Published December 08, 2011
| Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. – It has been LSU's year in college football, and it was the Tigers' night at the 21st annual College Football Awards.
Members of the Tigers' secondary won two of the major awards presented Thursday night.
Cornerback and Heisman Trophy nominee Tyrann Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the college defensive player of the year, and teammate Morris Claiborne was took the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's outstanding defensive back.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Mathieu is the second straight LSU back to win the Bednarik Award, following Patrick Peterson, who turned over his No. 7 to Mathieu.
"I talked to him before I came here. I asked him what to wear and he just said to look sharp," Mathieu said. "He knew that I was going to win the award. I definitely had his vote."
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck won the Maxwell Award as the player of the year, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III received the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Both are nominees for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded Saturday in New York.
Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State became the second two-time winner of the Biletnikof Award as the nation's outstanding receiver.
Alabama's Trent Richardson, another Heisman finalist, won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back, and Alabama teammate Barrett Jones won the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman. Texas A&M's Randy Bullock won the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, and Ryan Allen of Louisiana Tech won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter.
Claiborne, who plays the other corner on LSU's defense, said the Tigers' secondary didn't expect to miss a beat after Peterson moved on to the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.
"Just because we lost a good player doesn't mean another good player can't be born," Claiborne said. "We always looked at (Peterson) like he's the man, and that was a big part of it. We said we've got to get back and get the Thorpe award again. He always put that in our ear."
Top-ranked and undefeated LSU will play Alabama in the BCS national championship game Jan. 9.
"I've put in a lot of hard work and I'm definitely surrounded by a bunch of guys that make me a great player," Mathieu said. "We've put ourselves in position to win a national championship."
He's not so sure he is in a good position to become the first defensive Heisman Trophy winner since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997.
"I'm definitely a Heisman long shot, being a defensive player," he said. "At least that's what history says."
Griffin is the seventh quarterback from the Big 12 to win the O'Brien award in the last 11 years. He was selected over Luck and Houston's Case Keenum, the national passing leader with 392.2 yards per game, 45 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Griffin (333.2 yards per game, 36 touchdown passes, six interceptions) led Baylor to a 9-3 season and an Alamo Bowl berth.
Blackmon caught 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns to join Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree (2007-08) as a two-time Biletnikof winner.