The Bednarik Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive player each season, has whittled the candidates down to 20 as we head down the stretch, and to the surprise of nobody, Payton Wilson made the cut.
Wilson is one of three ACC players on the list (Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter and Louisville’s Ashton Gillotte are the others), and he’d have to be considered the frontrunner for ACC defensive player of the year just based on production.
Wilson’s 112 tackles rank fourth nationally, first in the ACC, and second among power-conference players. His 12.0 tackles for loss rank 29th nationally, and sixth in the ACC. (Trotter and Guillotte both have 13 TFLs.) He’s already set a career-high in tackles and needs one more TFL to set a new career best in that category.
The competition nationally for this award is as stiff as usual, with representatives from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio State among the semifinalists.