Kirby Smart understands that if awards come down to statistical achievements, Nakobe Dean may not have all that strong a case for the Butkus Award.
Dean was named one of six finalists for the award after his impressive play for Georgia this year. He ranks second on the team in tackles with 50, tied for second in sacks with 4.5 and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.
He’s done it all while leading the nation’s top defense and guiding Georgia to an 11-0 record.
“It’s supposed to go to the best linebacker in the country,” Smart said. “I’ve been very fortunate to coach guys before that have won that, at multiple places. He’s in that same category of guys.”
Georgia’s Roquan Smith won the award in 2017 and Monty Rice was a finalist last year for Georgia. Smart also coached C.J. Mosely and Rolando McClain, who won the award in 2013 and 2009 when Smart was the defensive coordinator at Alabama.
Dean also won the Butkus Award as a high schooler back in 2018. Should he win the award, he would join Manti Te’o and Jaylon Smith as the only players to win the award at both the high school and collegiate levels.
Georgia 2022 commit Jalon Walker is also one of six finalists for the high school version of the award. Dean is the only Bulldog to win the award as a high schooler.
Dean is far from the only great linebacker on Georgia’s team, with Smart also explaining why Channing Tindall and Quay Walker were deserving candidates for the award.
Tindall though argued for why Dean should win the award. And he similarly made a case that could not be measured in a box score.
“He’s super smart, leads the defense in a positive way. He gets us motivated,” Tindall said. “Just everything a linebacker should be and what young linebackers should want to be. I definitely feel like he should win it this year.”
Smart added though that Dean, Tindall, Walker and many others aren’t all that worried about stats or even awards.
They’re pursuing something greater. That is what makes Dean such a truly special player in the eyes of his head coach.
“They just want to win, and that’s what has been special about this team,” Smart said. “As these accolades, awards, and finalist have come out, those guys aren’t worried about any of it. They are worried about winning a championship.
“I think Nakobe would tell you before anybody on the team, it’s a whole lot more important about how he grows, plays, and continues to lead our team, than just about that award.”
Dean will know on Dec. 7 if he was won the award or not. By then he’ll also know if the Bulldogs have advanced to the College Football Playoff, as the Bulldogs take on Alabama in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4.
Channing Tindall praises Nakobe Dean
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