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Utah's Nate Orchard announced as Ted Hendricks Award winner

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Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Utah's Nate Orchard had 6.5 career sacks before recording 17.5 this season.

Utah's Nate Orchard was announced Wednesday as the winner of the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, beating out an impressive cast of finalists from higher-profile programs.

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Orchard averaged an FBS-high 1.46 sacks per game for the Utes, totaling 17.5 for a Utah pass rush that led the nation in the category (52). The senior is considered among the top pass-rushing prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft. But at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, he is considered more of a fit for outside linebacker than defensive end in the NFL. Orchard made 81 tackles, 20 for losses, and forced two fumbles this season.

"All six finalists are extremely talented, team leaders and deserving of the 2014 award," said Hendricks, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was a three-time All-American at Miami. "I am proud to congratulate Nate Orchard from the University of Utah as the winner of this year's Hendricks Award. What he has meant to his team in leadership, on-field performance, humility and academic excellence cannot be overstated."

Other finalists for the award included USC star junior Leonard Williams, Ohio State sophomore Joey Bosa, Clemson senior Vic Beasley, Washington senior Hau'oli Kikaha and Missouri junior Shane Ray.


» Where does Orchard rank among CFB's top 10 pass rushers?


Past winners include Jackson Jeffcoat of Texas, Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina, LaMarr Woodley of Michigan and Terrell Suggs of Arizona State.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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