Tyrann Mathieu grabbed national attention last year with his play and his nickname, "Honey Badger," en route to winning the Chuck Bednarik Award for the college football's best defensive player. At the halfway point of this season, the players, and names, vying for the award are just as good.
5. OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU ?» The 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior sits atop many draft boards already. But with 16 tackles and one sack, he's got work to do to make his numbers match his upside, and bring LSU a third straight Bednarik Award.
4. DT Star Lotulelei, Utah » Lotulelei didn't have his best game against USC last week, registering three tackles for the Utes in a 38-28 loss. But important games against UCLA and No. 10 Oregon State will allow the 6-3, 320-pound senior to reestablish his dominance.
3. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina » Last year's top recruit, the 6-6, 256-pound game wrecker put up four tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss in the Gamecocks' 35-7 demolition of Georgia, equaling his Georgia counterpart -- Jarvis Jones had four tackles and a sack.
2. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas » Helped by teammate Alex Okafor, Jeffcoat helped force Heisman Trophy front-runner Geno Smith into his first fumbles of the year, recovering one for a touchdown in a 48-45 loss to West Virginia. He's got 29 total tackles, including nine for loss, four sacks and six hurries.
1. LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame » The Fighting Irish are relevant again, and Te'o's inspirational story is a big reason why. For the third straight season, he's leading Notre Dame in tackles, with 48 so far, along with three interceptions. If the Irish (5-0) keep winning, Te'o will work his way into Heisman consideration.
- Craig Stouffer