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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

LSU Turned A D-Lineman Into The Nation's Best Lead Blocker

Illustration for article titled LSU Turned A D-Lineman Into The Nation's Best Lead Blocker

Each week, Football Outsiders recognizes the most outstanding college linemen, defenders and other darkhorses from the previous weekend who are habitually overlooked in the hype for that other award (whatever it's called). These are the Lowsmen.


J.R. COLLINS • DE, Virginia Tech.
Collins is repping the Hokies' entire defensive line, which turned in a characteristically solid effort in a 29–21, triple-overtime win over Marshall. Along with linemates James Gayle, Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins, Collins hounded Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato into a miserable afternoon (19-for-41 passing, four sacks, two interceptions), earning individual credit for nine tackles, two tackles for loss, seven QB hurries and a forced fumble in double overtime that should have effectively ended the game–if only Tech had a kicker on hand who could hold up his end of the deal.

UConn put the fear of Bo Schembechler's ghost into Michigan, thanks in very large part to Smallwood, an All-Big East pick in 2012 who made good on the national stage with 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a blindside sack. (This was the only one of three Michigan fumbles the Wolverines recovered.) Altogether, the same offense that put up 41 points against Notre Dame managed just 24 against the Huskies–17 coming in a fourth-quarter rally–on a season-low 289 yards.

Copeland came to LSU as a defensive lineman, and currently serves as a de facto offensive lineman in the backfield. Most of Jeremy Hill's 183 yards against Auburn came directly behind Copeland–for the spread kids, this is a concept known as "lead blocking"–who demolished linebackers at the point of attack on all three of Hill's touchdown runs. Copeland got a touchdown himself on Saturday, on a one-yard plunge in the second quarter, which he richly deserved after springing Hill on the long run that got the ball there in the first place.

Like his linemate Dominique Easley (now out for the year), Fowler's presence in the pass rush is usually far more apparent on film than on paper, but when he does show up in the box score he makes it count: All three of Fowler's tackles against Tennessee were for loss, and two of them resulted in fumbles that were recovered by the Gators. The second of those led to a short field that produced Florida's first points of the game, on a field goal. (Sorry, the D-line can't do everything.) The Volunteers managed a single, meaningless touchdown, and quarterback Nathan Peterman may never be heard from again.

A 17–14 win over Utah State in which neither side cracks 300 yards of total offense is nothing to write home about, but at this point the Trojans aren't quibbling over style points. The victory was another effective showcase for the defense, which ranks fourth nationally in yards allowed and is going to have to stay there if USC has any chance of remaining relevant in the Pac-12 South. Williams, a Freshman All-American in 2012, led the push against the Aggies with a team-high eight tackles and three tackles for loss.

Smith, last seen putting the torch to Nebraska's defense on opening day, accounted for 511 total yards and five touchdowns in the Cowboys' 56–23 win over Air Force, making him the first FBS quarterback this season over 300 yards passing and 100 rushing in the same game. As a team, Wyoming scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight offensive possessions, and at the end of the day Smith ranked second nationally in total offense.


The Lowsman Trophy Watch was created by Robert Weintraub. Want to nominate a player for the Lowsman? Drop us a line.


Matt Hinton writes about college football for Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Football Study Hall. Follow on Twitter, @MattRHinton.