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/.


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