NC State's Payton Wilson wins Chuck Bednarik Award as nation's top defensive player

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Saturday, December 9, 2023
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Many felt Payton Wilson was snubbed for the Bronko Nagurski Award, but he picked up a major postseason award Friday by winning the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player.

Wilson became the first Wolfpack defender to win the award, adding to an impressive postseason of accolades.

Wilson was involved in 138 tackles for the Wolfpack with six sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions, including one returned for a memorable touchdown in a win against Clemson.

He beat out standout finalists Dallas Turner of Alabama and UCLA's Laiatu Latu for the award.

Wilson was one of just 24 Power 5 linebackers to have at least 75 snaps as a pass-rusher and 250 or more in coverage, and of that group, Wilson has the best tackle rate (94.9%), the most run stuffs (25), the most tackles for loss (17.5), the most takeaways (5) and the most passes defended (8) -- not to mention the most tackles overall (138), wrote ESPN's David Hale. He's one of just two players to have made or assisted on a TFL in every game this season, and he led all Power 5 defenders in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage (37).

Since 2018, Wilson was one of just three players to rack up 100 tackles, 15 TFLs, 5 sacks and 3 interceptions in the same season. He has done everything, Hale said.

Earlier this offseason, Notre Dame's Xavier Watts won the Nagurski Award as the top defender in college football, a decision that left many scratching their heads considering the season Wilson produced. Woods wasn't even among the finalists for best defenders among defensive backs.

Wilson, a graduate student who played at Orange High School in Hillsborough, also won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker on Wednesday night.

He was also named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was named First-Team All-America.

Also Friday. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, a Heisman Trophy finalist, won the Davey O'Brien Award as the top quarterback in college football. A day earlier, Daniels was named The Associated Press player of the year.

Daniels, a San Bernardino, California, native who transferred to LSU from Arizona State in 2022, led the nation in total offense this season with 4,946 yards in 12 games (412.2 yards per game). He passed for 3,812 yards, third nationally and his 40 TDs passing tied for first with Oregon QB Bo Nix, who played in one more game than Daniels.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Daniels also rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs. His 50 touchdowns rushing and passing combined, along with a 2-point conversion on a passing play, made him responsible for a nation-high 302 points.

ESPN contributed.