Richie Grant is one of the best defensive backs in college football, full stop.
On Tuesday, Grant was named one of the three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the best DB in the nation. The two other finalists are Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Trevon Moerhig of TCU.
As far as I can find, Grant is only the second UCF Knights player to be a finalist for a major national college football award. Daunte Culpepper was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback, in 1998.
Last week, Grant was named a first-team all-conference player for the third consecutive year. He is the lone Knight to earn such honors as a defense-only player three times. Joe Burnett was a four-time first-teamer from 2005-08 because of his work on defense and special teams.
Grant, a redshirt senior safety, leads the Knights with 72 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season. His 5.4 solo tackles per-game average is tops in the American. He has started all but two games over the past three seasons and has played in 47 of a possible 48 games during his four years on the field.
Grant will have one more opportunity to pad his stats and enhance his case for the Thorpe Award tonight, when the Knights take on No. 16 BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The Thorpe Award winner will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, Jan. 7, 2021, beginning at 7 p.m. on ESPN.