Derek Barnett vs Zach Cunningham

– Austin Stanley

As I stated above, this should be Barnett’s awards. The only statistical category he Cunningham owns him in is total tackles and that is due to the positions they play.

Both guys have made game winning plays for their teams. Cunningham wrapped up Isaiah McKenzie on a fourth down play to win the game against Georgia. Ironically, Barnett forced a fumble on Georgia QB Jacob Eason that was recovered in the end zone for a Tennessee touchdown. That play helped save the game for the Vols.

In a season where the UT defense has been decimated with injuries, Barnett’s leadership has taken on a huge role. The defense lost both of its senior captains, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton, to injury. The junior sack-man took over their on field leadership roles while excelling in conference play.

Barnett was snubbed from the Badnarik Award, which recognizes the best defensive player in the country. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett was named as one of the three finalists. He shouldn’t have been.

If the SEC gives the Defensive Player of the Year award to Garrett, it’s a complete sham. Don’t do it, SEC.

– Zach Bingham

When Vandy is playing, time after time, you see number 41 make plays. Cunningham’s tackling ability is uncanny, and he has really taken to Derek Mason’s philosophy. Already a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik and Butkus Award, the Vanderbilt linebacker should add conference defensive player of the year to his name.

He leads all linebackers nationally with 16.5 tackles for loss and has dominated the total tackles category throughout the year in the SEC. Cunningham does more for his team, than any other defensive player in the conference. Without him, Vandy would probably be a two-win team. With him, they are more than likely bowl bound.

Defining moments.

First, the game saving tackle against the Georgia Bulldogs.

And then, the BLOCK heard round the country against Auburn.

Zach Cunningham has earned the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Now it’s time to make that official.

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