If anyone is trying to settle the debate as to which LSU cornerback is better - Tyrann Mathieu or Morris Claiborne - Thursday’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show didn’t help much.
Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik Award, one of two annual awards for the nation’s best defensive player, during ceremonies at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Claiborne, who is up for the Bronko Nagurski Award (best defensive player) Monday in Charlotte, N.C., headed back to Baton Rouge on Thursday night after winning the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back.
Earlier in the evening, both players were first-team selections on the 2011 Walter Camp All-America Team. Mathieu was also one of five finalists for the Walter Camp national player of the year award, an honor that went Thursday to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
LSU coach Les Miles was also recognized during the program as The Home Depot National Coach of the Year. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis was also recognized for winning the Frank Broyles Award (assistant coach of the year).
Mathieu was staying over night in Florida before heading to New York on Friday to begin two days of activities leading up to Saturday night’s unveiling of the Heisman Trophy winner. Mathieu is one of five Heisman finalists along with Luck, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
Mathieu, a sophomore from St. Augustine in New Orleans, beat out Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still for the Bednarik Award.
The player known as the Honey Badger said Hightower told him before the announcement that he would win.
“It definitely was exciting,” Mathieu said, “a thrill. I didn’t know I would win. It kind of put the icing on the cake for me. I look forward to receiving this award on behalf of my teammates and the LSU program.”
Players like Claiborne. The man they call Mo leads LSU with six interceptions and leads the nation with 173 interception return yards, including a pick six he returned 45 yards for a touchdown to cap LSU’s 42-10 victory over Georgia on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
The win propelled 13-0 and No. 1-ranked LSU into the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.
Waiting there for the Tigers the night of Jan. 9 will be SEC West rival and No. 2 Alabama (11-1). The Crimson Tide also came away with a pair of individual awards Thursday as Richardson won the Doak Walker Award (best running back) and offensive guard Barrett Jones won the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman).
Mathieu and Claiborne give LSU two straight winners for the Bednarik and Thorpe awards. Former Tiger cornerback Patrick Peterson, now with the Arizona Cardinals, won both awards a year ago.
Mathieu, who took over Peterson’s No. 7 this season after wearing No. 14 as a freshman, said he spoke to Peterson before heading to Florida.
“He asked me what I was going to wear,” Mathieu said. “He always wants me to look sharp. He knew I was going to win the (Bednarik) award. I definitely had his vote.”
Like Peterson, Mathieu has made his name as a force on special teams with punt returns for touchdowns against Georgia and Arkansas and a fumble he forced and recovered for a score in LSU’s season opener against Oregon.
Defensively, though, Mathieu is just as impressive. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown against Kentucky. Just 25 games into his college career, Mathieu has already shattered the LSU record and tied the SEC career record with 12 forced fumbles.
When it comes to SEC defensive player of the year honors, Mathieu and Claiborne are also tied. Mathieu was named player of the year by The Associated Press, while Claiborne was named player of the year by the SEC’s coaches.
Tech’s Allen wins Ray Guy
Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen, a junior from Salem, Ore., was honored during Thursday’s show by winning the Ray Guy Award.
Allen ranks third nationally with a 46.3-yard average on 78 punts.
“I thought anybody could win it,” Allen said. “I had no intentions on any national awards. I just set a few goals I wanted to reach.
“You set high goals, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year.”
Walter Camp team
Shortly before Thursday’s awards show began, the Walter Camp Foundation released its 2011 All-America Team.
It is the second All-American honor for Claiborne, who also made the American Football Coaches Association team, and the first so far for Mathieu.
Baton Rouge native Frank Alexander, a senior defensive end at Oklahoma, is on the second team. Alexander played at Southern Lab.
Louisiana Tech’s Allen also made the second team.
NW State pair honored
Northwestern State senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub was honored during Thursday’s show as the captain of the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, a 22-member squad chosen earlier this fall for its community service and leadership.
Elqutub and Demons senior tight end Justin Aldredge were also named Capital One Academic All-Americans on Thursday.
Devall picks Alabama
Bastrop defensive end Denzell Devall (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) has committed to Alabama, according to numerous online reports.
Devall is a four-star prospect according to ESPN.com and rated as the No. 7 overall prospect in Louisiana.
Devall is ranked No. 114 on the Rivals.com 250 (No. 3 in Louisiana) and No. 227 on the Scout.com 300. He picked Bama over offers from LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, and others.
LSU AWARD WINNERS
Year - Player, award
1959 - Billy Cannon, HB Heisman Trophy (player of the year)
2001 - Josh Reed, WR Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)
2004 - Ben Wilkerson, C Rimington Award (best center)
2006 - JaMarcus Russell, QB Manning Award (best quarterback)
2007 - Glenn Dorsey, DT Outland Trophy (best interior lineman); Lombardi Award (best lineman); Nagurski Award (best defensive player); Lott IMPACT Trophy (best defensive player)
2010 - Patrick Peterson, CB Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
2011 - Tyrann Mathieu, CB, Bednarik Award
2011 - Mo Claiborne, CB, Thorpe Award
NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS
Chuck Bednarik Award (best def. player) - Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Jim Thorpe Award (best DB) - Mo Claiborne, CB, LSU
Walter Camp Award (player of the year) - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Maxwell Award (player of the year) - Andrew Luck, Stanford
Doak Walker Award (best RB) - Trent Richardson, Alabama
Davey O’Brien Award (best QB) - Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) - Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (best QB) - Andrew Luck, Stanford
Fred Biletnikoff Award (best WR) - Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
John Mackey Award (best TE) - Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Lombardi/Rotary Award (best lineman) - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Rimington Trophy (best center) - David Molk, Michigan
Dick Butkus Award (best LB) - Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Lou Groza Award (best PK) - Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
Ray Guy Award (best P) - Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Ted Hendricks Award (best DE) - Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
The Home Depot Award - Les Miles, LSU (coach of the year)
Frank Broyles Award (top assistant coach) - John Chavis, LSU