DALLAS (FWAA) – Two Oklahoma Sooners and defensive standouts
from UCLA, West Virginia and LSU were among the finalists for the
2003 Bronko Nagurski Trophy announced on Tuesday.
Oklahoma tackle Tommie Harris and cornerback Derrick
Strait were named finalists for the annual award given to the
best defensive player in college football by the Football Writers
Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
The finalists also included UCLA end Dave Ball, West Virginia
linebacker Grant Wiley and LSU tackle Chad Lavalais.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be presented to the winner on
Dec. 8 in Charlotte, N.C.
Harris, a Lombardi Trophy finalist, and Strait, considered one
of the top defensive backs in the country, will both try to become
the second Oklahoma player to win the 10-year-old award in three
seasons. Current Dallas Cowboys defensive back Roy Williams won
the award in 2001 while playing for OU.
Harris, a 6-3, 289-pound junior from Killeen, Texas, helps anchor
OU's No. 3-ranked scoring defense in the country. He has nine tackles
for 36 yards in losses this season. Four of those are sacks for
21 yards in losses. He has recovered a fumble and caused a fumble.
Strait, a 5-11, 195 senior from Austin, Texas, has had an outstanding
season for a secondary which ranks tops in the country in yards
allowed a game. He has set an Oklahoma career record for passes
broken up, surpassing Williams' record.
Strait's interception against Texas early in the game keyed a
65-13 OU victory in which he also had 11 tackles (one for loss),
two fumble recoveries and three passes broken up.
Ball, a 6-6, 275-pound senior from Dixon, Calif., leads the nation
in sacks with 15.5 and is tops in the Pacific-10 Conference in tackles
for loss (19.5). He was a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player
of the Week for his performance against Washington when he recorded
3.5 sacks, added another tackle for loss and caused two fumbles.
Ball is also a finalist for the Lombardi and Ted Hendricks awards.
Lavalais, a 6-3, 292-pound senior from Marksville, La., is the
anchor for an LSU defense which ranks tops in the country in fewest
points allowed per game. He has six sacks, 18 quarterback hurries
and four passes batted down this season. He has six other tackles
for losses and also intercepted a pass against Alabama.
Wiley, a 6-1, 235-pound senior from Trappe, Pa., leads the country
in forced fumbles (seven) and is second in the country in tackles
per game (13.1) this season. Wiley had 11 tackles in West Virginia's
upset of Virginia Tech and this past weekend chipped in with 15
tackles (two for losses) a sack and pass broken up in a victory