Now we get to the all important categories: preseason picks for offensive and defensive players of the year for the non-AQs. First we start with defense. There were plenty of players to choose from, but ultimately I narrowed it down to the players I think are going to be preseason defensive player of the year picks in their respective conferences.
Roosevelt Nix had an outstanding freshman season at Kent State last year and was MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Nix had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season as the first freshman to win that award in league history. Jonathan Massaquoi had an outstanding season at Troy in 2010 with 13.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. Corey Paredes had 151 tackles for Hawaii last season. Vinny Curry had 12 sacks and 94 tackles last season for Marshall and is one of the top senior players in Mel Kiper's early evaluation for the 2012 draft.
But my choice for this award is TCU linebacker Tank Carder, a second-team AP All-American in 2010. Anybody who watched the way he defended the decisive 2-point conversion pass against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl saw his smarts and his athleticism. He was the Defensive Player of the Game in the Rose Bowl. Now he is going to be the heart of that TCU defense in 2011 and a leader as well, with Tejay Johnson gone. TCU has a chance to be the No. 1 defense in the nation for a fourth straight season. If it happens, you can bet Carder will be a big reason why.