It probably happens each Friday night during college football season: An offensive coordinator finally admits out loud that he doesn’t know how to keep a certain defensive player from disrupting his game plan.
The best defenders play with power and speed. It’s a deadly combination, of course.
The best at doing that in the FCS claims the Buck Buchanan Award, the defensive player of the year award which originated in 1995 with future NFL linebacker Dexter Coakley becoming the only two-time winner.
Here are Athlon Sports' top five candidates (in alphabetical order) for the 2018 Buck Buchanan Award.
-- Compiled by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
Marlon Bridges, Jacksonville State
FS, Jr., 6-0, 200
2017 Statistics: 79 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 INTs, 5 PBU, 1 BK
Bridges was one of the top freshmen in the FCS in 2016 and after a second consecutive season on the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team, he’s recognized as one of the top defenders in the nation. He is quick to the ball and has a hard-hitting style.
(Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics)
Ahmad Gooden, Samford
DE, Sr., 6-1, 240
2017 Statistics: 101 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 11 QB hurries, 2 FR, 1 FF
Gooden finished seventh in the voting for the 2017 Buck Buchanan Award. The Southern Conference defensive player of the year was second in the conference in tackles for a loss, tied for fourth in sacks and tied for fifth in tackles. That’s dominance out of a defensive end.
(Photo courtesy of Samford Athletics)
Darin Greenfield, South Dakota
DE, R-Jr., 6-3, 235
2017 Statistics: 59 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 1 PBU, 11 QBH
A tremendous start to the 2017 season (5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks at Drake) spurred Greenfield to a breakout campaign as a sophomore. With additional size and maturation, he should continue to develop into one of the best pass rushers in the FCS.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota Athletics)
Rashad Robinson, James Madison
CB, Sr., 5-11, 182
2017 Statistics: 51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 INTs, 9 PBU
Among returning FCS players, only teammate Jimmy Moreland had more interceptions than Robinson's seven a year ago. He has excellent ball and man-to-man cover skills to warrant consideration for the 2019 NFL Draft.
(Photo courtesy of Jame Madison Athletics)
Christian Rozeboom, South Dakota State
LB, Jr., 6-2, 230
2017 Statistics: 128 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 FR, 1 FF
The runner-up for the 2016 Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) continued his dominance as a sophomore. The steady performer has led the Jackrabbits in tackles in both of his two seasons, playing with an edgy style.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)