Alabama Football: 20 Best Defensive Players in Crimson Tide History

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

Alabama Football: 20 Best Defensive Players in Crimson Tide History

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    From 1926 to 2011, defense has been a hallmark of the Crimson Tide. The familiar phrase, "defense wins championships" rings true at the Capstone year after year.

    With 14 National Championships to its credit, Alabama has clearly spent time developing defenses over the last century.

    Out of the ocean of defensive monsters, here are the 20 "high-Tiders" that will tower over the rest for years to come.


    *Stats and information from the 2011 Alabama Record Book and

    **All references to All-Americans signifies First-Team selection

20. Terrence Cody (DL, 2008-2009)

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    Terrence Cody, though he was only in Tuscaloosa for two years, was a beast on the line. He earned All-American honors in both of the years he played at Alabama.

    He joined a short list of players to earn the honor more than once, and embedded himself in Crimson Tide lore during the 2009 Tennessee game.

    Without those two blocked field goals, the Tide would not have had the 14-0 championship run that turned the Tide back into an undisputed national powerhouse.

19. George Teague (CB, 1989-1992)

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    George Teague was not exactly a headliner for the Tide. That is, until the 1993 Sugar Bowl rolled around.

    Teague logged the first pick-six of his career in that game, and followed it up with "The Strip."

    "The Strip" was not only one of the greatest plays in Tide history, but also it was one of the greatest Sugar Bowl moments as well.

18. Thomas Boyd (LB, 1978-1981)

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    Boyd was a back-to-back All-American in 1980 and 1981. He led the team in tackles in 1980 with 120.

    Boyd was part of the back-to-back National Championship teams of 1978 and 1979. The Tide earned three SEC titles during his stint in Tuscaloosa.

    Behind Boyd's 324 career tackles, the Tide amassed a paltry five losses during his four-year tenure.

17. Rashad Johnson (S, 2005-2008)

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    Johnson was an All-American in 2008. Other honors:

    1) Member of the Alabama All-Decade team for the 2000s

    2) One of eight Tiders in history to be named team captain twice

    Rashad Johnson was one of the best. It's a shame he wasn't in Tuscaloosa from 2006-2009. He would have had a ring to go with the turnaround the 2008 team started.

16. Hoyt "Wu" Winslett (DE, 1924-1926)

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    Winslett earned All-American honors in 1926. The major reason he is on this list comes from the Alabama Record Book: "...history books indicate that no team recorded a first down when it ran to Winslett's side of the field."

    That kind of impact by a single player is just unheard of nowadays.

    As the primary passer for the team, he never fumbled the ball in the three years he was responsible for it. (That fact had no bearing on his placement on this list.)

15. Mark Barron (S, 2008-2011)

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    Mark Barron was an All-American in 2010 and 2011. Other honors:

    1) All-SEC by league coaches and the AP

    2) Defensive Player of the Week six times in 2010 (Selected by the Tide coaches)

    Barron's presence will be sorely missed in the near future, but the Tide could realistically make more alterations to this list in the coming years.

14. Holt Rast (DE, 1939-1941)

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    Rast was an All-American in 1941. Playing both sides of the ball is difficult enough, but Rast excelled on both sides of the ball.

    Rast had a pick-six in the 1942 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, which the Tide won 29-21.

    He was awarded the Cotton Bowl MVP along with Don Whitmire and Jimmy Nelson.

    He was also selected to the Tide's All-Time Team for the first 50 years of 'Bama football.

13. Jon Hand (DT, 1982-1985)

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    Hand was an All-American in 1985. Other honors:

    1) Member of the Alabama Team of the Century

    2) Member of the Tide's All-Decade Team for the 1980s

    Hand was stellar against LSU in 1985, and he registered a sack, two pass breakups, one tackle for loss and a blocked field goal.

    Although the game ended in a tie, it was not for lack of defensive effort.

12. Bobby Johns (DB, 1965-1967)

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    Bobby Johns is another two-time All-American, having earned the honor in 1966 and 1967. Other honors of note are:

    1) Three interceptions in the 1967 Sugar Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers

    2) Member of the Tide's 1960s All-Decade Team

    Johns may not be the most famous DB ever to play for the Tide, but he's definitely in the top 20.

11. Leroy Cook (DE, 1972-1975)

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    Leroy Cook was an All-American in 1974 and 1975. Other honors he earned in Tuscaloosa were:

    1) 1975 Orange Bowl Defensive MVP

    2) Member of the Tide's All-Decade Team of the 1970s

    One of the hardest decades to stand out was the '70s. Alabama was a force on the field and earned back-to-back national titles to cap off the decade.

