Earlier this week, the committee that selects The Butkus Award announced their five finalists. NC State's Nate Irving did not make the cut, but the Heels' Bruce Carter did, which sparked some spirited response on the NC State boards here, from PackPride’s Austin Johnson here and over at Frumpzilla here.
I, too, was puzzled as to why Irving was left off the list over Carter, who had a markedly more average season than Irving. So I decided to drop a line to Ron Arp of the Butkus Foundation to see if I could get some clarification on the committee’s thinking. His response (which is nearly verbatim to the one Johnson received) is murky in its logic but does offer a sliver of hope that Irving might receive at least some recognition:
I spoke with the committee chair. He said the 51 ballots showed that this year’s candidates are extremely close. Many selectors reported having a difficult time picking their top candidates, especially when several top linebackers had such different styles of play. They spent a great deal of extra time reviewing game films to make their decision. Several on the committee specifically noted Carter’s less-traditional finesse-oriented style that is similar to 2004 winner Derrick Johnson, and felt his overall athletic performance and coverage ability merited recognition. They also noted the talent and achievements of Nate Irving, his tremendous comeback and his recent record-setting performance. Both are apt to find themselves in the NFL in different defensive schemes. The selectors are afforded a write-in opportunity, so if they feel someone was missed in selecting the top five, they can write in a nominee in the final balloting.
Hope this helps.
Ron, I wish it helped more than it does. But explaining to me (and to all of us) that Carter’s “less-traditional finesse-oriented style” warranted recognition over Irving’s traditional blow-you-the-eff-up style that has worked so much more effectively this season than Carter’s doesn’t cut it.
The proof is in the pudding, Ron. Irving is the better linebacker by any measure, and by snubbing Irving over Carter, you and your compatriots discredit yourselves and the award you represent.