2022 D-I Men’s Defensive Player of the Year

The best defenders of the 2022 spring season.

Ultiworld’s 2022 College Awards are presented by the National Ultimate Training Camp; all opinions are those of the author(s). NUTC helps young players become better athletes and community members.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

Our awards continue with the Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt were the top defensive performers this spring. Whether through generating blocks, shutting down options, helping out teammates, or all of the above, these defenders stood out doing the tough work that too often go unrecognized.

D-I Men’s 2022 Defensive Player Of The Year

Saeed Semrin (Colorado)

Colorado's Saeed Semrin at the 2022 D-I College Championships.
Colorado’s Saeed Semrin at the 2022 D-I College Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

Let’s do a little D-line create-a-player, shall we? What kinds of skills do you want to max out? Raw athleticism and a nose for the disc are givens when it comes to drawing up an ideal defensive player. You push them both as near to 100 as you can – and Saeed Semrin comes awfully close on both counts. Throw in a bit of height (check) and a generous helping of agility (check) and you’ve got a guy who can hold his own against any O-line in the country.

The slider that often goes overlooked, however, is field intelligence. That’s exactly where Semrin stands out for the crowd. On top of the more telegenic defensive qualities listed above, Semrin demonstrated that rare ability to understand where the disc was likely to go at roughly the same time as the thrower and cutter he sought to disrupt. That intelligence – not to mention his ability to adjust his positioning based on it – was a major factor in generating the kind of pressure that eventually led to a team-high six blocks at Nationals. Honestly, it was the kind of mature defensive performance you can expect at the highest levels of club, but almost never see with such consistency at the college level. Very well-deserved from the Mamabird senior.

First Runner-Up

Drew Di Francesco (Georgia)

Georgia's Drew Di Francesco at the 2022 D-I College Championships.
Georgia’s Drew Di Francesco at the 2022 D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

Having established his defensive representation (and earned second runner-up for this award) during a lights-out Nationals run in December, Di Francesco doubled down on everything he does so well for a 2022 that was even better. He propelled himself toward the disc with a kind of superhuman traction – how exactly was he able to close so many gaps so quickly? For all the world it was like an F1 car on fresh soft tires accelerating out of a tight corner when Di Francesco found himself within bidding range. And he earns bonus points for playing above his height: Di Francesco often gave up a few inches of height against his matchups, but he didn’t give up much else this spring, taking care of the deep space just as reliably as he shut down unders and resets. All in all, 2022 was another exemplary season from one of the division’s premier defenders.

Second Runner-Up

Jeremy Hess (Maryland)

Maryland's Jeremy Hess at Queen City Tune Up 2022.
Maryland’s Jeremy Hess at Queen City Tune Up 2022. Photo: Katie Cooper — UltiPhotos.com

Despite Maryland just missing out on Nationals in a tough Atlantic Coast region, Jeremy “Boots” Hess’s efforts on the defensive end were too significant to go unnoticed. Springy to the extreme and with a fearless physicality to his play, Hess not only took on some of the toughest matchups for Maryland, he also found time to generate blocks on smart poaches and help D while locking up some of the best offensive players in the country. Despite being one of the best offensive weapons on his team, so significant was Hess’s impact on the defensive side of the disc that he played on D-line all year for Maryland.

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

  2. Patrick Stegemoeller

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

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