If the Dick Butkus Award selection committee got points for honesty, probably all of them would admit to skipping the Notre Dame vs. Temple football game on Saturday night. The award is supposed to go to the nation’s best linebacker.
One of the linebackers in that game had 13 tackles and an interception and is the nation’s leading active career tackler and the only player in the FBS to lead his team in tackles for all eight games. Another had 10 tackles and no interceptions, is not the FBS career leader in tackles nor has led his team in tackles in each and every game.
The guy with 13 tackles and an interception, Temple’s Tyler Matakevich, was left off the list of Dick Butkus Award semifinalists released by the committee on Monday. The guy with the 10 tackles, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith, was on it. There were 10 linebackers on that semifinal list and not to include Matakevich should be enough evidence to get every member of that committee fired.
The argument extends beyond that single game and the comparison with that single foe. It is supposed to be an award based on this single season of performance in the college football realm alone, not on where the guy projects in the NFL draft. On their criteria, it is hard for the committee to make a case for any of the 10 being better than Matakevich.
Along with Smith, the following are the semifinalists: Kendall Beckwith and Deion Jones of LSU, Su’a Cravens of USC, Kyler Frackrell of Utah State, Leonard Floyd of Georgia, Blake Martinez of Stanford, Raekwon McMillan of Ohio State, Antonio Missison of Florida and Reggie Ragland of Alabama.
For the season—and that’s what this award is based on—Matakevich has 78 tackles, four sacks and five interceptions for the 7-1 Owls and has led a defense that is ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring defense (15.8 ppg.). He has more sacks and more interceptions than anyone on that list and only one player has more tackles.
Certainly, it cannot be because Matakevich plays for a Group of Five team because he has reserved his two best games against Power 5 teams—a 27-10 win over a 6-2 Penn State team and a 24-20 loss to No. 8 Notre Dame. Plus, Frackwell–wit his measly 53 tackles and no interceptions by comparison–is on the list and he’s on G5 team. If the Dick Butkus Committee is going exclude Group of 5 linebackers, it should say so in the criteria. Otherwise, this award is a complete farce.
The hard numbers suggest none of these linebackers rate on a par with Matakevich, let alone deserve to jump over him. Craven has 50 tackles and two interceptions. Beckwith and Jones are tied for the LSU team lead with 51 tackles and only Jones has interceptions (two). Frackwell has 53 tackles and no interceptions. Floyd no interceptions and 44 tackles. Martinez has 91 tackles, but only one interception. McMillan has 74 tackles and no interceptions and there is a poll on one Ohio State website questioning whether he is even the best linebacker on the Buckeyes, let alone one of the top 10 in the nation. Missison has 60 tackles and no interceptions and Ragland has 71 tackles and no interceptions.
No one has made the kind of impact in the nation and on his own team as Matakevich and the Butkus Award committee should be ashamed to leave this young man off a final list of 10. There can be no valid reasons for this sloppy work, just excuses.