Two of the key defensive players for No. 1-ranked LSU - cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne - were named Monday as finalists for two prestigious defensive awards.
Mathieu, a sophomore from New Orleans, was one of three finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to college football’s top defensive player as chosen by the Maxwell Football Club.
Claiborne, a junior from Shreveport, was named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the top defensive back as chosen by the Jim Thorpe Association.
Mathieu is joined as a Bednarik finalist by Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.
“That’s definitely a tremendous honor for me to be among those finalists,” Mathieu said after practice Monday night. “You work so hard to put your talent out there for your team, and I think it says a lot about our coaching staff. Those guys prepare me well, and the guys I’m around on the team definitely take a lot of pressure off of me so I feel more comfortable.”
Mathieu ranks second on the team with 58 tackles and has 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also has two interceptions, seven pass breakups, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, despite missing the game against Auburn after being suspended for a violation of team rules.
Claiborne, who has a team-high four interceptions, 40 tackles, five pass breakups, one tackle for loss, and a quarterback hurry, is joined as a Thorpe finalist by Mark Barron of Alabama and David Amerson of North Carolina State.
“It means a lot to be honored with that award,” Claiborne said. “A lot of great guys have won it, but I can’t focus on it right now. I’ve got another game to play.”
LSU’s Patrick Peterson’s won the Thorpe Award last season.
“It would be really, really special if we could get it two years in a row,” Claiborne said, “and try to win it again after that and again after that.”
Claiborne, who is also averaging 28.4 yards on 14 kickoff returns, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown against West Virginia, was selected last week as one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, (top defensive player as chosen by the Football Writers Association of America) and as one of 15 semifinalists, of which just two are defenders, for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
SEC honors two Tigers
Cornerback Ron Brooks, who returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown, and guard Will Blackwell, who helped lead the offense to a season-high 353 rushing yards, were honored by the SEC for their play in LSU’s 52-3 victory at Ole Miss on Saturday.
Brooks shared SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors with Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan, and Blackwell was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Brooks, a senior, also had four tackles, one sack for an 11-yard loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Blackwell, a senior, had nine knockdowns to lead the Tigers, who didn’t allow a sack. Blackwell received the same honor for his performance in LSU’s 41-11 victory against Florida on Oct. 8.
Miles mourns for OSU
LSU coach Les Miles said Monday he was “remiss” in not addressing the death of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna in a plane crash Friday when he spoke with reporters after the Tigers game Saturday. Miles was an assistant coach with the Cowboys from 1995-97 and was their head coach from 2001-2004.
“Those people are very special to me, and that school is very special to me,” Miles said. “Our families and certainly myself am very sad for those losses.
“I understand that there is a quality group of people there that are bound to do the things they needed to do certainly to support those people that surround that tragedy.”
Budke was an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech from 2000-02 and was the Lady Techsters head coach from 2002-05.
Brown book signing Friday
Former LSU men’s basketball coach Dale Brown will be on campus Friday to sign his newly released motivational book, “Getting Over the Four Hurdles of Life.”
The signing will take place at the LSU Bookstore in the Student Union from 10 a.m. until noon, just before the football team’s game against Arkansas.
Brown, who coached the Tigers from 1972 to 1997, is well known as a motivational speaker. His book identifies some of the main hurdles on the path to success, happiness and fulfillment. It prescribes ways of clearing those hurdles.
For information on the book signing, contact the LSU Bookstore at 225-578-5137.