A.J. Hawk finally wins Butkus

Little AnimalLast night, James Laurinaitis took home the Butkus award as the nation’s best linebacker, winning the trophy over Penn State’s Dan Connor and Colorado’s Jordon Dizon.

“I feel like I’ve stolen it from these two guys and am taking the trophy back to Columbus,” said Laurinaitis.

As expected, Penn State Nation is in uproar. Rather than argue over whether or not the Little Animal is a better linebacker than Dan Connor (he is, though), we’ll just say that if you think Connor deserved it, well, then, consider this award as balancing out the egregious snub of A.J. Hawk two years ago for PSU’s Posluszny.





  1. Those poor guys at BSD were comparing # tackles between the three finalists for the award, complaining that Connor had SO MANY TACKLES while Laurainitis did not. That’s not the best stat to use for comparison. It’s quite simple — Ohio State’s defense so dominant that they would force teams into many 3-and-outs. Little Animal simply didn’t have as many chances to make tackles because he was involved on fewer plays.

    I don’t have exact numbers, but who needs those?

  2. Kaiser –

    Good point!

    Big 10 Opponent First Downs (LINK)

    Penn State allowed five more first downs per game. That’s anywhere from 5 to 20 more tackling opportunities that Connor had over Animal. Per game.

  3. a little off the subject, but did anyone see. Troy Smith finally got some playing time against the colts. He was 3 for 5 with a rushing TD. Yippie

  4. Here are the numbers you want:


    Penn State’s defense played 817 plays this season, OSU’s played 756. Connor has 0.166 tackles per play this year, Laurinaitis had 0.136.

    In all honesty, Connor had the better season. I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of Laurinaitis to say that he’s overrated, but this year he Connor played lights out all over the field. Laurinaitis played on the better team and had a lot more talent around him to make plays.

    I’m not gonna get upset about it, though. AJ got jobbed when he lost to Poz (as good as Poz was, AJ was simply better). Rarely is an award given that isn’t somewhat contentious. For example, Dorsey is somewhat overrated, IMO. He’s good, yeah, but there were players who had much better seasons (George Selvie, namely). Dorsey won largely because of name recognition and perceived future potential. That’s it.

  5. BG – thanks for the #s. I can see where you’re coming from…

    To play devil’s advocate, though, consider a few more points:
    (1) The # of plays Laurinaitis was actually involved in is far, far less than 756. Where Connor was likely on the field for most games from start-to-finish, the Animal hardly saw a fourth quarter all year as Tressel would not play starters when the game was in-hand (and for at least two games, he wasn’t even on the field at all in the second half). Not sure where to find the snap #s, but I’ll guarantee you that Connor had a _significant_ higher number of snaps than Laurinaitis, perhaps even twice as much. That would affect your TPG values.
    (2) He still managed to put up comparable numbers to the other candidates, even through a semi-serious hip-pointer injury. Not necessarily incapacitating, but painful as all-get-out.
    (3) >>”Laurinaitis played on the better team and had a lot more talent around him to make plays.”<< Which some could argue makes his numbers look even MORE impressive... he achieved comparable success, even though he had to share tackles with other teammates. I totally agree with you about Dorsey, though. I wondered why the same people giving Dorsey props weren't willing to give any to Dixon from Oregon. Both players were dominant when they were healthy... but Dorsey got a "pass" for his injury and Dixon didn't. We'll see how awesome Dorsey is when he matches up against the biggest center & tackles he's seen in his college career.

  6. Yeah, I was thinking more about that after posting the numbers. The problem is that we can come up with more theories than we can really support with numbers. The numbers are not the end-all be-all here, but they’re the only quantitative tools we have.

    I’m not going to claim that Laurinaitis is undeserving, but I still think that Connor was the better choice this year. I think Leman would have been a fine choice, too. The Big Ten was stacked with linebackers again this year. As I said before, I’m not really upset about LA winning it, since Hawk got jobbed, but I don’t really feel the numbers bear out that choice.

