How many NCAA titles would Joe Paterno have won if he had the college football playoff?

Is it easier or harder for a head coach to win a national championship in college football now than it was years ago? College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit stated he believe it was easier today for a head coach to win a national championship because of the college football playoff which gives more teams an opportunity to win the national championship.

If we were still using the old poll system, Alabama would not have played for the national championship this past January and Nick Saban would not had the opportunity to win his sixth national title. Think about that. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in on the national championship picture and would not have played for a national championship but instead just played in a bowl game.

A school that didn’t even win its division, let alone play for a conference championship, won the national championship. That would have never happened in the pre-BCS, pre-playoff era. National championships were harder to come by because of reduced opportunities, poll politics and bowl affiliations.

In today’s current format, all you need to do is finish in the top four and you have a shot at a national championship. In the past, before the playoff system and the BCS, a team could be ranked #2 and not had a shot at a national title if the #1-ranked team had a conference-affiliated tie to a bowl game or for that matter, if the #2-ranked team did as well. The #2-ranked team had to hope the #1-ranked team lost as they seldom met in a bowl game to decide the national championship.

For example, years ago, if Alabama was #2 and USC was #1, USC would have faced the Big 10 Conference representative in the Rose Bowl as the Rose Bowl had automatic tie-ins to the PAC-8, 10 or 12 and the Big 10 conferences. Therefore, if USC won, Alabama could not prove on the field head-to-head versus USC who the real national champion was.

A counter argument is teams now play more games and therefore have additional opportunity to lose those games, but you can win a national championship today without winning your division or even playing in your conference championship game. Alabama did it in 2017. Ohio State made the four-team playoff in 2016 without winning the Eastern division of the Big 10 conference.

It makes one wonder, how many final fours would Penn State been in under Joe Paterno? Let’s look back at the polls during Paterno’s years when he had an outstanding team, and when Penn State would have been in the college football playoff conversation.

At the end of the 1968 regular season, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Ohio State, USC, Penn State and Georgia. Penn State was 10-0 and Ohio State had a 9-0 record. The Buckeyes defeated number two-ranked USC 27-16 in the Rose Bowl and Penn State beat 6th-ranked Kansas 15-14 in the Orange Bowl. Penn State would finish the season ranked second, undefeated and uncrowned. It was the consensus that Ohio State was the best team in the country in 1968. A Penn State-Ohio State game would have been a titanic battle of two strong running attacks against two outstanding run defenses.

In 1969, at the end of the regular season, the Nittany Lions were ranked second behind Texas and ahead of Arkansas and Ohio State. It has been well documented how Penn State ended up not getting to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl to determine a national champion on the field that year. For those that may not be aware, bowl game invitations were extended by bowl game committees in November before the end of the regular season to get the bowl committee’s desired team locked in as quickly as possible. Ohio State was ranked number one and in the midst of a 22-game winning streak and it looked like they would go undefeated and repeat as national champions.

Ohio State was heavily favored to beat Michigan and they would repeat as national champions.  On November 17th, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Ohio State, Texas, Arkansas and Penn State. Number two-ranked Texas had yet to play third-ranked Arkansas. It seemed highly unlikely that fourth-ranked Penn State would have an opportunity to play for the national championship and Penn State’s players elected to return to the Orange bowl in Miami which they enjoyed a great deal the year before and avoid the existing racial tension in Dallas, Texas.

Michigan under first-year head coach Bo Schembechler pulled off an incredible upset defeating the Buckeyes 24-12. After the Ohio State loss, in a battle of then the top-two teams in the country, #1 Texas defeated #2 Arkansas 15-14, and that’s why Texas was ranked number one with a commitment to the Cotton Bowl and Penn State was ranked number two with their commitment to the Orange Bowl.

James Vautravers does an excellent job discussing whether Texas or Penn State should have been ranked number one in his article found online at: http://www.tiptop25.com/champ1969.html. At the time, Texas’ wishbone offense ran roughshod against all their Southwest Conference foes. In the 1972 Cotton Bowl, with time to prepare, Paterno’s defense held Texas’ vaunted wishbone attack without a touchdown for the first time in 80 games going all the way back to 1964 in one of the most lopsided games in Cotton Bowl history, winning by a score of 30-6.

Paterno proved, with time to prepare, that Penn State could stop the wishbone offense and he had a better team in 1969, particularly on defense, than he did in 1972 when Penn State shut down Texas’ offense. Penn State may well have been the best team in the country in 1969, however, Penn State would again finish the season ranked second, again undefeated and uncrowned. Good luck convincing a Nittany Lion fan that Penn State would not have won the 1969 national championship had there been a playoff system.

In 1973 after going through the season undefeated, Penn State found itself ranked sixth before the bowl games took place. That year Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan were also undefeated and at that time Eastern football was not regarded as highly as in other parts of the country. Oklahoma, however, was on probation and ineligible to play in a bowl game. Bill Connelly breaks down how he thought the 1973 four-team playoff would have been in his article found online at: https://www.footballstudyhall.com/2016/6/27/12040028/1973-college-football-season-michigan-ohio-state-alabama-notre-dame.

With the biases that existed by voters in the Associated Press Poll against Eastern football, I do not believe Penn State would have been one of the four teams chosen to make the playoff and with how the Nittany Lions struggled with 13th-ranked LSU in the Orange Bowl, Penn State may not have fared as well against Alabama or Notre Dame.

Penn State under Paterno had four opportunities to play in the game win the national championship and had a record of 2-2 in them. The first was Penn State’s 1978 team that played in a #1 vs. #2 showdown in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama but the Nittany Lions lost 14-7 to Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide as Alabama’s defense had a goal-line stand for the ages denying Penn State a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.

At the end of the 1981 season, Penn State was playing perhaps the best football of any team in the country. Penn State defeated Notre Dame 23-21 and you may recall Penn State destroying #1-ranked Pitt on the road 48-14 which still is the worst loss by a number one-ranked team at home in college football history and then the Nittany Lions went on to defeat USC 26-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. However, because of a loss in week seven to Miami 17-14 and a second defeat two weeks later to Alabama 31-16, the Nittany Lions fell to number 14 in the polls and worked their way back up to number six in the final regular season polls and would not have been selected to a four-team college playoff in 1981. Penn State finished the season ranked third in the nation and very much looking forward to 1982.

If you bought golf balls with Joe Paterno’s likeness on them, the joke was they were guaranteed to go up the middle every time, but Penn State’s 1982 team was the first national championship team to have more passing yards than rushing yards on offense, and in addition, the Nittany Lions played the toughest schedule in the country that year.  Penn State’s national championship in 1982 against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl was a national championship game showdown leaving no doubt as to which team deserved the national championship.

Penn State’s 1985 team lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma 25-10 as the Nittany Lions went into that game ranked #1 in the country but lost to the #3 Oklahoma Sooners but many sensed that Penn State’s 1985 team was a year ahead of schedule.

The following season, Penn State won its second national championship in five years defeating Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl, winning the Duel in the Desert in a national championship game format which ultimately led to the BCS format pitting the number one and two teams against each other in a national championship game.

Even though Penn State finished ranked third in the final AP Poll in 1991 with an 11-2 record, they likely would have been left out of the four-team college football playoff. That year Washington and Miami both finished the regular season with 11-0 records and Florida and Michigan were both 10-1 and ranked ahead of 10-2 Penn State in the AP Poll as was a 10-2 Florida State team. In the Coaches Poll, Penn State was ranked fifth behind 10-2 Florida State in the final regular season poll.

Just say 1994 to a Penn State football fan and they know. The undefeated 1994 Penn State team had perhaps the greatest balanced offense in the history of college football. The ’94 team averaged 250.9 yards per game rushing and 269.3 yards per game passing and averaged 47.8 points per game and that’s with the starters out of the lineup for most of the games by the fourth quarter.

Along the way, the ’94 team destroyed traditional powerhouses USC 38-14, leading 35-0 at halftime, and Ohio State by a 63-14 score and those scores could have been even more lopsided had Paterno chose to keep his starters in longer. The 1994 season saw Penn State ranked number one in week seven, beat a number 21-ranked Ohio State team by 49 points that had in their starting lineup:  Joey Galloway, Eddie George, Terry Glenn, Bobby Hoying, Orlando Pace, Sean Springs, Korey Stringer and Mike Vrabel, and yet Penn State dropped in the rankings to number two because third-ranked Nebraska beat number two Colorado 24-7 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

1994 was another undefeated season for Joe Paterno and Penn State to finish ranked second in the polls. For a team that never scored fewer than 31 points in a game and for the national championship to not at least be shared was a travesty. 1994’s national championship was viewed as a present to Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne after failing to win it so many times in the past.

