Brandon Lawrence, National Contributor | December 08, 2015
2015 Defensive Player Of The Year
James Cowser – DE, Southern Utah
Cowser represents consistency at its finest. And putting up consistently dominant numbers led to the senior defensive end becoming the FCS’ all-time leader in career sacks after recording two against Sam Houston State in SUU’s playoff loss. Cowser has 43.5 career sacks.
In his final season with the Thunderbirds, the 6-foot-4 lineman registered 62 total tackles with 17 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 11 games. He added three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries to his stat line.
Cowser was the anchor of a defense that gave up just 20.8 ppg to opponents on the year. The Thunderbirds finished the regular season with an 8-3 record after a dismal 3-9 campaign in 2014.
Javon Hargrave – DT, South Carolina State
Talk about a bull rush up the middle. South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave has been wreaking havoc in opponents’ backfields for years, and his senior campaign in 2015 was no different. The man up the middle showed once again why he’s a power threat in stopping not just the run, but also collapsing a quarterback’s pocket from the inside.
Hargrave registered 59 tackles this season, while a whopping 22 of them were for a loss. Sacking the opposing quarterback isn’t always a defensive tackle’s specialty, but the 6-2 Bulldogs senior seems to have re-written the guidebook for the position. His 13.5 sacks this season ranked second in the nation, while his 1.23 sacks per game ranked third in the FCS.
Hargrave added 11 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles in his 11 contests.
Tyrone Holmes – DE, Montana
The Big Sky Conference is well represented with strong defensive players, but Holmes, who wasn’t a household name like Cowser or Sacramento State’s Darnell Sankey headed into the season, blew everyone away with his outlandish performances and statistics.
The senior notched 77 total tackles this season with 17.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in a conference largely known for its offense. Throw in seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles in his 11 games played during the regular season, and Holmes becomes a valid candidate for the defensive player of the year.
Patrick Onwuasor – S, Portland State
Sometimes it’s easy for defensive linemen and linebackers to get the all the credit, since the secondary is the last line of defense when facing an opponent. But Onwuasor was the anchor for a breakout Portland State team that allowed 21.7 ppg and 206.6 passing ypg to challengers.
Onwuasor recorded 75 tackles during the regular season en route to the Vikings’ Big Sky Conference championship, adding in two tackles for loss. When it comes to defensive backs, interceptions and passes defended are the stats most look at and judge. The 6-2 Arizona transfer recorded nine of each in his senior season to help the Vikings, who earned the sixth seed in the FCS playoffs.
Noah Spence – DE, Eastern Kentucky
Spence stands out as the only junior on the list of defensive player of the year candidates, and no one is more deserving after his outstanding season leading the Colonels up front. Eastern Kentucky’s front seven served as a well-oiled machine against the run in 2015, allowing just 111.8 rushing ypg to opponents thanks in large part to Spence’s efforts.
The 6-3 junior spent a significant amount of time in opponents’ backfields, evidenced by his 63 total tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss. The Ohio State transfer hurried the rival quarterback 15 times and managed 11.5 sacks in 11 games played. Spence added three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries to his efforts for a team that spent a majority of the season among the nation’s top 25.