Hurricanes' Denzel Perryman named Butkus Award finalist
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- It seems University of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman made the right decision coming back for his senior year.
Perryman was named one of five finalists for the 2014 Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker, on Monday morning. He joins UCLA's Eric Kendricks, Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha, Michigan's Jake Ryan (Michigan) and Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith.
The 6-foot, 242-pounder was a semifinalist for the honor in 2013. Rather than forego his senior season for the NFL Draft, Perryman returned to the Hurricanes and has become the fifth UM player to be named a Butkus Award finalist. Dan Morgan won the award in 2000.
''I'm real happy,'' said Perryman, who expressed his desire in getting his portrait hanging next to Morgan's in the Schartz Athletic Center for Excellence. ''I feel like my play has gotten a lot better. I've proven a lot of things from last year up to this point now. I feel like it was the best decision I made.''
A preseason All-ACC selection, Perryman leads Miami with 96 tackles. He also has seven tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles through 11 games. In Saturday's 30-13 loss to Virginia, Perryman matched a career high with 15 tackles. His 13 solo stops were a career best.
Perryman ranks 10th in program history with 337 tackles. Dating back to 2013, he has started 24 straight games. Last season, Perryman earned All-ACC honors from various media outlets and an All-America honorable mention from SI.com. For his collegiate career, he has appeared in 44 games (34 starts).
The Coral Gables High graduate said he has gotten better at his pass drops. He is also more of a student of the game -- he's able to communicate with teammates and recognize opposing offenses better.
This year's recipient will be named on Dec. 9 by an independent panel of 51 recruiters, scouts, coaches and journalists.
''From our standpoint he's grown immeasurably,'' coach Al Golden said. ''He's strong, he's working his pass game. If the other night's any indication he's playing some of his best football right now. That was a really good demonstration for him. He was locked in, and he's going to have to continue to do that.''