Nov. 18, 2003
UCLA defensive end Dave Ball, two Oklahoma Sooners and defensive standouts from West Virginia and LSU were among the finalists for the 2003 Bronko Nagurski Trophy announced on Tuesday.
Ball, 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 other finalists also include 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.
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.
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 interceptions 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.
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 over Pittsburgh.