Derek Barnett will go down as one of the greatest defensive players in Tennessee history.
He needs just one sack to tie Reggie White’s school career record of 32, and he’ll have two games to either match or top that mark. Either way, he’s already one of the most dynamic and productive players the school has ever seen.
And he’s put up career-best numbers this year in many categories, including sacks (11), QB hurries (9), forced fumbles (2) and he even grabbed his first career interception this season.
None of that seemed to matter to the national awards committees, however, who have snubbed Barnett from virtually every list of finalists for major college awards.
Last week Barnett was left off the list of five finalists for the Nagurski Award – given to the top player in college football.
More finalist announcements came out on Monday, and Barnett was also left off the list of the top three for the Bednarik Award, which also goes to the best player in college football. Two of the finalists were understandable. Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen doesn’t have quite the total stat line that Barnett does, but he’s been a disruptive force on the nation’s best defense. Michigan safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers has also had a tremendous season, and it’s tough to compare defensive back production against a defensive lineman’s.
But the inclusion of Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is a head-scratcher. Garrett is known as an elite prospect, and has been productive in the past. This season, however, Garrett was slowed by injuries and only put up 8.5 sacks (4.5 of which came against UT-San Antonio), 30 total tackles and 14 TFLs.
Barnett, for comparison, has 11 sacks (all in SEC play), 48 total tackles and 17 TFLs on a team with the same record as Garrett’s.
Make no mistake, Garrett is a fantastic player who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. There’s just no way that you can look at his body of work this season and put him above Barnett for these awards.
Tennessee put out promotional material for Barnett before the Missouri game to get the message out about his production, but it appears that the award committees favored name reputation over production on the field this season.
UT media relations are promoting Derek Barnett big time today. A promotional flyer and now this notepad: pic.twitter.com/2jiSEf8iDK
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 19, 2016