With Watch List Season resuming Monday, Dion Bailey found himself in the running for postseason recognition, courtesy of the Butkus Award. He is the only Trojan on the list, and is one of seven total Pac-12ers. Stanford has the most Pac-12 nominees, with three.
Established in 1985, the Butkus Award is given to the nation’s best high school, collegiate, and professional linebackers as determined by a committee of 51 high school, college and pro scouts, and prominent sports journalists. The Butkus Award foundation says:
“When a player receives the Butkus Award he will know two things. First, he is recognized as the best of the best linebackers in America. Second, and in the long run most important, he will understand that this recognition brings a responsibility to serve others by giving back.”
Based on that reason, there’s no question why Bailey received a nomination. In 2011, he showed us all why Kiffin’s decision to move him from safety to linebacker was one of the best things to happen to the defense. He started 11 games and as a redshirt freshman he tied for the team lead in tackles with 81, had two sacks, two deflections, two picks and a forced fumble. He and fellow linebacker Hayes Pullard were the first freshmen to lead USC in tackles since records were first kept in 1954.
Against Utah he had seven tackles, then a team-best 9 tackles (including a sack) and a fumble recovery against Syracuse. He had a game-high 10 tackles (with a sack) and added a deflection at ASU, and against Arizona he one-upped that by having a game-high and career-best 14 tackles, the most by a USC freshman since Chris Claiborne’s 20 in 1996 against Arizona State.
At Cal he had eight tackles and two interceptions, the first of which was in the endzone at the end of the first half to keep Cal scoreless, and for his efforts he earned College Football Performance Awards National Linebacker of the Week honors.
He earned 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors and made the All-Pac-12 second team. He was the Defensive Freshman of the Year on the 2011 CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-American first team and made the 2011 Football Writers, Sporting News, CBSSports.com, YahooSports.com, FoxSportsNext.com and Phil Steele Freshman All-American first team.
Bailey has clearly done a lot in just one year starting for Troy, and if he has an even better year in 2012, this trophy could find itself on display in Heritage Hall.
The Butkus Award went to Luke Kuechly of Boston College in 2011, and the last–and only– Trojan to win it was Chris Claiborne in 1998.
On the high school front, USC commit Michael Hutchings is also nominated for this award. Hutchings currently attends De La Salle in Concord, and recently committed to USC as a part of the class of 2013.
Semifinalists for the Butkus Award will be announced on Oct. 22 and finalists unveiled on Nov. 20. Winners will be notified around Dec. 4.