Alabama Football: Butkus Watch List highlights Tide and SEC

Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) against Ole Miss
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) against Ole Miss /

Alabama Football is loaded with linebacker talent. The Butkus Award Watch List was not needed to understand the defensive advantage the Crimson Tide has in the position group. What the recently announced list did show is how many elite linebackers play football in the SEC.

The Butkus Award group is going into the 37th year of naming college football’s top linebacker. Every preseason, 51 college players are identified, to match the jersey number of Chicago Bears great, Dick Butkus. More than a few NFL experts claim Butkus was the best linebacker to ever play in the NFL.

The selection committee is heavy with NFL experience and big-time head coaches. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Alabama Football coach, Nick Saban are both on the selection committee. In the 36 years, the Butkus has been awarded, Alabama Football players have won it four times. Derrick Thomas won in 1988. Rolando McClain won in 2009. The 2013 winner was C. J. Mosley. The most recent Crimson Tide winner was Reuben Foster in 2016.

All the past Butkus winners.

Last season’s Butkus winner was Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Geographically, the largest number of players, by home state, are six from Texas and five from the state of Georgia. The Texas Longhorns can claim only one from the state of Texas.

Only nine college football teams have more than one player on the Butkus Watch list. Alabama Football and the Georgia Bulldogs are the only teams with three each. At two players each, are Arkansas, Ole Miss, Clemson, Penn State, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Washington.

Alabama Football Butkus Watch List

  • Will Anderson Jr.
  • Christian Harris
  • Chris Allen

Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi State are the only SEC teams without any linebackers selected. The SEC dominates the list with a total of 17 players.

Combine the players selected from any two other Power Five conferences, and the number is still less than the SEC’s 17. The ACC has eight linebackers selected. The other three Power Fives have seven each. Five players not on Power Five teams were also selected.

Semi-finalists will be announced in early November, followed by the finalists on Nov. 22. The winner is announced in early December. It is possible for a player not on the Watch List to win the award.

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Having a Butkus winner is an honor for any team. It may not translate to wins in big games. Last year’s Fighting Irish winner had six tackles in the Crimson Tide blowout of Notre Dame. As good as he was, more help was needed than the Irish defense could provide.