In 2005, Penn State finished the regular season ranked third in the BCS rankings behind undefeated USC and Texas. Ohio State, a team Penn State defeated earlier in the season 17-10, was ranked fourth. Texas would go on to defeat USC in perhaps the greatest college football game of all time to win the national championship. As good as Penn State’s defense was that year, it’s doubtful they had the offense to stay with juggernauts Texas or USC. Penn State struggled with #22 Florida State in the Orange Bowl winning in overtime 26-23.

In 2008, a loss in game 10 at Iowa sent undefeated and third-ranked Penn State down to number seven in the polls. At the end of the regular season, 11-1 Penn State could only climb back up to sixth in the AP Poll. Ahead of the Nittany Lions were all one-loss teams:  Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, and USC. USC would go on to beat Penn State 38-24 in the Rose Bowl.

1969 and 1994 were undoubtedly the two most likely years that Penn State would have won a national championship had there been a four-team playoff. One could also state that Paterno’s 24-12-1 record in bowl games makes for an even stronger case for success in the college football playoffs. Penn State certainly would have made the college football playoff in those years and Paterno could have, and most likely would have, won at least two more than the two national titles he did under the old poll system.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6709551815/”>pennstatenews</a&gt; on <a href=”https://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC</a>

 

 

 

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Alabama @ LSU – Alabama’s First Test Towards History?

If there’s been one story that stands out in the 2018 College Football season thus far, it would be the outstanding play of Heisman-Trophy frontrunner Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and how well defending national champion Alabama, particularly their offense, is playing thus far.

Imagine after eight games averaging more than 50 points per game and being touted as perhaps the greatest offense in college football history and defeating your first eight opponents by an average of 38.5 points per game. How could a team that good lose?

For fans and media alike that are ready to coronate Alabama as undefeated national champions and the greatest team ever, as ESPN analyst Lee Corso so aptly puts it, “Not so fast my friend.” That team wasn’t this year’s Alabama squad but rather the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers went 12-0 and faced the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl and lost 31-30 and the national championship on a missed two-point conversion.

After eight games this year, Alabama’s average margin of victory is 38.3 points per game defeating their opponents by 37, 50, 55, 22, 42, 34, 29, and 37 points respectfully, with the best team the Crimson Tide faced being then #22-ranked Texas A&M. On Saturday, November 2nd, Alabama will face its stiffest test of the season thus far when they travel to Baton Rouge to play the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers.

Another team that had a comparable average margin of victory, that being 37.8 points per game, and like Alabama was defending national champion and being touted as perhaps the greatest college football team of all-time were the 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes. In a run-first, lower-scoring era, the Buckeyes defeated their opponents that season by margins of 62, 27, 33, 27, 41, 29, 55 and 28 and then ran into Bo Schembechler and the Michigan Wolverines pulling off one of the greatest and most memorable upsets in college football history beating the Buckeyes 24-12.

Even a team as talented as the 2001 Miami Hurricanes had close calls defeating Boston College by only 11 points, 18-7, and 14th-ranked Virginia Tech by only two points 26-24. You may recall the 2002 Miami Hurricanes were also looking to repeat as national champions and went undefeated during their regular season but lost in a controversial national championship game in overtime 31-24 to Ohio State.

After eight games last year, Alabama was also 8-0 and had defeated their first eight opponents by an average of 33.2 points per game, and that team did not manage to go undefeated on its way to an eventual national championship.

The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers on their way to a second consecutive national championship defeated their first eight opponents that season by 27, 28, 27, 36, 36, 55, 28 and 24 points respectfully winning by an average of 32.6 points per game. Older Alabama fans remember how good that team was beating number two-ranked Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl.

The one team that this year’s Alabama squad is beginning to be compared to is the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers who are generally acclaimed as the greatest college football team ever. The ’95 Huskers margin of victory over their first eight opponents was 36.5 points per game. That season saw Nebraska defeat their opponents by 43, 40, 49, 42, 14, 57, 24, 23, 59, 38, 37 and 38 points respectfully. The closest game Nebraska had that season was against Washington State winning 35-21.

Will 2018 Alabama be eventually compared to the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers or be like the 1983 Nebraska team? The rest of this season will determine that.

Let’s not coronate Alabama as national champions and the greatest team ever until that crown is earned. There are games to be played before any coronation ceremonies are to take place and Alabama’s first big test is on Saturday in Baton Rouge, but we could indeed be watching perhaps the greatest college football team ever.

Photo credit: shelby wants to be riding on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

How many NCAA titles would Bobby Bowden have won if he had the college football playoff?

Is it easier or harder for a head coach to win a national championship in college football now than it was years ago? College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit stated he believe it was easier today for a head coach to win a national championship because of the college football playoff which gives more teams an opportunity to win the national championship.

If we were still using the old poll system, Alabama would not have played for the national championship this past January and Nick Saban would not had the opportunity to win his sixth national title. Think about that. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in on the national championship picture and would not have played for a national championship but instead just played in a bowl game.

A school that didn’t even win its division, let alone play for a conference championship, won the national championship. That would have never happened in the pre-BCS, pre-playoff era. National championships were harder to come by because of reduced opportunities, poll politics and bowl affiliations.

In today’s current format, all you need to do is finish in the top four and you have a shot at a national championship. In the past, before the playoff system and the BCS, a team could be ranked #2 and not had a shot at a national title if the #1-ranked team had a conference-affiliated tie to a bowl game or for that matter, if the #2-ranked team did as well. The #2-ranked team had to hope the #1-ranked team lost as they seldom met in a bowl game to decide the national championship.

For example, years ago, if Alabama was #2 and USC was #1, USC would have faced the Big 10 Conference representative in the Rose Bowl as the Rose Bowl had automatic tie-ins to the PAC-8, 10 or 12 and the Big 10 conferences. Therefore, if USC won, Alabama could not prove on the field head-to-head versus USC who the real national champion was.

A counter argument is teams now play more games and therefore have additional opportunity to lose those games, but you can win a national championship today without winning your division or even playing in your conference championship game. Alabama did it in 2017. Ohio State made the four-team playoff in 2016 without winning the Eastern division of the Big 10 conference.

Florida State finished ranked fourth or higher in the final football polls for an incredible 13 seasons in a row (1987-1999) and it leads one to wonder, how many final fours would Florida State been in under Bobby Bowden? Let’s look at the years Florida State would have been in a four-team college football playoff.

Florida State won a national title in 1993 and 1999 and it would be difficult for anyone to deny that Florida State wasn’t the best team in the country those years. In addition, the Seminoles remarkably had three other opportunities to play for the national championship in bowl games in 1996, 1998 and 2000 for what amounted to appearing in five national championship games in eight seasons. However, Florida State came up short on the field of play those three years so we can rule out those years as possibly ending with a national championship.

To recap those seasons, Florida State was undefeated at 11-0 and ranked #1 at the end of the 1996 regular season and faced #3-ranked Florida in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators turned the tables on the Seminoles and captured the national title winning 52-20. The Seminoles finished the season ranked third.

In 1998, Florida State was ranked #2 and faced #1 Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship and the Volunteers prevailed 23-16. The Seminoles finished with an 11-2 record and ended the season ranked third in the final AP poll.

Two years later it was another number one versus number two battle for the Seminoles as Florida State again was ranked #2 and squared off against the #1 team in the country, this time the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma won 13-2 over Florida State and the 11-1 Seminoles finished fifth in the season-ending poll.

What about the other years Florida State finished in the top four of the final regular season poll and did not have an opportunity to play for the national championship?

In 1979, Florida State was ranked fourth after the final regular season poll behind Alabama, USC and Ohio State. The Seminoles would lose in the Orange Bowl 24-7 to number-five ranked Oklahoma 24-7 so winning the national championship via a four-team playoff would have been unlikely.

The following year, 1980, Florida State was ranked second before the bowl games behind Georgia, with Pitt ranked third and Oklahoma fourth. With only a one-point loss to Miami (10-9) earlier in the season and despite beating then number four-ranked Pitt 36-22, Florida State lost 18-17 in the Orange Bowl again to Oklahoma. Florida State would finish the year with a 10-2 record and ranked fifth.

