Written by Jason Feiner @Blitzalytics
The NCAA season is alive and roaring, and many of the top collegiate prospects have begun producing on the field. Forty-two Lott Impact Trophy nominated athletes represent the defensive finest in college football. The trophy represents more than the talent or production of an athlete, but the IMPACT that the student athlete has had within their school community. The Lott Impact Trophy is awarded to the player that performs on the field and in the classroom. Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, and Tenacity (IMPACT) each represent an essential aspect of the award, and only the student athlete that demonstrates these qualities will receive this prestigious recognition.
The 2018 watch list consists of 22 linebackers, 11 defensive backs, and 9 defensive linemen, and each candidate will showcase their “impact” while on and off the field. There are eight nominees that are returning from the 2017 watch list, as this group contains some of the most impactful student athletes in the country, each deserving of a nomination.
Through the first three weeks, Ed Oliver (DT, Houston), Joe Dineen Jr. (LB, Kansas), and DeShaun Davis (LB, Auburn) have received the Lott Impact player of the week honors. Their play on the field has been dominant, and more impressive play is sure to come. Let’s take a look at some of the players that may deserve the award when it’s all said and done.
Ed Oliver Defensive Tackle, Houston
Making his second stint on the Lott Impact Trophy nominee list, Ed Oliver may be the top defensive player in the country. Since taking over as a starter during his true freshman season, the Cougars’ star has been a dominant force along their defensive line, causing distress in the backfield of opposing offenses. He started this season no different than what many expected, forcing 4 tackles and recording 1.5 for a loss on the opening 6 play series of the season. Finishing week 1 as the Lott Impact Trophy player of the week, Oliver recorded an impressive 13 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two quarterback hurries over Rice in the Cougars week 1 victory. In the three weeks, Oliver has compiled 24 total tackles 5 for a loss and a pass deflection.
The Outland Trophy Winner in 2017, awarded to the best interior defensive lineman in the country, Oliver was a consensus All-American, becoming just the eighth Cougar to receive the honor. He is an outstanding force on and off the field, and his ability combined with his IMPACT signifies true greatness. With the potential to take home the trophy and become the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Oliver is someone to watch as the season progresses.
Joe Dineen Jr. Linebacker, Kansas
Joe Dineen Jr. currently paces the FBS and Big 12 conference in tackles accruing 40 total (an average of 13 per game) and adding an interception and fumble recovery in the first three weeks of the collegiate season. Dineen added 14 total tackles, his lone interception and a quarterback hurry in Kansas’ road win over Central Michigan in week 2, taking away the Lott Trophy player of the week honors. The Kansas star stands at 6’2” and weighs 230 pounds with the speed and instincts required at the linebacker position.
Dineen is a leader in the locker room and the classroom. Having graduated in May of 2018 receiving his bachelor’s degree in Management, Dineen chose to return to school in order to play his redshirt Senior campaign under the tutelage of Head Coach David Beaty. Dineen truly resembles the meaning of Impact and produces on and off the field. As one of the top prospects in collegiate athletics, Dineen has recorded 280 tackles, 32.0 for a loss and 5.5 sacks through 38 career games. He is a top tier linebacker with a nose for the football and could have a say in the final voting for the Lott Impact Trophy honors.
Deshaun Davis Linebacker, Auburn
Week three’s Lott Impact Trophy player of the week was awarded to Auburn’s Linebacker, Deshaun Davis for his 13 tackle (4 for a loss), 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries and a pass deflection effort in their 22-21 loss to LSU. He was all over the field in this clash of FBS superpowers. Davis has made a name for himself since taking over the starting job in 2016. Having captured 174 total tackles, 19 for loss, 5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries, Davis has become a premier linebacker at the collegiate level. Leading Auburn in tackles throughout the 2018 season with 24 in the first three weeks, Davis has a chance to rise up draft boards and fight for the right to hoist the Lott Impact Trophy when it’s all said and done. Having excelled in the classroom throughout his career, Davis was named the top academic Tiger during his redshirt campaign back in 2014. As the centerpiece in Auburn’s high-flying defense, Davis leads the Tigers on and off the field. Although slightly undersized standing at 5’11” and weighing 230 pounds, Davis has the grit and athleticism needed to play linebacker at the next level. Keep an eye on him as his draft stock and popularity continues to rise among collegiate spectators.
Nick Bosa Defensive End, Ohio State
Nominated twice for the Lott Impact Trophy player of the week award in week 1 and 2, Nick Bosa is a dominant force among Ohio State’s defensive line disrupting their opponent in each phase of the game. Nick Bosa, Brother of Los Angeles Charger Joey Bosa, has a chance to go number one overall in the 2019 NFL draft, challenging Ed Oliver as the best defensive player in the country. Producing on the field in every capacity, Ohio State’s defensive end has attained 14 total tackles, 6 for a loss, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and a defensive touchdown through the first three weeks of collegiate play. In 29 career games, he has recorded 77 total tackles, 29 for a loss and an impressive 19.5 sacks. He is a major reason for Ohio State’s dominant defensive start.
For his effort in each game during the 2017 campaign, team coaches named him “Game Champion,” a title no other defensive player has received in each contest. He is a game changer whenever he steps on the field and a team leader in the locker room. Nick Bosa received an Academic All-Big Ten for his diligence and efforts in the classroom. He is a student athlete who acts on the image set forth by the Lott Trophy Foundation, characterized by IMPACT. Now with his fast start to the 2018 season, he has made a dash for the first overall pick and the defensive player of the year honor awarded for the athlete’s impact on and off the field. Keep a close eye on Nick Bosa; he has already been compared to the NFL’s elite pass rushers.
Taylor Rapp Safety, Washington
After a slow start to the season in week one, Taylor Rapp has been a player of the week nominee for the past two weeks, having totaled 3 fumble recoveries, 6 tackles (2 for loss) and 2 sacks over that same timeframe. Rapp is the top safety prospect at the collegiate level, and his play against the run and pass has been a main reason for Washington’s critical defensive play. Through the first three games, Rapp has obtained 10 total tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries. He is an elite talent and one of the top defensive back prospects in collegiate football. Awarded first team Academic All-Pac 12 honors in 2017, Rapp is a leader in the locker room and in the classroom. He is an inspiration with the talent, determination and work ethic to make an impact in every aspect of his life.
The Collegiate season is underway, and there is sure to be many more impactful moments on the gridiron throughout the 2018 collegiate season. The race for the Lott Impact Trophy is far from over, and all 42 nominees will have a say before the final voting concludes in 10 weeks time.