As Bowl season quickly approaches, the importance of having a team built strong and stable defensive unit heightens. Much of this season has been defined by standout quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs. During this past week of college football, several defensive players rose to the occasion for this respective teams. We can say this much, the defensive talent in 2021 is as good as it has been in any other season in recent memory.
Aidan Hutchinson - Defensive End - Michigan
Stats vs. Penn State: 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, forced fumble.
At this point, there is no disputing who is the best defensive lineman in college football. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford found out quickly how impactful of a player Hutchinson can be, as he made several appearance in the Nittany Lions backfield. The entire afternoon, Hutchinson was either registering pressures or getting sacks; either way, they had few answers on how to stop him from making splash plays. This was Michigan's signature win of the season so far, and as long as they have Hutchinson producing at the level, there could be more to come.
Jermaine Johnson II - Defensive End - Florida State
Stats vs. Miami: 7 Tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, forced fumble
Florida State came dangerously close to losing a game which the led comfortably after the first half. One of biggest keys to their late comeback victory over the Miami Hurricanes, was the play of Jermaine Johnson. Fitting enough, he gave the Seminoles their first turnover of the game (a strip sack in the first quarter), and consistently made big plays throughout. This was his second multi-sack performance of the season, as he increased his season sack total to career high 10. Johnson's combination of size, strength, and athleticism should make him a desirable NFL prospect.
Channing Tindall - Linebacker - Georgia
Stats vs. Tennessee: 8 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, forced fumble
Georgia defensive unit is essentially, an NFL Draft scout's wish list. From top to bottom, no defensive unit in college comes close to the Bulldogs. From a historical perspective, it one of the best defensive units in the last two decades, maybe ever. In their dominant performance against the Tennessee Volunteers, senior linebacker Channing Tindall proved to standout above everyone, before leaving the contest late with an injury.
Ahmad Gardner - Cornerback - Cincinnati
Stats vs. South Florida: Sack, interception, and forced fumble
Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is everything you want your cornerbacks to be. He is physical, fundamentally sound, instinctive, and versatile. Against South Florida, he impacted the game in almost every way possible, including registering a sack. Truth be told, the game is just too easy for him, as he is just another level above the opposition. Whether Cincinnati makes the College Football Playoffs or not, Gardner has easily established himself as a bonified first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Kayvon Thibodeaux - Defensive Line - Oregon
Stats vs. Washington State: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss
When the game was seemingly tight, Thibodeaux rose to the occasion by making splash plays when it counted. The Cougars offense had their hands full from the first quarter, trying to stop him from getting into their backfield. There is a reason why Thibodeaux is widely considered the top defensive player in this nation; he is just a level above everyone else.
Linebacker David Ojabo - Michigan
Cornerback Verone McKinley III - Oregon
Linebacker Kamryn Farrar - Oklahoma State
Defensive End Arnold Ebiketie - Penn State
Defensive End Jasheen Davis - Wake Forest
Defensive Line Rylie Mills - Notre Dame
Defensive End Javon Denis - Georgia Southern
Defensive Tackle Darian Varner - Temple