Perhaps the most likely year Florida State would have benefited from a college football playoff was 1987. At the end of the regular season, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State and Syracuse. The only loss the Seminoles suffered was a one-point loss to Miami 26-25. Florida State would go on to defeat fifth-ranked Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish the season 11-1 and ranked #2 behind only Miami. How would Florida State have fared in a rematch against Miami? No doubt Bowden and the Seminoles wish they had that opportunity.

At the end of the regular season in 1988, the top four teams in the country were: Notre Dame, Miami, West Virginia and Florida State.  The 1988 season saw Florida State finish the season ranked third after defeating seventh-ranked Auburn 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles finished with an 11-1 record with the one loss coming in Week One to Miami 31-0. Notre Dame and Miami were, in all likelihood, the two best teams in the country in 1988, therefore, a realist would not think the Seminoles would have fared well in a playoff.

In 1992, the top four teams in the final regular season poll were: Miami, Alabama, Florida State and Texas A&M. Again, the only loss that season for Florida State was against the Hurricanes in Miami by a 19-16 score. Florida State defeated 11th-ranked Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl to finish the season 11-1 and ranked second in the final poll. Alabama beat favored Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.

At the end of the 1997 regular season, the four highest-ranked teams were: Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and Florida State. The only loss the Seminoles suffered was a 32-29 defeat in Gainesville to the Florida Gators. The Seminoles defeated ninth-ranked Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl 31-14 and finished the season third in the final poll.

One could state that Bowden’s impressive 22-10-1 record in bowl games bolsters the argument that he could have likely won more than the two national titles under the old poll system and in a college football playoff format but that’s mitigated by the three-national championship bowl game losses.

The best chance may well have been in 1987 for Florida State and legendary coach Bobby Bowden for another national championship in a four-team playoff format like today.  If only it existed then. 

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

Southwest Pennsylvania – Breeding Ground for the NCAA and the NFL

For a region not as heavily populated as some areas of the country, Southwest Pennsylvania has produced a large number of college and pro football greats over the years. Not only does Southwest

Pennsylvania lay claim to the birthplace of professional football, but throughout the years it has also served as a fertile breeding ground for college and professional football.

The players that have come from Southwest Pennsylvania reads like a who’s who of college and pro football greats. In breaking it down by position, an All-Southwest PA team might look something like this:

No part of the country has produced more great quarterbacks and no position is as deep on this squad as quarterback. The starting signal caller would be Joe Montana, thought of as the greatest quarterback in NFL history till Tom Brady, and the backups aren’t too bad either. One would be Johnny Unitas, the greatest quarterback in NFL history before Joe Montana. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Joe Montana the third greatest football player ever and Unitas fifth. The other backup quarterback is none other than Dan Marino, and Marino retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer in yards thrown, touchdowns and completions and may have been the best pure passer ever.

Quarterbacks earning honorable mention would include NFL Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Jim Kelly; Gus Frerotte, who threw for over 21,000 yards and made a Pro Bowl; Johnny Lujack, a Heisman trophy winner at Notre Dame; Sandy Stephens, an All-American at Minnesota and Big 10 Conference MVP who led the Golden Gophers to a national championship and is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Terry Hanratty, who led Notre Dame to a national championship and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting; Chuck Fusina and Richie Lucas, who both went to Penn State and both were runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and Lucas is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Babe Parilli, a two-time All-American that led Kentucky to Sugar and Cotton Bowl victories and finished in the top four of the Heisman Trophy balloting twice and was the 4th overall pick in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft; Charlie Batch, a three-year starter for the Detroit Lions, and Terrelle Pryor, who led Ohio State to two BCS bowl victories and was MVP of both the Rose and Sugar Bowl.

As for the starting running backs, this lineup has two of the NFL’s all-time greats: Tony Dorsett, a Heisman Trophy winner at Pitt and NFL Hall of Famer; and another NFL Hall of Famer in Curtis Martin. Few backs were as good as Dorsett in college football history. Dorsett broke the record for most yards rushing in NCAA history, and upon his retirement from pro football, he was second all-time in NFL history in career rushing yards with 12,739. Dorsett was the first player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, a Super Bowl and be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Martin, who also went to Pitt, retired as the fourth leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards.

Running backs that earn honorable mention include Larry Brown, who was selected to four Pro Bowls,  rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and was the NFL’s leading rusher in 1972; Chuck Muncie, a three-time Pro Bowler that rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice in his career; Cookie Gilchrist, the first player to rush for over 1,000 yards in the AFL and league MVP and is a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame; Mercury Morris, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season with the Miami Dolphins, Dick Hoak, who played 10 years in the NFL was named to a Pro Bowl; Fran Rogel, who played eight years in the NFL and was also named to a Pro Bowl and Ed Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and Sugar Bowl MVP and was the sixth overall pick of the first round of the 1952 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One would think having so many great quarterbacks from Southwest Pennsylvania there would also be a lot of great wide receivers as well, but that’s not the case. The best would be Steve Breaston, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008 in his six-year NFL career; Brian Baschnagel, a nine-year NFL veteran and Greg Garrity, a seven-year NFL veteran. Currently, Tyler Boyd is in his third year with the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Southwestern Pennsylvania having been known for steel mills and hard-working, blue-collar jobs, one would think the offensive line would be very good, and it is. The starting offensive line would consist of: NFL Hall-of-Famer Russ Grimm, Rich Saul, a six-time Pro Bowler in the NFL; Bill Fralic, a four-time NFL Pro Bowler and a three-time All American at Pitt and one of college football’s all-time greatest offensive lineman and the second overall pick of the 1985 NFL draft; Jeff Christy, a three-time Pro Bowler and Jimbo Covert, a two-time NFL Pro Bowler.

The offensive linemen that would earn honorable mention would include: Ron Saul, who played 12 years in the NFL; Al DeMao, who played in the ‘40s and ‘50s and was voted one of the 70 greatest Washington Redskins; Steve August, the 14th overall pick of the 1977 NFL draft and played eight years in the NFL; A.Q. Shipley, winner of the Rimington Award at Penn State as college football’s best center and current member of the Arizona Cardinals; Dan Mozes, winner of the Rimington Award at West Virginia; Jim Wilson, an All-American tackle at Georgia in 1964 and Stefan Wisniewski, an All-American at Penn State currently playing for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

If any position on this team symbolizes western Pennsylvania’s hard work ethic, it would be tight end. Two players stand out above the rest with two others currently making his mark in the NFL. The first would be Mike Ditka, a Pitt All-American and NFL Hall of Famer, and Ted Kwalick, a Penn State All-American and a three-time NFL Pro Bowler. Both Ditka and Kwalick were voted to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team. Having attended Woodland Hills High School, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a force in the NFL and current Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James merit honorable mention.

The kicker would have to be the ageless one, Hall of Famer George Blanda. When Blanda retired at the age of 48, he was the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and was a very good quarterback in the AFL. The backup kicker would be Fred Cox, who played at Pitt and was the Minnesota Vikings placekicker in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Cox was selected to one Pro Bowl in his 15-year career with the Vikings and was one of the last of the straight-on kickers.

Handling the punting duties would be Ohio State great Tom Skladany. Skladany was a two-time All-American in college and a Pro Bowler in the NFL. His backup would be Pat McAfee, an All-American at West Virginia, who played eight years for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.

In turning to the defense and beginning with the defensive line: Hall-of-Famer Jason Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time AFC Defensive Player of the year. Taylor was also named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team and recorded 139 ½ sacks in his career; Aaron Donald, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and a four-time Pro Bowler in his four seasons in the NFL. Donald won every major award that a defensive lineman possibly could except the Heisman Trophy in his final season at Pitt.

Dick Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and the Outland Trophy winner in 1952. Modzelewski played on the great New York Giants teams in the ‘50s and set a then-NFL record for durability, playing in 180 consecutive games; Leon Hart, a Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and the last lineman to win the Heisman Trophy. Hart also won the Maxwell Award while at Notre Dame and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and was an NFL Pro Bowler in his eight-year career in the NFL.

Honorable mention:  Sean Gilbert, an NFL Pro Bowler who played 11 years in the NFL: Bruce Clark, a Lombardi Award winner at Penn State who played in one Pro Bowl in the NFL; Greg Meisner, who played on some of the University of Pittsburgh’s greatest teams and played 11 seasons in the NFL and Leo Wisniewski, who played three years in the NFL.

