The California Golden Bears had one of the worst defenses in college football last season. They might have one of the best defenders in the nation this season.
Devante Downs made his way onto the LOTT Impact Trophy watchlist (awarded to the player with the greatest defensive impact) after three stellar performances against North Carolina (13 tackles), Ole Miss (14 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks) and USC (14 tackles). Downs is currently sixth in the nation with 54 tackles, second among all Power 5 defenders. Downs added eight more tackles against Oregon.
With Cameron Saffle now out for this season, the defense belongs to Devante Downs. His senior campaign will determine whether Cal ends up bowling. The defensive turnaround for the Bears can be attributed primarily to Downs’s relentlessness.
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Devante Downs was one of five players added to the 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List on Friday the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation announced. The award named after Pro Football Hall of Fame member Ronnie Lott is awarded annually to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. The Lott Trophy is the first and only college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player and is given to the player who exhibits the same characteristics Lott embodied during his distinguished career: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
Downs is making a strong case for National and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors through his first four games of the 2017 campaign. In addition to being added to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List he is also on the Butkus Award Watch List for the award given annually to the nation's top linebacker. In addition, Downs has been the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week twice in the first four weeks to give the Golden Bears their first two-time winner of the award since Mike Mohamed in 2010. Downs leads the conference in tackles (46, 11.5 tpg) with seven more than his closest league competitor and is tied for fourth nationally. He is also among Pac-12 and NCAA leaders in solo tackles (2nd Pac-12, T7th NCAA; 27, 6.8 stpg), forced fumbles (3rd Pac-12, T10th NCAA; 0.50 ffpg, 2 total), interceptions (T4th Pac-12, T13th NCAA; 0.50 ipg, 2 total), sacks (T6th Pac-12; 0.75 spg, 3.0 total) and tackles for loss (T8th Pac-12; 1.25 tflpg, 5.0 total).