The Arrington Trophy is a Pikes Picks award handed out annually to the best defensive player in the nation. It is named after former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington for his menacing defensive presence. Arrington had one of the most memorable moments in college football over the last decade when he made his now-famous "LaVar Leap" to stop Illinois on 4th down [LINK].
There were so many great offenses in college football this year that it's easy to forget about all the great players on the defensive side of the ball. I had a hard time narrowing my list down to eight finalists (sorry Sen'Derrick Marks), but here they are.
(Sophomore S, Tennessee)
7 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown);
6 passes broken up;
8.5 tackles for loss;
Eric Berry is so impressive that he continually stood out as one of the best players in the SEC despite playing for one of the worst teams in the conference. He defines the term "playmaker".
(Junior DE, Michigan)
20 tackles for loss;
2 forced fumbles;
Much like Berry, Graham took over games at times despite playing for a terrible team. There were several great defensive ends in the Big Ten this sesason, but Graham stands out from the pack because of his consistency.
(Junior LB, Boston College)
105 tackles (leads the team);
11 tackles for loss;
6 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown);
7 passes broken up;
2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered;
Herzlich made his living around the ball in 2008. No matter where the play went, Herzlich was there. He led the Eagles with a remarkable 6 interceptions, but he also made plays behind the line of scrimmage. It didn't stop there - Herzlich was a terror on special teams as well!
(Senior DT, Ole Miss)
17 tackles for loss;
3 QB pressures;
2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery;
Jerry dominated the line of scrimmage in SEC play, which is not an easy feat. He managed an incredible 17 tackles for loss from a position usually limited to tangling up blockers so other players can make the tackle.
(Senior S, Alabama)
82 tackles (2nd on team);
5 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown);
11 passes broken up;
1 sack, 5 tackles for loss;
1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery;
Johnson was the standout player on a standout Alabama defense in 2008. Whenever the Tide needed a big play, Johnson was there to make it. Not bad for a former walk on.
(Senior LB, USC)
73 tackles (leads the team);
2.5 tackles for loss;
2 interceptions (one returned for touchdown);
3 passes broken up;
Maualuga was the vocal and emotional leader on one of the best defenses in America. He set the tone and led the way for the Trojans, who held all but two opponents to 10 points or less.
(Senior DE, Texas)
18 takles for loss;
4 forced fumbes;
27 QB pressures;
2 passes broken up;
Orakpo is an impressive physical specimen at defensive end for the Lonhorns. His size/speed combination is unmatched in college football, and it allowed him to pile up double digits in sacks and live in opponents' backfields all season long. He dominated Oklahoma's All American left tackle Phil Loadholt back in October to the tune of 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.
(Senior CB, Wake Forest)
13 passes broken up;
2.5 tackles for loss;
1 blocked punt;
20 career interceptions;
You'd think offenses would stop throwing Smith's way after he collected 14 interceptions over his first three years at Wake. But Smith kept finding ways to make plays and pick off passes even with game plans designed to go as far away from him as possible.