Butkus Award and one of 20 for the Bednarik Award.
So far this season Smith is pacing Notre Dame with 66 tackles to go along with 6 tackles for loss and a sack. He’s also forced a fumble and recovered a pair of them as well. Smith’s 66 tackles are 20 more then the next closest member of the Irish defense, Keivarare Russell, and 23 more than fellow Irish linebacker Joe Schmidt.
Smith was named one of three finalists for the Butkus Award last year as a sophomore so his presence on the semifinalist list this year is no surprise. The Butkus Award is handed out to the nation’s best linebacker every year. The Bednarik Award, meanwhile, is given out to the best overall defensive player.
One opponent the Irish have already played – USC’s Su’a Cravens – and another they have yet to face – Stanford’s Blake Martinez – also made the cut for the Butkus Award. Almost shockingly after seeing him up close last weekend, Temple’s Tyler Matakevich was left off the list. For as good as Smith is for the Irish, it could very well be argued that Matakevich was the best linebacker on the field last Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Matakevich was, however, one of the 20 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award semifianlists along with Smith. Other Notre Dame past and future opponents on the list include: Cravens from USC and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson.
Manti Te’o was the last Notre Dame linebacker to win the Butkus Award when he took home pretty every award imaginable other than the Heisman in 2012. That same year Smith was named the High School Butkus Award winner as the nation’s best prep linebacker. Te’o also took home the Bednarik Award in 2012.