Linebackers:  Joe Schmidt, NFL Hall of Famer for the Detroit Lions and was named to the 1950’s NFL All-Decade team and was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. In 1999, Schmidt was ranked number 65 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest football players. Schmidt played for Pitt and was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. We have another NFL Hall of Famer at linebacker in Bill George, who played for the Chicago Bears and was an eight-time first team All-Pro selection. George, like Schmidt, was also named to the 1950’s All-Decade team. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked George number 49 of the 100 greatest football players. Lavar Arrington would round out this position as a three-time Pro Bowler and a Butkus and Bednarik Award winner while at Penn State.

Honorable mention:  Myron Pottios, a three-time Pro Bowl selection in his 11-year NFL career; Paul Posluszny, a two-time Bednarik Award winner at Penn State, and selected for the Pro Bowl once in his 11-year career; Brandon Short, an All-American at Penn State and made the Pro Bowl once in his seven-year NFL career; Mike Lucci, named to one Pro Bowl in his 12-year NFL career; Jim Laslavic, who played 10 years in the NFL; Rich Milot, who played nine years in the NFL; John Skorupan, an All-American at Penn State and had an eight-year career in the NFL; Eric Ravotti, who played three years in the NFL and Sean Lee, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and is in his ninth season with the Dallas Cowboys.

At defensive back, we have Darrell Revis, one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, and at the other cornerback spot we have Ty Law, a five-time Pro Bowler with 53 career interceptions in a 15-year career. The two safeties would be Tom Flynn, who had a five-year NFL career, and Mark Kelso, who played eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

As for the coaching staff, you have your pick of three Super Bowl-winning head coaches. There’s Da Coach, Mike Ditka, who coached the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory. There is also Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who coached them to victory in Super Bowl XL, and there’s Mike McCarthy, current head coach of the Green Bay Packers, that coached the Packers to a Super Bowl victory. Two other head coaches that deserve mention are Marty Schottenheimer, who won 205 regular season games and his teams qualified for the postseason 13 times, and Chuck Knox, who amassed 193 wins in the NFL with his teams qualifying for the playoffs 11 times.

It’s unlikely that any region less populated than Southwest PA could produce a lineup that could match this one.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Photo credit: fabfiver5 on Visual hunt / CC BY

Which school is Secondary/DB U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive secondaries in my series on which school should be known as Secondary/DB U.

When you think about the last line of defense and what makes a great secondary, it’s speed, speed, speed. It should come as no surprise then that three of the top five schools to be considered as Secondary/DB U are SEC schools.

LSU ranks fifth on the list for Secondary U with 17 All-Americans (nine cornerbacks and eight safeties) over the past 50 seasons. In 12 of the last 15 seasons, LSU had a safety or cornerback named All-American. Those players were: Covey Webster ’03 & ’04, LaRon Landry ’06, Chad Jones ’07, Craig Steltz ’07, Patrick Peterson ’09 & ’10, Morris Claiborne ’11, Tyrann Mathieu ’11, Eric Reid ’11 & ’12, Tre’Davious White ’14 & ’16, Jalen Mills ’15, Jamal Adams ’16, Donte Jackson ’17 and Andraez Williams in ’17 as well.

Peterson won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2010 and Clairborne won it in 2011. One can see how in the past 15 seasons, LSU could possibly be Secondary U. However, prior to 2003, the Tigers only had defensive backs Tommy Casanova ’69-’71, Mike Williams ’74, James Britt ’82, and Greg Jackson ’88 be named to an All-America team.

Some might wonder why isn’t Miami or Texas in the top five for Secondary U. Neither Miami nor Texas have the numbers of All-American cornerbacks the past 50 seasons to make the top five. Miami had only five and Texas six which doesn’t measure up to LSU at number five with nine.

Number four on our list for Secondary U are the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles had 19 All-American defensive backs in the past 50 seasons (13 cornerbacks and six safeties with Jalen Ramsey counting as two since he was All-American at both positions).

The Seminoles defensive backs that have been All-American were: James Thomas ’72, Monk Bonasorte ’79 & ’80, Bobby Butler ’80, three-time All-American Deion Sanders ’86, ’87 & ’88, LeRoy Butler ’89, Terrell Buckley ’90 & ’91, Corey Sawyer ’92 & ’93, Clifton Abraham ’94, Tay Cody ’00, Chris Hope ’00, and Myron Rolle in 2008. Sanders and Buckley both won the Thorpe Award, Sanders in 1988 and Buckley in 1991.

For the past six seasons, the Seminoles had at least one defensive back named All-American. Those players were: Xavier Rhodes ’12, Terrence Brooks ’13, Lamarcus Joyner ’13, P.J. Williams ’14, Jalen Ramsey in 2014 as a safety and as a cornerback in 2015, Tarvarus McFadden ’16 and Derwin James in 2016 & 2017. Having only six safeties  named All-American keeps Florida State from being higher on the list. Florida State’s   six All-America safeties cannot match the 10 of our number three school as Secondary/DB U, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes are number three as Cornerback U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-cornerback-u/) and number four as Safety U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-safety-u/) which adds up to make Ohio State number three on our countdown to Secondary/DB U. It’s that balance of 10 All-American safeties and 11 All-American cornerbacks that has the Buckeyes at number three and not that long ago at number one.

Those Ohio State All-American defensive backs were: Ted Provost ’69, Jack Tatum ’69 & ’70, Tim Anderson ’70, Mike Sensibaugh ’70, Neal Colzie ’74, Tim Fox ’75, Ray Griffin ’77, Shawn Springs ’96, Antoine Winfield ’97 & ’98, Damon Moore ’98, three-time All-American Mike Doss ’00, ’01 & ’02, Will Allen ’03, and Donte Whither in 2005.

In eight of the last 10 seasons, an Ohio State defensive back has been named All-American. Those Buckeyes are: Malcolm Jenkins ’08, Kurt Coleman ’09, Chimdi Chekwa ’10, Bradley Roby ’12 & ’13, Vonn Bell ’15, Malik Hooker ’16, Marshon Lattimore ’16, and Denzel Ward in 2017.

A pair of Buckeyes have won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, Winfield in 1998 and Jenkins won it in 2008.

With a total of 22 All-American defensive backs in the past 50 seasons, the University of Florida is number two on our list as Secondary/DB U. Florida’s 10 All-American safeties earned Florida the number five spot as Safety U and their 13 All-American cornerbacks has them at number two for Cornerback U which added up to the number two spot as Secondary/DB U.

Florida’s 22 All-American defensive backs were: Steve Tannen ’69, Tony Lilly ’83, Adrian White ’86, Jarvis Williams ’86 & ’87, Louis Oliver ’87 & ’88, Richard Fain ’89 & ’90, Will White ’90, Lawrence Wright ’95, Antoine Lott ’96, Fred Weary ’97, Lilo Shepard ’00 & ’01, Kaiwan Ratliff ’03, Reggie Nelson ’06, and Ryan Smith in 2006.

Interestingly, Wright won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1996, a year he wasn’t named All-American.

In eight of the last nine seasons, the Gators have produced an All-American defensive back. Those players were: Joe Haden ’09, Ahmad Black ’10, Janoris Jenkins ’10, Matt Elam ’12, three-time All-American Vernon Hargreaves III ’13, ’14 & ’15, Jalen/Teez Tabor ’15 & ’16, Marcus Maye ’15 & ’16, and Duke Dawson in 2017.

One must consider the balance and combination of All-American cornerbacks and safeties, and by doing so the choice here for Secondary/DB U is Alabama. Over the past four decades plus, Alabama exemplifies balanced excellence in the secondary with 11 All-American cornerbacks and 12 All-American safeties.

The Crimson Tide were number two as Safety U and number four as Cornerback U which added up to be number one as Secondary/DB U. Alabama’s 23 All-American defensive backs with Minkah Fitzpatrick counting as two since he was All-American at both positions were: Mike Washington ’73 & ’74, Don McNeal ’79, Tommy Wilcox ’81 & ’82, Jeremiah Castille ’82, Kermit Kendrick ’88, John Magnum ’89, George Teague ’92, Antonio Langham ’92 & ’93, and Kevin Jackson in 1996. Langham won the Thorpe Aware in 1993.

