Nov. 16, 2006
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) - Two days before their teams face off in one of the most eagerly anticipated contests in years, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis and Michigan cornerback Leon Hall both received some good news.
Laurinaitis and Hall were among five finalists announced Thursday for the 2006 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the best defensive player in the country by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
The other finalists are Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, Florida strong safety Reggie Nelson and Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. The winner will be announced December 4.
A 6-3, 231-pound sophomore, Laurinaitis leads the top-ranked Buckeyes with 91 tackles, including a career-best 13 against then-No. 2 Texas on September 9, with a team-best five interceptions.
Ohio State, which leads the country in scoring defense at 7.8 points per game, hosts No. 2 Michigan on Saturday. Hall, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, has 35 tackles, 15 pass breakups and three interceptions for the Wolverines, who boast the nation's top rushing defense at 29.9 yards per game.
Adams, a 6-5, 260-pound senior, has 35 tackles - 14 1/2 for loss - and three fumble recoveries for the Tigers.
Nelson has 40 tackles for the third-ranked Gators. The 6-1, 185-pound junior also has four interceptions, including two against rival Tennessee.
Willis, a 6-2, 240-pound senior, leads the Southeastern
Conference with 11.2 tackles per game. He has failed to reach
double digits in tackles just once this season.