Each football season, one defensive player is given the honor of receiving the Ronnie Lott trophy, named for one of USC’s most notorious DBs of all time. The athlete who receives this award is not only considered the defensive player of the year, but also the college football IMPACT (Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity) player of the year, for demonstrating excellence on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
This season, there are eight PAC-12 players on the 42-person watch list, and USC’s own T.J. McDonald is the front-runner.
We all know about the outstanding success that McDonald, USC’s 6’3, 205-pound senior All-American has accrued over the years, so it is only fitting that he be nominated for this prestigious award. McDonald will undoubtedly be a top NFL Draft pick next season, after he helps USC deal with that “unfinished business” they have to attend to. His stock would only further rise were he to receive this award.
However, since the creation of this trophy, many a Trojan has been nominated, but none have actually won it. This might have something to with the fact that Lott is a Trojan and does not want to appear biased by picking an athlete from his alma mater.
Whatever the reason, T.J. McDonald might have some competition for this piece of hardware, and a good portion of it will come within his home conference. Let’s take a quick look at the other Pac-12ers that are on the Watch List:
John Boyett, University of Oregon: He’s only 5’10 and 202 pounds, but this senior safety packs a whole lot of punch in his small frame. He leads is team and is one of the conference leaders in tackling because he has keen instincts and great field awareness.
Patrick Larimore, UCLA: Though he goes to that school on the other side of the 10 freeway, Larimore cannot be counted out as a linebacker prospect. He is a senior captain of the Bruins squad, and at 6’3, 253 pounds, he is also the teams leader in tackles. UCLA will probably have some depth issues this season in the back field, but if Larimore can stay healthy and injury-free, he will create problems for the Bruins’ opponents.
Star Lotulelei, University of Utah: Trojan fans got a glimpse of what Lotulelei is capable this past season, in the inaugural Pac-12 season opener between ‘SC and the Utes. His team might not have fared well, but he certainly did. He made the All Pac-12 First team and won the Morris Trophy for the league’s best lineman, to name a few accomplishments. This 6’4, 325-pound mammoth of a tackle is a lot to contain, and he knows it. Look for him to further boost his stats this coming season.
Brandon Magee, Arizona State: Magee, a senior linebacker for the Sun Devils, missed the entire 2011 season because of an Achilles injury. So why does he make the cut? In his 2010 season, he was the second leading tackler with 78 tackles, and five for losses. He is a leader, and that’s something this team will absolutely need this coming season.
Ray Polk, University of Colorado: The Buffs had a rough start to Pac-12 play, but Polk was one of their only shining stars. He’s a senior safety and is the lone returner to their secondary. Polk will have to step up and be a leader this season, and if he does, his future—as well as the team’s—could be bright.
Jordan Porer, Oregon State: This senior cornerback stands at six feet even and weighs 190 pounds, and he uses every inch of his frame to do pretty much everything. He has proven to be a team leader, and that will be critical to Oregon State’s success, as they have been pretty questionable for the past few seasons.
Chase Thomas, Stanford: Thomas, a 6’4, 239-pound linebacker elected to forgo the NFL draft this season and is returning for his senior season. He will be a key factor for the Cardinal this season, as Stanford lost a lot of its experienced players during the offseason. Look for Thomas and the defense to compensate for Stanford’s likely questionable offense.
T.J. McDonald and these seven guys, along with 35 other DBs, will be closely monitored from now until November, when the finalists for the Ronnie Lott trophy will be announced. The winner is announced in December. Last year’s winner was Luke Kuechly, of Boston College.
There’s still a lot of time between now and December, so let’s hope that T.J. McDonald can show the panel enough to make himself the first Trojan to receive this Trophy.