10. Barry Krauss (LB, 1976-1978)

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    Krauss was an All-American in 1978, and was the MVP of the 1979 Sugar Bowl. He was an integral part of the goal-line stand that held off a potential Penn State comeback. Other honors:

    1) Member of the Tide's All-Decade Team of the 1970s

    2) Member of the Tide's All-Century Team

    3) MVP of the game known as the "Goal Line Stand" against Penn State

    Krauss and company started the run that would become the Tide's longest winning streak in history. The Tide would see 28 wins before finally dropping a game against Mississippi State in 1980.

9. DeMeco Ryans (SLB, 2002-2005)

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    Ryans was an All-American in 2005, and went on to become one of the most highly-honored players in Tide history. Other honors:

    1) Lott trophy winner

    2) Academic All-SEC selection all four years at the Capstone

    3) 2005 SEC Player of the Year

    Ryans started in 37 games at Alabama and registered a career 307 tackles.

8. Rolando McClain (LB, 2007-2009)

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    McClain was an All-American in 2009. As the primary on-field signal-caller, McClain seemed to have the defensive answer for almost every offensive look the opponent could show.

    Not only did he earn All-American honors that year, but he also brought home the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker.

    Alabama named him Player of the Decade for the first 10 years of the new millennium as well.

7. Marty Lyons (DT, 1976-1978)

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    Marty Lyons was an All-American in 1978. Other honors:

    1) Member of the Tide's All-Century Team

    2) Member of the Alabama All-Decade Team for the 1970s

    Lyons was the defensive team captain of the legendary 1978 Crimson Tide and registered a whopping 119 tackles that season.

    Lyons is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

6. Tommy Wilcox (S, 1979-1982)

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    Tommy Wilcox was another two-time All-American for the Crimson Tide. Other notable honors are:

    1) Member of the Tide's All-Decade Team for the 1980s

    2) Member of the Tide's All-Century Team

    3) SEC Freshman of the Year in 1979

    That Freshman of the Year honor came during a championship run that featured some of the legendary recruits from the class of 1976.

    Wilcox's earning a spot on that team as a freshman is astonishing.

5. Woodrow Lowe (LB, 1972-1975)

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    Woodrow Lowe was the first three-time All-American at the Capstone, earning the honor from 1973-1975. He would be the only player to accomplish that until Cornelius Bennett joined him in 1986.

    Lowe was also named to the Tide's 1970s All-Decade Team. Those of you who remember what Alabama was throughout the '70s can truly appreciate what an accomplishment that is.

    In fact, the Tide was the SEC Champion every year Lowe was in Tuscaloosa.

    Perhaps his greatest intangible accomplishment is in the video above?

    Woodrow Lowe is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

4. Antonio Langham (CB 1990-1993)

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    Antonio Langham earned All-American honors in 1992 and 1993. Other honors:

    1) Alabama's only Jim Thorpe award winner (Given to the best defensive back in the nation)

    2) 1992 SEC Championship MVP

    3) Holds the school record for most career interceptions with 19

    Langham secured the Tide's berth in the 1993 Sugar Bowl opposite the "unbeatable" Miami Hurricanes, and the video above shows how he did that.

3. Derrick Thomas (LB, 1985-1988)

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    Derrick Thomas is a staple on Crimson Tide "best-ever" lists. The only list he wouldn't make is a list of offensive greats.

    Thomas was an All-American in 1988, and earned the following honors before he left Tuscaloosa:

    1) Defensive Player of the Decade for the 1980s

    2) Member of the Tide's All-Century Team

    3) CBS's Defensive Player of the Year (1988)

    Thomas capped his college career off with a 27-sack performance in 1988, which still stands as the single-season record at the Capstone.

2. Cornelius Bennett (LB, 1983-1986)

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    Cornelius Bennett has a laundry list of accomplishments and honors. Notable honors are:

    1) A three-time All-American (1984-1986)

    2) Alabama's Player of the Decade for the 1980s

    3) Member of the Tide's All-Century Team

    Bennett was a force for the Tide from the time he stepped onto the field, racking up 73 tackles in his freshman year.

    He ended his career at the Capstone with 287 tackles and 23 tackles-for-loss.

    Bennett is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

1. Lee Roy Jordan (LB, 1960-1962)

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    Lee Roy Jordan is arguably the best defender ever to don the legendary crimson and white uniform. He was an All-American in 1962. Other honors:

    1) Member of ESPN's All-Time College Football Team

    2) 1963 Sugar Bowl MVP with 31 tackles during the shutout of Oklahoma

    3) Alabama's Player of the Decade for the 1960s

    Jordan finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1962 and was selected to the Tide's All-Century Team as well.

    Jordan is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.