OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 19: Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers runs against the Ole Miss Rebels on November 19, 2011 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Linemen are very important, as are defenders in general. According to various college football award watch lists, here are some of the best important players in the country.
The finalists for the Bednarik Award are Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still. The award is giving annually to college football's best defensive player.
Still is also one of the three finalists for the Outland Trophy, awarded annually to college football's best interior lineman. The other two finalists for the Outland are Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro and Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones.
Past winners of the Bednarik award include the likes of Charles Woodson, Dan Morgan, Julius Peppers, Paul Posluzny, Dan Connor, Nadamukong Suh and Patrick Peterson, all of whom are currently earning paychecks in the NFL. Peterson took home the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back, as well. Woodson is the only other defensive back to take home both awards in the same season.
Recent Outland Trophy winners have had a history of pulling in big paychecks in the pros. Of the last 12 winners, only Greg Eslinger of Minnesota (2005) and Rien Long of Washington State (2002) were not taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Last year's winner, Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin, has been on injured reserve with the Chicago Bears since Week 2 due to a knee injury.
The finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to college football's best tight end, are Clemson's Dwayne Allen, Georgia's Orson Charles and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert. Allen has 45 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns this season. Charles has 35 catches for 435 yards and five touchdowns. Eifert has 53 catches for 634 yards and five touchdowns.