2012 First Look: Butkus & Thorpe
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Posted Mar 8, 2012

The way-too-early first look at the 2012 awards: Butkus & Thorpe

2012 Spring Football    

First Look: The Awards

2012 Spring Preview: First Look At The Awards
- Heisman, Maxwell, & Davey O'Brien
- Outland, Bednarik, & Lombardi | Doak Walker & Biletnikoff
- Rimington & Mackey | Butkus & Thorpe | Lou Groza & Ray Guy

By Richard Cirminiello 
Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews  

It's way too early to start bandying about the names of the most prominent candidates for 2012's individual awards in college football, right? Whatever. It's March and wild speculation is one of the joys of the offseason. It's a chance to debate, mull over and contemplate next year's stars with complete impunity.

Will lists of contenders in January be spot on in December? Of course not. Will they make you think and pine for September? Probably. And that's really the objective here, whetting appetites, generating some interesting discussions and taking a sneak peek into what might be lurking ahead for the upcoming season.

Top Linebacker (Butkus Award)

10. Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Unheralded no longer, Porter is set to make a big splash in his senior season. The sideline-to-sideline terror breaches backfields with regularity, while dropping back into coverage fluidly to defend the pass.

9. Jonathan Brown, Illinois
The Illini has produced two Butkus Award winners. Brown hopes to be the third as he prepares to step outside the shadow of DE Whitney Mercilus one year after delivering a sparking sophomore season.

8. Chase Thomas, Stanford
On the Farm, Shayne Skov is the run stopper from the second level, and Thomas is pass rusher. He's back for one more year after leading the Pac-12 in sacks and stops for minus yards.

7. Denicos Allen, Michigan State
East Lansing's version of Georgia LB Jarvis Jones, Allen is a regular in opposing backfields. Playing with reckless abandon and great closing speed, he led the Spartans in sacks and tackles for loss as a first-time starter.

6. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
A modern-day Pat Fitzgerald in the Big Ten, Borland isn't the prototype, but, boy, was he everywhere for the Badgers in 2011. His shoulders healthy, he's an old-school run defender.

5. Gerald Hodges, Penn State
The one-time safety in Happy Valley has grown into a heck of a linebacker. The First Team All-Big Ten racked up a team-high 106 tackles in his starting debut.

4. Shayne Skov, Stanford
Skov was lost early in the season to a knee injury, which should afford him ample time to rehab in time for the beginning of camp. He's a menacing defender with an All-American ceiling.

3. Arthur Brown, Kansas State
A career that began in Miami really took off in Manhattan. Brown started reaching his potential as a Wildcat, flashing the speed and toughness that made him a blue-chipper out of Wichita.

2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Nobody at the position wraps up with more force or certainty than Te'o. He's a Butkus throwback who'd represent the spirit of this award to a tee.

1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Like having another defensive end on the field, Jones flies off the edge with reckless abandon, wreaking havoc on opposing backfields. The former USC recruit will be looking for back-to-back All-American seasons in Athens. 

Top Defensive Back (Thorpe Award)

10. CB Nigel Malone, Kansas State
Malone wasted no time making his mark at Kansas State, picking off seven passes and breaking up 10 others in his debut out of City College of San Francisco. The Thorpe semifinalist is hoping to tackle even more challenges this fall.

9. S Eric Reid, LSU
The Tigers secondary tent is big enough to accommodate more than one star. Yeah, Tyrann Mathieu gets top billing, but Reid takes a backseat to no one … even in Baton Rouge.

8. S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
No one-trick pony, Jefferson can do a little bit of everything out of the secondary or at linebacker for the Sooners. A big hitter, with good range, he's about to take off this fall.

7. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller is an ultra-rare corner, smooth enough to cover the other team's best receiver, yet packs the wallop of a safety. He led all Hokies with 14.5 stops for loss, enticing the staff to use him in myriad roles.

6. CB Jonathan Banks, Mississippi State
It's not easy generating much pub from Starkville, but Banks is doing his best to get noticed. He's a big cover corner, with the instincts to be a real nuisance on blitzes.

5. S T.J. McDonald, USC
Matt Barkley isn't the only No. 7 making a triumphant return to Troy for one final year. McDonald, the 6-3, 205-pound all-star, could follow the trajectory of his dad, Tim, who played in six Pro Bowls.

4. S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
The Bulldogs All-American out of the secondary is surprisingly back in Athens for one final year, looking to build on a junior season highlighted by eight interceptions.

3. S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
One of a handful of Longhorns defensive backs who'll get consideration from the Thorpe committee, Vaccaro possesses an exciting mix of closing speed, explosiveness and crushing hits.

2. CB David Amerson, NC State
Amerson's 13 picks a year ago were no accidents. The 6-3 junior-to-be not only has ideal length, but his instincts and hands are perfectly suited for robbing opposing quarterbacks.

1. CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
Mathieu is aiming to become the third straight LSU defensive back to win the Thorpe Award, following in the footsteps of Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne.

2012 Spring Preview: First Look At The Awards
- Heisman, Maxwell, & Davey O'Brien
- Outland, Bednarik, & Lombardi | Doak Walker & Biletnikoff
- Rimington & Mackey | Butkus & Thorpe | Lou Groza & Ray Guy