Nick Saban’s first year at Alabama was in 2007 and it didn’t take long to see Saban’s defensive influence paying dividends for the Crimson Tide. For the past 10 seasons, Alabama had at least one defensive back, and some years two, named All-American. Those players were: Rashad Johnson ’08, Javier Arenas ’09, Mark Barron ’09, ‘10 & ’11, Robert Lester ’10, Dre Kirkpatrick ’11, DeQuan Menzie ’11, Dee Millner ’12, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ’13, Landon Collins ’14, Eddie Jackson ’15 & ’16, Marlon Humphrey ’16, Ronnie Harrison ’16 & ’17, and Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2016 as a cornerback in 2016 and as a safety in 2017. Fitzpatrick won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2017.

It is that remarkable & unmatched run of excellence that has propelled Alabama past Florida and Ohio State as Secondary/DB U.

Interesting fact:  USC, Miami and Notre Dame had fewer All-America defensive backs in the past 50 seasons, 14, 14 and 15 respectively than Colorado did with 16.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida gator Photo credit: photo-gator on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Florida State Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

LSU Tiger Photo credit: Chiceaux on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

 

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

Which school is Offensive Line U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the offensive lines in my series on which school should be known as Offensive Line U.

If one were asked which school had the most All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons, one might guess Nebraska, Michigan or perhaps USC would come to mind.

Nebraska used to produce All-American linemen that cleared paths for their running backs like a combine harvester going through a Midwestern wheat field. In 21 out of the 30 seasons from 1968 to 1997, Nebraska produced an All-American offensive lineman. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for some time. Nebraska had only one All-American lineman since 2001 and that was Spencer Long in 2012.

Nebraska rates as number two for Offensive Guard U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-guard-u/) and number four as Offensive Center U, (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-center-u/) however, the Cornhuskers have produced only six All-America offensive tackles in the past 50 seasons, the last being Outland Trophy winner Zach Wiegert in 1994. That is why Nebraska comes in as number seven for Offensive Line U.

In addition to Wiegert, several other Nebraska offensive linemen have captured some of college football’s top awards. Center Dave Rimington won the 1981 and the 1982 Outland Trophy and the 1982 Lombardi Award, and Dean Steinkuhler won both awards in 1983. Will Shields won the Outland Trophy in 1992, and Dominic Raiola won the Rimington Trophy, named after the great Cornhusker center, as the best center in the country in 2000.

Nebraska’s other All-American offensive linemen were:  Joe Armstrong ’68, Bob Newton ’70, Daryl White ’72 & ’73, Marvin Crenshaw ’74, Rik Bonness ’74 & ’75, Tom Davis ’77, Kelvin Clark ’78, Randy Schleusener ’80, Harry Grimminger ’84,  Mark Traynowicz ’84, Bill Lewis ’85, John McCormick ’87, Jake Young ’88 & ’89, Doug Glaser ’89, Brendan Stai ’94,  Aaron Graham ’95, Aaron Taylor in 1996 as a center and as a guard in 1997, Russ Hochstein ’00, and Toniu Fonoti in 2001.

Michigan had 25 All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons and from 1970-1983, 12 Michigan offensive linemen were named All-American. Those Wolverines were: Dan Dierdorf ’70, Reggie McKenzie ’71, Paul Seymour ’72, Mark Donahue ’76 & ’77, Bill Dufek ’76, Walt Downing ’77, George Lilja ’80, Kurt Becker ’81, Ed Muransky ’81, William Paris ’81, and Tom Dixon and Stephan Humphries in 1983.

From 1986-2000, in 11 of those 15 seasons the Wolverines had an All-American offensive lineman. Those linemen were: John Elliott ’86 & ’87, John Vitale ’88, Greg Skrepenak ’90 & ’91, Dean Dingman ’90, Matt Elliott ’91, Joe Cocozzo ’92, John Runyan ’95, Rod Payne ’96, Jon Jensen ’98, and Steve Hutchinson in 1999 & 2000.  However, Michigan hasn’t produced an All-American guard since Hutchinson in 2000.

Michigan’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: David Baas ’04, Jake Long ’06 & ’07, David Molik ’11, three-time All-American Taylor Lewan in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and Mason Cole in 2016.

This brings us to our number five school as Offensive Line U. There’s no doubt that USC is Offensive Tackle U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-tackle-u/) and is third as Offensive Guard U but the Trojans have only produced two All-American centers in the past 50 seasons. Nonetheless, the list of USC All-American offensive linemen is an impressive one. When a school produces Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and running backs, there had to be some great offensive linemen in front of them.

From 1969 to 1989, USC had an offensive lineman named All-American in 17 out of those 21 seasons. Those All-American Trojan linemen were: Sid Smith ’69, Marv Montgomery ’70, John Vella ’71, Pete Adams ’72, Booker Brown ’73, Steve Riley ’73, Bill Bain ’74, Marvin Powell ’75 & ’76, Pat Howell ’78, Brad Budde ’79, Keith Van  Horne ’80, Roy Foster ’80 & ’81, Bruce Matthews ’82, Don Mosebar ’82, Tony Slaton ’83, Jeff Bregel ’85 & ’86, Dave Cadigan ’87, and Mark Tucker in 1989.

USC’s All-American offensive linemen since 1989 were: Tony Boselli ’92 & ’94, Jacob Rogers ’03, Sam Baker ’05 & ’06, Taitusi Lutui ’05, Ryan Kalil ’06, Charles Brown ’09, Jeff Byers ’09, Matt Kalil ’11, Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler in 2016.

For our number four school as Offensive Line U, the Wisconsin Badgers, having a 1,000-yard running back every season is as predictable as a rooster crowing every morning. Leading that way for those running backs have been some outstanding offensive linemen in recent years. In fact, Wisconsin has produced at least one All-American offensive linemen in seven of the past eight years. Those linemen were: Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi in 2010, John Moffitt ’10, Peter Konz ’11, Kevin Zeitler ’11, Travis Frederick ’12, Rick Wagner ’12, Ryan Groy ’13, Kyle Costigan ’14, Rob Havenstein ’14, Ryan Ramczyk ’16, and in 2017, they produced three: Beau Benzschawel, Michael Dieter, and David Edwards.

The Badgers had great success in turning out All-America offensive tackles, 15 in the past 50 seasons, second only to USC with 17. Wisconsin had seven guards and five centers make All-American, numbers that kept the Badgers from the top three spots as Offensive Line U.

Wisconsin’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dennis Lick ’74 & ’75, Ray Snell ’79, Jeff Dellenbach ’84, Paul Gruber ’87, Joe Panos ’93, Corey Raymer ’94, Jerry Wunsch ’96, Aaron Gibson ’98, Chris McIntos ’99, Casey Rabach ’00, Al Johnson ’02, Dan Buening ’04, two-time All-American “05 & ’06 and 2006 Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas, and Kraig Urbik in 2008.

Ohio State is the number three as Offensive Line U as the Buckeyes were third for Offensive Center U, fifth for Offensive Guard U and rated an honorable mention for Offensive Tackle U.

You can’t run a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense like Woody Hayes did and not have great offensive linemen, and Ohio State had an All-American offensive linemen all but one year from 1968 to 1977, and for six consecutive years from 1993 to 1998.

Ohio State’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dave Foley ’68, Rufus Mayes ’68, Jim Stillwagon ’69, Tom Deleone ’71, John Hicks ’72 & ’73, Steve Myers ’74, Kurt Schumacher ’74, Ted Smith ’75, Chris Ward ’76 & ’77, Ken Fritz ’79, Jim Lachey ’84, Jeff Uhlenhake ’88, Korey Stringer ’93 & ’94, Orlando Pace ’95 & ’96, Rob Murphy ’97 & ’98, 2001 Rimington Trophy winner LeCharles Bentley, Nick Mangold ’05, Mike Brewster ’10 & ’11, Justin Boren ’10, Jack Mewhort ’13, Taylor Decker ’15, Pat Elfein in 2015 as a guard and as a center in 2016. Elfein won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center in 2016 and Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan and Billy Price were All-Americans in 2017 with Price winning the Rimington Trophy.

Hicks and Pace are two of the all-time great offensive linemen in college football history. In 1973, Hicks won the Lombardi Award and the Outland trophy and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in that year to Penn State’s John Cappelletti. For an offensive lineman to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting is truly a testament to Hicks’ outstanding play. Pace won the Outland Trophy in 1996 and the Lombardi Award twice, in 1995 and 1996.

