The Big Ten will announce the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year at 6 p.m. Monday.
So, in the meantime, we decided to ask two of our Big Ten writers for their takes: Who's more deserving of the defensive award -- Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib or Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa?
Austin Ward: Ohio State's Bosa
The award is almost certainly going to come down to individual statistics, and clearly the edge there will go to Carl Nassib with Joey Bosa’s production appearing to have slipped on paper.
But anybody who has tried to block Ohio State’s star junior this season, any coach who has suffered through the sleepless nights preparing for him and any scout who has flocked to Columbus to watch him in person can all vouch for the same thing. Bosa has been even better for the Buckeyes this year, wrecking game plans, blowing up rushing attacks behind the line of scrimmage and at times commanding the attention of at least three blockers at a time to keep him from posting the eye-popping sack totals he did during the previous two seasons.
Bosa is not only the best defender on a team that allowed just 14 points per game this season, he’s solidified his case as the top overall player in the nation as the wire-to-wire choice to be the projected No. 1 draft pick next spring should he skip his final season of eligibility as expected. Clearly those scouts and general managers aren’t evaluating him solely on the box score, particularly since sack opportunities can occasionally be inflated based on random chance or by playing next to other talented players who create extra opportunities for others -- like Nassib has thanks to the presence of Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel.
For Ohio State, it’s Bosa who opens up space for others, allowing skilled but inexperienced players like Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis to rack up a combined 12.5 sacks and earn some time in the spotlight. Bosa has certainly still made his share of plays as his 16 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hurries will attest, and the athletic interception he tipped into the air and snagged against Michigan was another prime example of his ability to make plays that other players simply can’t.
Bosa probably isn’t going to claim any individual hardware this season. But that’s a shame, because he’s the best defensive player in the nation.
Josh Moyer: Penn State's Nassib
Honestly, Austin, I really don’t disagree with most of what you have to say. Bosa is a better overall defensive end than Nassib; he’s the best in the nation. But Nassib really isn't that far behind.
At any rate, we’re not arguing who has more talent -- it’s Bosa -- we’re arguing who more deserves to become the Big Ten defensive player of the year. There is a difference. And numbers and production count for something here. Peyton Manning might’ve been the best quarterback in the nation in 1996, but he didn’t win the Heisman over touchdown-happy Danny Wuerffel. Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis was rated as the nation’s top overall cornerback this season by Pro Football Focus, but it’s Iowa’s Desmond King (and his eight interceptions) that’s vying for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Likewise, Nassib’s production just can’t be ignored. He basically missed the last two games due to injury -- and he’s seemingly battled a shoulder injury much of the season -- but he’s put up numbers like no other defender in the nation. He currently leads the entire country in sacks (15.5) and forced fumbles (6), and he’s second in tackles for loss (19.5). Let’s put that into perspective. In 10 games, Nassib has forced one less fumble than the Buckeyes’ entire roster over 12 games. The former walk-on also has more sacks than Rutgers’ entire team (14) finished with in the regular season.
Shouldn’t that be rewarded? No one’s more talented than Bosa, but nobody’s performed better than Nassib. Midway through the season, Bosa played in 49 more snaps than Nassib but had 8.5 fewer sacks. Nassib isn’t a perfect defensive end, and he needs to improve against the run. But he’s dropped back into coverage at points, and he remains incredibly versatile. He’s very driven, a great by-example leader and has made the players around him better.
Nassib has never had anything handed to him in his career. He’s earned it all -- from a scholarship to a starting spot to Penn State’s single-season sacks record. So let’s not just hand this award off to Bosa because he might be the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick. Let’s give it to the guy who earned it on the field. Give it to Nassib.