In the last week, Scooby Wright’s season has gone from really good to one of the best in Arizona history — and he hasn’t played a game.
One day after being named a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, Wright was included as a finalist for two of the most prestigious awards in college football.
Thursday morning, the UA sophomore linebacker was named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year award. About an hour later, he was announced as one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award, given out to the top lineman or linebacker in college football.
Wright is just the second UA player ever to be selected as a finalist for the Nagurski Award, joining Rob Waldrop, who won the award in 1993.
Only two other UA players — Waldrop and Tedy Bruschi — have been named finalists for the Lombardi Award.
Wright’s stats say it all.
Through 10 games, Wright has amassed 117 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss and 12 sacks and has five forced fumbles. He’s the only FBS player to rank in the top 25 nationally in each of those categories.
In seven Pac-12 games, Wright has 84 tackles, 18 tackles-for-loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles. He’ll try to add to those numbers Saturday, when he leads the 15th-ranked Wildcats into Salt Lake City for an afternoon matchup with No. 20 Utah.
Wright’s 12 sacks and 21 tackles-for-loss are already fourth-most in UA single-season history.
“One of the reasons his numbers are so high, whether it’s tackles or assists or turnovers, is because of his effort,” coach Rich Rodriguez said earlier this season. “He strains until the nth degree. You want everybody to do that, but it comes to Scooby naturally. He plays with a sense of urgency on every snap.”
Wright was the only player to be included on both lists Thursday.
The other Nagurski finalists are Malcolm Brown (Texas), Senquez Golson (Ole Miss), Gerod Holliman (Louisville) and Landon Collins (Alabama).
The other Lombardi finalists: Vic Beasley (Clemson), Joey Bosa (Ohio State) and Hau’oli Kikaha (Washington).
The winner of the Nagurski Award will be announced Dec. 8 in Charlotte. The Lombardi Award will reveal its winner two days later in Houston.
Wright has been the UA’s leading tackler in six of 10 games this season. He had 19 tackles against UCLA and 18 against Cal.
He was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after notching three forced fumbles and two sacks against Washington State last month and again after his 19-tackle effort against the Bruins.
Wright leads the Pac-12 in tackles and is third in the league in sacks. He’s also tops in tackles-for-loss per game at 2.20.
“To me, Scooby is one of the best linebackers in the country, so teams are keying on what he’s doing,” safety Will Parks said. “Scooby’s doing a crazy job at what he does.
“Scooby does what Scooby do, and we’re all proud of him.”
Wright was rated as a two-star recruit out of high school and didn’t have any other Pac-12 offers. The Windsor, California, native played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman and started 12 of them. He had 83 tackles and 9½ tackles-for-loss. He was named a freshman All-American by 247sports and a second-team selection by Athlon. He earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors.
The linebacker moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker this season and has often shifted down to defensive end on third downs, where he has gotten a lot of his sacks.
“He’s been our most consistent football player, period,” Rodriguez said earlier this year. “Scooby plays with a passion; he plays like he wants to prove himself. I think because of his attitude, he’ll keep getting better.
“It’s only his second year in the scheme. He’s grown up in our system. As time goes on, he’ll become an extension of Coach (Jeff) Casteel out there and be able to line everybody up.
“His knowledge of our scheme is getting better every week.”