A year after exceeding all expectations, Nate Landman and Mustafa Johnson are expected to shine even brighter in their year campaigns. The two Colorado Buffaloes were named on Monday to the Bednarik Award watch list, a most prestigious award that goes to the most outstanding defensive player in college football.
Landman earned that preseason distinction by becoming a superstar in his first year starting. Before the 2018 season, we didn’t even know how much Landman would play, but the Buffs moved Drew Lewis to outside linebacker and started Landman next to Rick Gamboa. From his very first start, Landman was flying all over the field ruining people. Even with targeting penalties keeping him off the field — they were all on sketchy calls, but it’s not worth re-hashing — he put ridiculous numbers that saw him named to the Midseason All-America First Team and All-Pac-12. He finished with 104 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions.
Johnson earned preseason distinction after a breakout first year at CU. The JUCO transfer created havoc all season with his disruptive first step and knack for getting to the QB. He was named alongside Landman to the All-Pac-12 lists as he finished with 73 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss — elite numbers for a lineman in a 3-4 scheme. With another year of D-I strength training and coaching, he could be on tap for an even better season.
Watch lists for the Butkus Award (best linebacker), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defender) will be announced next time. Landman should be named to the Butkus and Nagurski lists, while Johnson should be named to the Outland and maybe the Nagurski lists.