OAKLAND--During Ejuan Price’s first five games of the 2016 season, Pitt’s star defensive end has been able to produce at a historic rate.
As a matter of fact, he might be the most disruptive defensive end college football has seen in over eight years.
Price’s journey at Pitt began as a true freshman linebacker in 2011, appearing in all 13 games and garnering six tackles for a loss and four sacks. From that point, however, his journey would become quite unorthodox: he redshirted as a sophomore in 2012 and appeared in a scant six games over the course of two years due to injuries to his back and chest muscles. But in 2015, his luck drastically changed.
Last season, Price was able to start in all 13 games and accumulated 48 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, one forced fumble and 9 quarterback hurries. This led him to make first team All-ACC at defensive end and finish third in the running for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award.
This season, he should be racking up hardware like it is his day job (I suppose it is his day job!). So far, Price has garnered 15 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 7 quarterback hurries. Price also ranks fourth in the nation in forced fumbles per game (0.60), second in sacks per game (1.50) and second in tackles for a loss per game (2.3).
If Price continues to play his current level, he will be a serious contender for the Ted Hendricks Award for the nation’s best defensive end, the Rotary Lombardi Award for college football’s best lineman or linebacker, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for best defensive player and the Chuck Bednarik Award, also for the best defensive player.
The statistics that Price is on pace for are noted in parentheses.
|Statistic||Ejuan Price, Pitt 2015||Carl Nassib, PSU 2015||Nate Orchard, Utah 2014||Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas 2013||Jadeveon Clowney, SC 2012||Whitney Mercilus, Illinois 2011||Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson 2010||Jerry Hughes, TCU 2009||Brian Orakpo, Texas 2008|
|combined tackles||15 (39)||38.5||69||51||47||42.5||53.5||45||36|
|Tackles for loss||11.5 (29.9)||19.5||21||19||23.5||22.5||25||16.5||17.5|
|QB hurries||7 (18.2)||0||2||15||5||6||11||7||15|
|Forced fumbles||3 (7.8)||6||3||2||5||9||2||2||4|
|Awards||?||Lombardi, Hendricks||Hendricks||Hendricks||Hendricks||Hendricks||Nagurski, Hendricks||Hendricks||Lombardi, Hendricks|
Price’s season might also cement his place in Pitt’s illustrious football history. When comparing his projected stats to former Panther great Hugh Green’s senior season numbers in 1980, some remarkable comparisons can be made.
In 1980, Green registered 123 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, 7 forced fumbles and 17 quarterback hurries. Green raked in a number of awards that season, including the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Award, the Lombardi Award, the Sporting News Player of the Year and the UPI Player of the Year. He was also the runner up in the Heisman Trophy Award race to George Rogers of South Carolina.
While it seems unlikely that Price will be a Heisman contender, his projected numbers are quite similar to Green’s in his senior season except for total tackles. With the halfway mark of the 2016 season approaching, look for Ejuan Price to go award hunting by mid to late December.