The Jim Thorpe Award goes to the best defensive back in college football. The Big 12 has had multiple finalists for the award in recent years – last season, DeShon Elliot from Texas hit that mark – but the conference hasn’t seen a player take home any hardware since 2006. That’s a switch from the early 2000s, when a Big 12 player won the award all but once from 2001-2006.
Since then, however, at least one player from every other Power Five conference has won the award. The SEC has won the majority of Thorpe Awards, taking home five.
BIG 12 DEFENSIVE BACKS ON THE JIM THORPE AWARD WATCH LIST
Dravon Askew-Henry – WVU
Kris Boyd – UT
Jah’Shawn Johnson – TTU
The presence of multiple players on this list could be an indicator of stingier defenses in the Big 12 in 2018. The conference is known as a “pass-happy” league, but these three defensive backs might challenge that narrative.
Texas Tech, which had three players named to the All-Big 12 Preseason Defense, grabbed one of the spots. The Red Raiders have never had a player win the Jim Thorpe, and Johnson’s placement on this list speaks to increased defensive development on Kingsbury’s team. Johnson had 65 solo tackles for the Red Raiders as a junior last season.
Despite all of the preseason accolades accumulated by the Mountaineer offensive players, West Virginia’s Dravon Askew-Henry makes this list as a senior defender with 39 starts under his belt.
In his time with the Mountaineers, Askew-Henry has amassed over 150 tackles in defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme. After moving to the versatile “Spur” position this offseason, the senior will look to have a standout performance in 2018.
Kris Boyd makes it onto this list as a senior cornerback who made major strides last season under first year defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Pro Football Focus gave Boyd the third highest grade amongst returning Big 12 cornerbacks, something confirmed by improvements in Texas’ pass defense in 2017.
Even though a handful of players are gone from that defense, Boyd will have a chance to make that defense solid once again after having fifteen passes defended last season.
All three of these defensive backs were deserving of this preseason honor, and each has a good chance to take home the trophy come December.