Alabama is number two as Offensive Line U largely based on the Crimson Tide being Offensive Center U and fourth as Offensive Guard U.  Despite not having double-digit numbers in terms of All-American offensive tackles, four Alabama tackles have won the Outland Trophy. Chris Samuels won it in 1999, Andre Smith in 2008, Barrett Jones in 2011 and Cam Robinson in 2016.  In addition, Barrett Jones won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country in 2012 and Ryan Kelly won it in 2015.

From 1968 to 1988, in 14 of those 20 seasons, an Alabama offensive lineman was named All-American. Those Crimson Tide linemen were:  Alvin Samples ’68 & ’69, John Hannah ’71 & ’72, Jim Krapf ’71 & ’72, Buddy Brown ’73, Sylvester Croom ’74, Bob Cryder ’77, Dwight Stephenson ’78 & ’79, Jim Bunch ’79, Steve Mott ’82, Wes Neighbors ’85 & ’86, and Larry Rose in 1987 and 1988.

However, the next 19 years only saw one lineman for the Crimson Tide make All-American and that was Outland Trophy winner Chris Samuels in 1999.

Then Nick Saban arrives and the Alabama resurgence begins and for the last 10 consecutive seasons, Alabama has produced at least one All-American offensive lineman.  Those linemen were: Antoine Caldwell ’08, Mike Johnson ’08 & ’09, three-time All-American Barrett Jones in 2010 and 2011 as a guard and in 2012 as a center, William Vlachos ’11, Chance Warmack ’12, D.J. Fluker ’12, Cyrus Kouandjio ’13, Anthony Steen ’13, Arie Kouandjio ’14, Ryan Kelly ’15, Cam Robinson ’16, Jonah Williams ’16 & ’17, and Bradley Bozeman in 2017.

In looking at who Keith Jackson referred to as “the big uglies,” since 1968, Notre Dame

had 38 All-American offensive linemen, and tied for a distant second with 28 are Alabama and USC. Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin are next with 27 and then Nebraska with 26.

Notre Dame has produced double digits All-Americans at each of the offensive line position, 14 tackles, 13 guards and 11 centers and Notre Dame was Offensive Guard U and was second as Offensive Center U and third as Offensive Tackle U. No other school had top-three finishes in the three offensive line positions. Aaron Taylor counts as two in the count as he was an All-American at guard in 1992 and at in 1993 he won the Outland Trophy as a tackle. Larry Williams also counted as two as he was an All-American at two different offensive line positions.

From 1983-1996, in 12 of those 14 seasons, Notre Dame had an All-American offensive lineman. Notre Dame’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: George Kunz ’68, Mike Oriard ’69, Jim Reilly ’69, Larry DiNardo ’69 & ’70, John Dampeer ’72, Gerry DiNardo ’74, Steve Sylvester ’74, Ernie Hughes ’77, Dave Huffman ’78, Tim Foley ’79, John Scully ’80, Larry Williams ’83 as a tackle and ’84 as a guard, Mike Shiner ’83, Mike Kelley ’84, Tim Scannell ’85, Chuck Lanza ’87, Andy Heck ’88, Tim Grunhard ’89, Mike Heldt ’90, Mirko Jurkovic ’91, Lindsay Knapp ’92, Aaron Taylor in ’92 & ’93, Tim Ruddy ’93, Ryan Leahy ’95, Dusty Ziegler ’95, Jeremy Akers ’96, Mike Rosenthal ’98, Mike Gandy ’00, Jeff Faine ’02, Eric Olsen ’09, Braxton Cave ’12, Zack Martin ’12, Nick Martin ’15, Ronnie Stanley ’15, Mike McGlinchey ’16 & ’17 and Nelson Quenton also in 2016 and 2017.

You get the idea. Notre Dame has the players and the numbers at every offensive line position. That is why Notre Dame is Offensive Line U.

Interesting fact:  USC has produced only two All-America centers in the past 50 seasons, Tony Slaton in 1983 and Ryan Kalil in 2006.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Michigan Marquee Photo credit: IAN RANSLEY DESIGN + ILLUSTRATION on VisualHunt / CC BY

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Notre Dame Photo credit: Urthstripe on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

USC Flag Photo credit: csulb gal on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Wisconsin Badger Photo credit: Instagram: @Maitri on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

Which school is Defensive Line U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive lines in my series on which school should be known as Defensive Line U.

For a school to be named Defensive Line U, ideally you want is balance in outstanding play and consistency at both defensive tackle and defensive end for sustained periods of time.

Notre Dame had 14 defensive tackles named All-American the past 50 seasons, but only five All-American defensive ends and none since Frank Stams in 1988. During that same time, Michigan had 12 All-American defensive tackles but only three All-American defensive ends.

It is the balance and consistency of outstanding play the reason why the top five schools make our countdown to Defensive Line U.

At number five for Defensive Line U is the University of Texas. With 10 All-American defensive tackles and nine All-American defensive ends, Texas rates as number four Defensive Tackle U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-defensive-tackle-u/) and an honorable mention for Defensive End U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-defensive-end-u/) and with good reason.

From 1999 to 2014, Texas had an All-American defensive lineman in all but four of those years beginning with Casey Hampton ’99 & ’00, followed by: Cory Redding ’01 & ’02, Rodrique Wright ’04 & ’05, Tim Crowder ’06, Brian Orakpo ’08, Sam Acho ’10, Alex Okafor ’11, Kheeston Randall ’11, Jackson Jeffcoat ’13, and Malcolm Brown in 2014.

The Longhorns produced two Lombardi Award winners in Kenneth Sims ’81, and Tony Degrate in ’84. They also had an Outland Trophy winner in Brad Shearer in 1977. The other Longhorn All-American defensive linemen were: Loyd Wainscott ’68, Bill Atessis ’70, Doug English ’74, Steve McMichael ’78 & ’79, Shane Dronett ’91, and Tony Brackens in 1995.

At number four for Defensive Line U are the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska has a rich All-American tradition along the defensive front. During the past 50 seasons, Nebraska had 11 All-American defensive tackles and eight All-American defensive ends. From 1971 to 1980, the Cornhuskers had a defensive lineman named All-American in seven of those 10 seasons beginning with Larry Jacobson ’71, Rich Glover ’71 & ’72, Willie Harper ’71 & ’72, John Dutton ’73, Bob Martin ’75, Mike Fultz ’76, George Andrews ’78, and Derrie Nelson ’80.

Jacobson won the Outland Trophy in 1971. Glover was so great that in 1972 he won both the Outland and the Lombardi Award. In 1971, Nebraska had three All-American defensive linemen. Some other notable Nebraska defensive linemen that were All-Americans were: John Dutton ’73, Danny Noonan ’86, Neil Smith ’87, Jason Peter ’97, Grant Wistrom, two-time All American in ’96 & ’97 and the 1996 Lombardi award winner, Outland Trophy winner Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and then two-time All American Jared Crick in 2010 and 2011.

Our number three on the list for Defensive Line U are the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are Defensive End U with 12 All-Americans in the past 50 seasons and have eight All-American tackles during that same time.

In six of the last eight seasons, Florida State had an All-American defensive lineman. Brandon Jenkins ’10 & ’11, Bjoern Werner ’12, Timmy Jerrigan ’13, Mario Edwards ’14, Eddie Goldman ’14, and DeMarcus Walker in 2016.

Florida State’s other All-American defensive linemen were: Willie Jones ’78, Ron Simmons ’78, ’79 & ’80, Odell Haggins ’88 & ’89, Derrick Alexander ’93 & ’94, Peter Boulware ’96, Reinard Wilson ’96, Andre Wadsworth ’97, Corey Simon ’98 & ’99, Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds in 2000, Alonzo Jackson ’02, Travis Johnson ’04, Brodrick Bunkley ’05, and Everette Brown in 2008.

Penn State is the number three Defensive End U with their nine All-American defensive ends the past 50 seasons and fifth as Defensive Tackle U with 10 All-American defensive tackles which added up to being number two as Defensive Line U.

Penn State’s All-American defensive linemen in the past 50 seasons were: Mike Reid ’69, Bruce Bannon ’72, Randy Crowder ’73, Mike Hartenstine ’74, Randy Sidler ’77, Matt Millen ’78, Bruce Clark ’78 & ’79, Walker Lee Ashley ’82, Tim Johnson ’86, Lou Benfatti ’93, Courtney Brown ’99, Michael Haynes ’02, Jimmy Kennedy ’02, Tamba Hali ’05, Aaron Maybin ’08, Jared Odrick ’09, Devon Still ’11 and Carl Nassib in 2015.