    Speaking of numbers, I just saw Dorsey’s numbers. Good God, what the hell were they thinking giving him all those trophies? Yeah, he was injured, but you can’t give a trophy based on potential. If you start doing that, then you’d think Adrian Peterson would have won 4 Heisman trophies. The bottom line is that he got hurt (from a cheap shot, no less), but you can’t just say “if he was healthy he’d have better numbers”. That’s a HUGE assumption to make.

    Which is why I don’t put a lot of stock in the trophies. It’s obvious which guys are good when you watch them on the field; the accolades exist so that fans and alumni can feel good about themselves and their team. The fact that football is a team sport makes individual awards even less pertinent, in my opinion. Take a guy like Tim Tebow and put him on a terrible team (well, more terrible than Florida is now) and his numbers go way down and he doesn’t win the Heisman. That doesn’t mean he’s any less good, though, so why doesn’t he win the Heisman? It’s a ridiculous farce.

  7. Every year I’m constantly surprised by who ends up winning certain awards. But, there is one constant that holds true – stats don’t matter one whit.

    The people who hand out these awards look at more than the basic stats that a player puts up. Sure, Dizon and Conner had *far* better stats than Little Animal, but neither of them were true *leaders*. LA one that award for one very simple reason – he’s the leader of the best defense in the nation. Attempting to look simply at stats when trying to figure out why a certain person one an award is lunacy, in most cases. Stats are not the be-all and end-all of football, and should not be.

    I would like to think that the award committees realize that themselves…

    At least, certain awards do. I think the only thing the Heisman Trophy cares about anymore is which player is getting the most love from ESPN at the end of the season. =P

  8. Correction:

    “LA won* that award for one very simple reason”

    My fingers are apparently not obeying my brain…

  9. Sneaky Pete says

    Ohio State fans love to split hairs comparing their players with other players. Forget Who had the number one,two,three, or whatever defense. Dan Connor was the better linebacker ON THE FIELD OF PLAY, period. The numbers don’t lie, there is no guessing. More overall tackles, more tackles for loss, sacks, forced fumbles, solo tackles,etc. As far as Hawk and Posluszny,Posluszny’s numbers were a little better overall. Hawk lead in two or three categories. It was close, the award could have went either way. To suggest that Laurinitis was better than Dan Connor is absurd. The Big Ten got it right when Connor was named Big Ten defensive player of the year.

  10. >>Dan Connor was the better linebacker ON THE FIELD OF PLAY,<< Nope. You mentioned numbers, if you read the comments above you'll understand that Connor's tackle numbers are what actually PROVE that he didn't have as good of a season as LA. Think about it: two players have similar numbers, but one was on the field twice as much as the other. Doesn't that indicate that the one who was on the field less was far more productive with his time? Where was Connor for PSU's three losses? Nowhere. Two of PSU's three losses in 2007 fall _directly_ on the PSU defense's inability to stop a basic, no frills, Big Ten rush attack. Against MSU, Connor allowed the Spartans to punish his defense with two long TD drives in the fourth quarter, losing the game. _Against the Spartans._ And the same thing happened against UM, too. Connor couldn't do anything to stop an injury-filled UM offense with a gimpy Mike Hart from long, punishing, rushing-oriented drives. This is where the LB corps is supposed to _step_ up, not _give_ up. And OSU? The _Akron Zips_ played better defense against the Buckeyes than the mighty Connor-led PSU defense did. Akron kept OSU to almost 100 fewer yards than Penn State did. And that was in the Horseshoe, not at home in front of 100,000 white-out fans in Beaver Stadium. Say what you want, the reason Connor didn't win that award was because neither he nor his defense lived up to the preseason hype. Both players "earned" it, but LA was the more consistent player on the better defense. And, like I pointed out, there was still a lot of guilt over snubbing Hawk two years ago.

  11. Sneaky Pete says

    This post has been removed by the moderators.

    See the Comment Guidelines for our commenting policies.

  12. I think that while all these points are very well made, you still have to take the numbers into account. While yeah LA was on a better team but didnt have as good of numbers as Connor, I think that Connor should have won because he meant more to his defense than LA did that year. So while year the numbers cant be the only thing looked at, you should atleast look at them and see what their percentage of the total defensive tackles were. I think that proves which player meant more to his team and shows who the better LB is. But idk just some other thoughts.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: