Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict may be in the midst of a medicore 2011 campaign through seven games, but he is still commanding national respect. Burfict has been named a semifinalist for the 2011 Butkus Award, an honor given out to college football's best linebacker each and every year.
Here's a list of all 12 semifinalists for this year's award:
- Zach Brown, North Carolina
- Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
- Audie Cole, North Carolina State
- Lavonte David, Nebraska
- Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
- Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
- Keenan Robinson, Texas
- Sean Spence, Miami
- Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
- Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
- Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Burfict is the only linebacker in the Pac-12 on the list. He has been decent through ASU's first seven games but has been prone to committing penalties that have hurt the Sun Devils.
Burfict has drawn concerns about his draft stock through the first half of the college football season season. He may not have to worry about that too much if he manages to win the award. As recent history shows, recipients of the Butkis Award tend to do very well in the draft.
2009 winner Aaron Curry of Wake Forest went fourth overall in that year's draft while 2010 winner Rolando McClain of Alabama was drafted eighth overall and 2011 winner Von Miller of Texas A&M went second overall last year.
Burfict has a chance to elevate his performance over ASU's final five games. If he does manage to raise up his game, Burfict could make a real run at the award by season's end.