Penn State had three defensive linemen win the Lombardi or Outland Award in the past 50 seasons: Reid, the Outland in 1969, Clark the Lombardi in 1978 and Nassib the Lombardi in 2015.

If you’re going to have a good defense, the first prerequisite is you must have a good defensive line. It is a football adage that defense all starts up front and nobody had more All-American defensive lineman in the past 50 years than Alabama.

Since 1968, Alabama had 26 All-American defensive linemen, 14 were defensive ends and 12 were defensive tackles, but it’s more than just sheer numbers that make Alabama defensive line U. In the ‘70s and the ‘90s the Crimson Tide made it an almost annual tradition to have a defensive lineman named All-American.

For 12 consecutive seasons from 1971 to 1982, Alabama had at least one defensive lineman named All-American. Those linemen were: Robin Parkhouse ’71, John Mitchell ’72, John Croyle ’73, Mike Raines ’73, Leroy Cook ’74 & ’75, Bob Baumhower ’75 & ’76, Wayne Hamilton ’77, Marty Lyons ’78, Byron Braggs ’79 & ’80, E.J. Junior ’79 & ’80, Warren Lyles ’81 and Mike Pitts in 1982.

From 1991 to 1997 the Crimson Tide had the following All-American defensive linemen:   Dameian Jeffries ’91, Robert Stewart ’91, John Copeland ’92, Eric Curry ’92, Shannon Brown ’95, Michael Myers ’96 and Chris Hood in 1997. In five out of the seven years during that time, Bama had at least one All-American defensive lineman, and in 1991 and 1992, they had two All-American defensive linemen.

The Crimson Tide is currently on another impressive run of All-American defensive linemen. In seven of the past 10 seasons, Alabama had an All-American defensive lineman. Those players were: Terrence Cody ’08 & ’09, Marcell Dareus ’10, Josh Chapman ’11, A’Shawn Robinson ’15, Lombardi Award winner Jonathan Allen in 2016 and most recently Da’Ron Payne in 2017.

Alabama’s other defensive linemen in the past 50 seasons were: Sam Gellerstedt in 1968, and Jon Hand in 1985.

Alabama is Defensive Tackle U and runner-up for Defensive End U which adds up to the Crimson Tide clearly being Defensive Line U.

Interesting fact: The past 50 seasons touch upon six decades,1968 to 2017, and only two schools had at least one All-American defensive lineman in the late ‘60s and in each of the following decades. Those two schools were Alabama and Penn State.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Penn State Photo on Visual Hunt

Texas sign Photo credit: wallyg on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

Which school is Defensive End U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive end position in my series on which school should be known as Defensive End U.

When it comes to choosing which school is Defensive End U, a school needed at least nine defensive ends named All-American in the past 50 years and only five schools managed to do that.

Number five on our list as Defensive End U is the University of Texas. The Longhorns nine All-American defensive ends over the past 50 years were:  Bill Atessis ’70, Shane Dronett ’91, Tony Brackens ’95, two-time All-American Cory Redding ’01 & ’02, Tim Crowder ’06, Brian Orakpo ’08, Sam Acho ’10, Alex Okafor ’11, and Jackson Jeffcoat in 2013.

The Oklahoma Sooners also had nine defensive ends make All-America teams and those Sooners were: Jimbo Elrod ’75, Kevin Murphy ’85, Darrell Reed ’87, Cedric Jones ’95, Dan Cody ’04, two-time All-American Jeremy Beal ’09 & ’10, Frank Alexander ’11, Ronnell Lewis ’11 and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in 2017.

However, neither Oklahoma nor Texas had a Lombardi Award winning defensive end in the past 50 seasons which kept them from being on par with the number three school on our list, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The nine Nittany Lion defensive ends that made All-American were: Bruce Bannon ’72, Mike Hartenstine ’74, Walker Lee Ashley ’82, and then seemingly every three years beginning with Courtney Brown in ’99, another Penn State defensive end would be named All-American. Then came Michael Haynes in ’02, Tamba Hali in ’05, Aaron Maybin in ’08, Devon Still in 2011 and most recently Lombardi Award winner Carl Nassib in 2015.

If you think of great college football defensive lines, one must think of Alabama. In the ‘70s, Alabama was definitely Defensive End U. From 1971 to 1982, Alabama had a defensive end named All-American nine of those 12 years. Beginning with Robin Parkhouse in 1971, John Mitchell in ‘72, John Croyle in ‘73, Leroy Cook in ’74 and ’75, Wayne Hamilton in ’77 and E.J. Junior in ’79 and ’80 and lastly Mike Pitts in ’82. In the ‘90s, it was Dameian Jeffries ’91, John Copeland ’92, Eric Curry ’92, Michael Myers ’96, Chris Hood ’97 and most recently it was 2016 Lombardi Award winner Jonathan Allen.

With Alabama only having one defensive end named All-American since 1998, the choice for Defensive End U is Florida State.

The Seminoles first All-American defensive end in the past 50 seasons was Willie Jones in 1978. Since then, Florida State had 11 All-American defensive ends, and in the ‘90s, FSU could claim to be Defensive End U for the decade with a Seminole named All-American five times from 1993-1997. Those players were: Derrick Alexander ’93-’94, Peter Boulware ’96, Reinard Wilson ’96, and Andre Wadsworth in 1997.  Then along came Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds in 2000, and Alonzo Jackson in 2002, and in the last 10 seasons, the Seminoles once again have asserted their claim as Defensive End U with All-Americans Everette Brown in 2008, Brandon Jenkins in 2010 & 2011, Bjoern Werner in 2012, Mario Edwards in 2014 and DeMarcus Walker in 2016.

Florida State is Defensive End U with Alabama a close number two.

Interesting fact:  Notre Dame has not had a defensive end named All-American since Frank Stams in 1988.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Oklahoma Photo credit: 22860 on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Penn State Photo on Visual Hunt

Texas sign Photo credit: wallyg on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

Which school is Wide Receiver U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the wide receivers in my series on which school should be known as Wide Receivers U.

If you asked the casual college football fan which school is Wide Receiver U, they might say Oklahoma State, or perhaps Alabama, and that’s understandable as both schools have recently had some outstanding wide receivers.

Oklahoma State had All-American wide receivers Hart Lee Dykes, Dez Bryant, Rashaun Woods, Justin Blackmon and James Washington. However, that’s all they had for the past 50 seasons. Surprisingly that’s less than half the number that the top three schools had to be considered for Wide Receiver U.

What about Alabama? The Crimson Tide had Wayne Wheeler, Ozzie Newsome, David Palmer, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, all All-Americans, but that’s it, just six.

There are only four schools that belong in the conversation to be called Wide Receiver U and each had 10 or more All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons. When you have All-American quarterbacks, it makes sense to think they are throwing to All-American wide receivers and each of these four schools are in the discussion as well for Quarterback U.

At number four are the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Notre Dame had 11 All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons. Beginning with Jim Seymour in 1968, Thom Gatewood in 1970 and 1971, Pete Demmerle in 1974, Tim Brown in 1986 and 1987, Ricky Watters in 1988, Raghib Ismail in 1989 and 1990, Derrick Mayes in 1995, Jeff Samardzja in 2005 and 2006, Biletnikoff Award-winner Golden Tate in 2009, Michael Floyd in 2011 and Will Fuller in 2015.

At number three, look to the Sunshine State and the University of Florida. In 1969, there was Carlos Alvarez as an All-American. Then the Gators remarkable run of All-American wideouts really began with Wes Chandler, a two-time All-American in 1976 and 1977, and then Chris Collinsworth, also a two-time All-American in 1978 and 1980.  Ricky Nattiel was the next Gator All-American wide receiver in 1986.

Then Steve Spurrier’s Fun and Gun Offense came along in the ‘90s and the parade of Gator All-American wide receivers began. First there was Jack Jackson in 1994, followed by: Chris Doering ‘95, Reidel Anthony ’96, Ike Hilliard ’96, Jacquez Green ’97, Travis McGriff ’98, Darrell Jackson ’99, Jabar Gaffney ’01 and Percy Harvin in 2007. In an eight-year period from 1994 to 2001, seven Florida wide receivers were All-American and the Gators had bookend All-American wideouts in 1996, their national championship season.

