Iowa State Cyclones

2021 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Debate: Nik Bonitto Over Mike Rose?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State

It is never too early to talk about football season even if it is still January. Perhaps there is no better example of that when our own fearless leader Pete Mundo released his way-too-early 2021 Big 12 Predictions on Monday.

That article got me thinking a little bit. Iowa State took home a ton of awards last season and especially when it came to the 2020 All-Big 12 Football team. They had a total of nine players make the first team and had both the offensive (Breece Hall) and defensive player of the year (Mike Rose). And as deserving as Mike Rose was to win the award (despite being snubbed for the Butkus Award) there were some key snubs left off that first team All-Big 12 list.

While the Big 12 experienced a defensive revolution this past season, it brought many big-time names within the conference. Of course, there are only so many awards to go around and some players will be left out.


However, there was one player who was not only left off the first team All-Big 12 but the second team as well. That is none other than Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto. Bonitto is not your typical linebacker as he is more of a pass rushing specialist off the edge. While some may not consider him an every down linebacker, when he is on the field, he does one thing well which is make plays.

In just eight games last season, Nik had seven and a half sacks which was tied for second in the entire Big 12 behind only fellow teammate Isaiah Thomas who had eight sacks. And if you are like me and pay attention to Pro Football Focus, they absolutely love Nik Bonitto.

Obviously with Mike Rose coming back he will be the clear-cut favorite to win back-to-back defensive player of the year in the Big 12. But don’t sleep on Nik Bonitto. The Big 12 coaches already have and if he can get a full season under his belt, don’t be shocked to see his name atop of the sack list for the 2021 season. Who knows, maybe he will be the Big 12 player of the year next season.

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