Two of Oregon’s star defensive players were named finalists Tuesday for prestigious national awards.
Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has been named one of four finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, while safety Verone McKinley III was named one of three finalists for the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award.
The Bednarik Award is presented annually to the top defensive player in college football. Thibodeaux is the first player in Oregon history to become a Bednarik Award finalist. He is also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
Thibodeaux was hindered by an injury early in the season but still has been one of the most disruptive players in college football. In 2021, he has six sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and is No. 12 among FBS edge defenders with a 90.8 pass-rush grade by Pro Football Focus.
Twice this season, Thibodeaux has been named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
McKinley III is the second Duck ever to be named a Thorpe Award finalist, joining Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (2015).
The leader of Oregon’s defense, McKinley III is tied for the national lead with five interceptions. He also is second among Oregon players with 61 tackles.
During Oregon’s win over Ohio State in Columbus in Week 2, McKinley III grabbed the game-sealing interception. He was also named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week in Week 3.