Even though Florida had the most All-American wide receivers of any school the past 50 seasons with 13, none have won the Biletnikoff Award and they have not had an All-American wide receiver since 2007. That is why the Gators are ranked third. A decade ago, and they were Wide Receiver U.

At number two, stay in the Sunshine state and it’s the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles had 12 wide receivers named All-American in the last 50 seasons beginning with Ron Sellers in 1968. Then Rhett Dawson in 1971, Barry Smith in 1972, Jackie Flowers in 1979, Lawrence Dawsey in 1990, Tamarick Vanover in 1992 and 1993, Kez McCorvey in 1994, E.J. Green in 1997, Peter Warrick in 1998 and 1999, Marvin Minnis in 2000, Kelvin Benjamin 2013 and Rashad Greene in 2014. None however have won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver.

Which school is Wide Receiver U? The University of Southern California. The Trojans had 12 All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons beginning with Lynn Swann in 1973, followed by: Erik Aftholter in 1988, Curtis Conway in 1992, Johnnie Morton in 1993, Keyshawn Johnson in 1995, Mike Williams in 2003, Dwayne Jarrett in 2005 and 2006, Steve Smith in 2006, Robert Woods in 2011, Marqise Lee in 2012 and 2013, Nelson Agholor in 2014 and JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2015 and 2016.

A USC wide receiver has been named All-American in six of the last seven seasons and nine in the past 15 years with Lee winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2012. This has catapulted USC to the top and earned the Trojans the right to be called Wide Receiver U.

Interesting fact:  Ohio State’s last All-American wide receiver was David Boston in 1998. Ohio State’s other All-American wide receivers the past 50 years were Chris Carter in 1985 and Terry Glenn in 1995.

Florida gator Photo credit: photo-gator on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Notre Dame Photo credit: glenn~ on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

USC Photo credit: Neon Tommy on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Is USC still Tailback U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the running backs in my series on which school should be known as Tailback U.

Next to the position of quarterback, running back is the next glamourous position in all of college football. When you hear “Running Back U” which is more commonly referred to as “Tailback U” what school comes to mind? In the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was unquestionably USC, but are they still Tailback U?

Let’s look at those schools that rate Honorable Mention and work out way up to which school is Tailback U.

Stanford rates an honorable mention with nine All-American running backs in the past 50 seasons. Granted, some were fullbacks, but fullbacks are running backs. The list of Cardinal All-American running backs begins with Darrin Nelson in 1981, then Brad Muster in 1986, Glyn Milburn ’92, Toby Gerhart ’09, Owen Marecic ’10, Stepfan Taylor ’12, Tyler Gaffney ’13, Christian McCaffrey ’15 and ’16 and Bryce Love in 2017. In seven out of the last nine years a Stanford running back has been an All-American which is quite an impressive accomplishment.

Also earning honorable mention is UCLA with eight All-American running backs in the past 50 seasons beginning with Kermit Johnson and James McAllister both in 1973. Other notable Bruin All-American backs were Freeman McNeil ’79-’80, Gaston Green ’86-87, Karim Abdul-Jabbar ’95, Skip Hicks ’97, DeShaun Foster ’01 and Johnathan Franklin in 2012.

In the last 50 seasons, Oklahoma had six All-American running backs, and what an incredibly talented six they are.  Two were Heisman Trophy winners and three were two-time All-Americans:  Steve Owens 1968 and Heisman Trophy recipient in 1969 and Billy Sims Heisman Trophy winner in 1978 and repeat All-American in 1979. The other Sooner All-American running backs were outstanding as well:  Greg Pruitt ’71-’72, Joe Washington ’73, Adrian Peterson in 2004 and Samaje Perrine in 2014-2016.

For the record, both Georgia and Oklahoma State also had six All-American running backs, but each only one Heisman Trophy winner as compared to Oklahoma’s two.

Wisconsin, known for their running offense and 1,000-yard running backs, had nine All-American running backs, Billy Marek in 1974, Brent Moss ’93, four-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne ’96-’99, Brian Calhoun in 2005, P.J. Hill in 2006, John Clay in 2010, Montee Ball in 2011 and 2012 when he won the Doak Walker Award, followed by another Doak Walker Award winner in Melvin Gordon in 2014. The most recent Badger All-American running back was Jonathan Taylor in 2017. The Badgers come in at number six on our countdown to Tailback U.

The Running Back U discussion would not be complete without mentioning Texas. The Longhorns had eight All-American running backs which have three two-time All Americans Steve Worster in 1969 and 1970, Earl Campbell in 1975 and 1977 and Ricky Williams in 1997 and 1998. Campbell won the Heisman Trophy in ’77 as did Williams in ’98. The other All-American Longhorn running backs were: Chris Gilbert ’68, Roosevelt Leaks ’73, Cedric Benson ’04, Jamaal Charles ’07, and D’Onta Foreman added to Texas’ rich running back history with an All-American season in 2016.

Ohio State’s great running backs over the years include three-time All-American Archie Griffin ’73-’75, who won the Heisman trophy his junior and senior years, and Eddie George, Heisman Trophy winner in 1995.  The Buckeyes had six other All-American running backs since the late ‘60s, Jim Otis ‘69, John Brockington ‘70, Keith Byars ’84, Beanie Wells in 2007, Carlos Hyde in 2013 and Ezekiel Elliott in 2015.

Both Texas and Ohio State had eight All-American running backs and two Heisman Trophy winners, but give the Buckeyes a slight edge over Texas for having two All-Americans to one for Texas in the past five seasons.

At number three as Tailback U is Penn State. That may come as a surprise to some but the Nittany Lions had 10 All-Americans at running back, at least one in each decade beginning with Charlie Pittman ’69, and then Lydell Mitchell ’71, John Cappelletti ’73, Curt Warner ’81 & ’82, D.J. Dozier ’86, Blair Thomas ’87, Ki-Jana Carter ’94, Curtis Enis ’97, Larry Johnson in 2002 and Saquon Barkley in 2016 and 2017.

The Trojans had nine All-American running backs, four of which were Heisman trophy winners.  Since the late ‘60s, no other position at any university has had as many Heisman trophy winners than running back at USC. That is very impressive.

The list of Trojan running All-American backs consists of:  O.J. Simpson ’68, Clarence Davis ’69, Sam Cunningham ’72, Anthony Davis ’74, Ricky Bell ’75-’76, Charles White ’78-’79, Marcus Allen ’81, Reggie Bush ’04-’05 with Simpson, White, Allen and Bush winning college football’s greatest individual honor. Yes, I know Bush’s Heisman was vacated but what he did on the field was undeniable.

In fact, if there was a Heisman U since 1968 it would be USC with six as quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart also added Heisman hardware to USC’s trophy cases. Why is USC no longer Tailback U? Since 1982, USC had only two All-American running backs. That’s two in the last 36 seasons, Bush and Ronald Jones II in 2017. That undeniable fact keeps USC from the top spot as Tailback U. In that same time frame since 1982, Alabama has produced eight All-American running backs.

With the slightest of margins for Tailback U, because of their great success of late, the University of Alabama is now Tailback U. Only Penn State and Stanford match Alabama in the number of All-American running backs with 10, but in the last 10 years Alabama has produced three All-American running backs, two of them Heisman Trophy winners and the other won the Doak Walker Award.

Alabama’s 10 All-American running backs consist of: two-time All-American Johnny Musso ’70 & ’72, Johnny Davis ’77, Ricky Moore ’83, another two-time All-American in Bobby Humphrey ’86 & ’87, Siran Stacy ’89, Sherman Williams in ’94, Shaun Alexander in 1999, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in 2009, Doak Walker Award recipient Trent Richardson in 2011, and their second Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in 2015. Move over Traveler, Big Al has passed you by.

Interesting fact:  Surprisingly Nebraska, which for decades had a power running game, had only four All-American running backs in the past 50 seasons: Jeff Kinney in 1971, Jarvis Redwine in 1980, Mike Rozier in 1982 & 1983 and Ameer Abdullah in 2013 & 2015. That’s as many as the University of Miami: Chuck Foreman in 1972, Cleveland Gary in 1988, Willis McGahee in 2002 and Duke Johnson in 2014.

Alabama Photo credit: Greece Trip Admin on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Penn State Photo credit: Photo on Visual Hunt

USC Photo credit: Neon Tommy on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Texas ballcarrier courtesy of Keith JJ found at: https://pixabay.com/en/football-american-football-1492250/

Wisconsin Badger Photo credit: Instagram: @Maitri on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.