When legendary linebacker Dick Butkus showed up on the screen during Notre Dame’s team meeting Monday, it could only mean one thing. Irish rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had won the Butkus Award.
The award crowned Owusu-Koramoah as the top linebacker in college football for the 2020 season. The Notre Dame senior became the third Irish linebacker to win the college version of the Butkus Award following Manti Te’o (2012) and Jaylon Smith (2015).
Owusu-Koramoah, who was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press on Monday, earned the honor by covering a lot of ground for the Irish defense. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker totaled 56 tackles, 38 of which were solo tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups, two recovered fumbles, two quarterback hurries, 1.5 sacks and one interception in 11 games so far this season. He returned a fumble for a 23-yard touchdown in Notre Dame’s double-overtime victory over Clemson in November.
The Butkus Award, which was first awarded in 1985, selects its winner with a 51-person committee including coaches, recruiters, talent scouts and journalists using a weighted vote ranking the top three linebackers. Owusu-Koramoah, a product of Hampton (Va.) Bethel, received 30% of the weighted vote and 30% of the first-place votes. He beat out fellow finalists Zaven Collins (Tulsa), Nick Bolton (Missouri), Monty Rice (Georgia) and Devin Lloyd (Utah).
“Owusu-Koramoah has proven to be an impact defender for one of the nation’s top defenses,” said the selection committee in a written release. “He is deployed in many alignments and must be accounted for wherever he aligns on the field. His versatility sets him apart and distinguished his contributions, with the unique ability to defend the pass as well as the run and factor as a weapon blitzing. He possesses an explosive skill set that translated to making plays at every level of the defense.”
Owusu-Koramoah will face arguably his toughest task of the season when No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1) takes on the high-powered offense of No. 1 Alabama (11-0) in the College Football Playoff semifinal in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 1 (4 p.m. EST on ESPN). The Crimson Tide offense ranks No. 1 in the FBS in passing efficiency (197.5), No. 2 in scoring (49.7 points per game) and No. 5 in total offense (543.9 yards per game).
Notre Dame signee Prince Kollie, a four-star linebacker out of Jonesborough (Tenn.) David Crockett, was named the winner of the high school version of the Butkus Award on Monday too.
The 6-2, 210-pound Kollie recorded 109 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, four pass breakups, two sacks and an interception as a senior. He also rushed 181 times for 1,562 yards and 26 touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games.
In 2012, Te’o won the college version of the Butkus Award and Smith won the high school version.
Notre Dame’s offensive line advanced Monday to the finalist round for the Joe Moore Award.
The Irish were named as one of three finalists for the award given to the top offensive line in college football. Alabama and Texas A&M joined the Irish as finalists.
The Joe Moore Award voting committee of 13, which includes former offensive linemen, coaches, talent evaluators and media analysts, uses six criteria to judge offensive lines: toughness, effort, teamwork, consistency, technique and finishing.
The committee highlighted Notre Dame’s third-down conversion rate of 49.3%, which ranks No. 9 in the FBS, and rushing average of 217.6 yards per game, which ranks No. 21, as highlights for the Irish offensive line.
Notre Dame won the Joe Moore Award in 2017.
Five Notre Dame players were recognized in some fashion when Pro Football Focus released its All-American teams for the 2020 season. Four of the five Irish players picked were offensive linemen.
Left guard Aaron Banks was the lone Notre Dame selection on the first team.
“Notre Dame has the clear-cut best offensive line in the country, and Banks is a key cog in that unit,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote in detailing Banks’ first-team selection. “He was the only Power 5 left guard who earned a pass- and run-block grade above 80.0 this year.
“Banks came in at No. 6 among all FBS left guards in PFF pass-blocking grade. That sounds great as is, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that he played the fourth-most true pass sets among players at the position.”
Right tackle Robert Hainsey was named to the third team and left tackle Liam Eichenberg and right guard Tommy Kraemer were given honorable mentions. The selections on the offensive line were specific to each position, so the Irish teammates weren’t battling each other for spots on the first team.
Owusu-Koramoah was selected as a second-team linebacker behind Buffalo’s Kadofi Wright.
The influx of talent Notre Dame brought to the ACC with its one-season agreement to be a full member of the conference in football was reflected in Monday’s release of All-ACC honors given by The Associated Press.
The votes of 14 sports writers, including the Tribune’s Eric Hansen, resulted in the selections of Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly as ACC Coach of the Year and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Five Notre Dame players made the All-ACC first team: offensive guards Banks and Kraemer, offensive tackle Eichenberg, linebacker Owusu-Koramoah and safety Kyle Hamilton. Four others made the second team: offensive tackle Hainsey, center Jarrett Patterson, running back Kyren Williams and cornerback Nick McCloud.
Only Clemson, with 10, had more AP All-ACC selections than Notre Dame’s nine.