In what could be a precursor to the Heisman finalist announcement, the Walter Camp Player of the Year award announced Wednesday two defensive players among its five finalists.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and Michigan linebacker/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers join Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson as the 2016 finalists.
Browning ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency, hitting 65 percent of his throws for 9.6 yards per attempt with 40 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Watson ranks 14th nationally with 34 touchdowns against 14 picks, while Jackson ranks second nationally in total offense at 4,928 yards with 51 total touchdowns.
Allen is the bell cow of the nation’s best defense, collecting 52 tackles with 11.5 TFLs and seven sacks. Peppers ranks second at Michigan with 71 tackles and ties for the team lead with 15 TFLs while also posting 3.5 sacks, one interception, 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns, one punt return touchdown and a 26-yard kickoff return average.
It’s worth nothing that the Walter Camp is not afraid to differ from the Heisman as naming its player of the year. Notable recent departures include Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (instead of Heisman winner Tim Tebow in 2007), Colt McCoy in 2008 (Sam Bradford), McCoy again in 2009 (Mark Ingram), Andrew Luck in 2011 (Robert Griffin III) and Manti Te’o in 2012 (Johnny Manziel).
The last three years, though, the Walter Camp has served as a pre-cursor to the Heisman.
The winner will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 8 edition of SportsCenter at 6 p.m. ET. He will be honored at a Jan. 14, 2017, banquet, at the Yale Commons in New Haven, Conn.