Ranking the Top College Football Teams by Their NFL Combine Presence
As much as college football fans enjoy their precious game—one that has seen more passion, emotion, blood, sweat and heart poured into it than almost any other sport over the past 100 years—it's still just a stepping stone for the very best players who take the field each Saturday.
For those select few who get the unique opportunity of taking their talents to Sundays, the NFL opens the curtain and takes center stage.
The first step to becoming a professional often involves the NFL combine, where scouts from all 32 teams get a look at the physical and mental attributes of players who are hoping to soon get paid to play the game they love.
The ability to send players to the combine often sets programs apart, as you'll notice from the names at the top of this list. Being able to send more than a handful of players each year is something that can be used in recruiting.
Most kids arrive to college with the goal of playing in the NFL, and if a school has a reputation of churning out pros, it will often get plenty of attention from the best high school players.
We've narrowed down the list to the top 26 programs by their presence in the NFL combine, including ties. A number of schools have five participants—a respectable amount—while the leader, whom you may have guessed already, is sending more than you can count on both hands.
Did your favorite team make the cut? Click ahead to find out who did and check out some of the notable names you'll see in the 2014 NFL combine.
All player stats via cfbstats.com. Combine information via nfl.com. Notable schools that failed to make the list include Texas, Nebraska and Michigan, among others. Ties are listed in alphabetical order.
T-14: Auburn Tigers, 5
Notable Auburn players in the 2014 NFL combine: DE Dee Ford, RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson
The Auburn Tigers kick off the list of teams with a strong presence in the NFL combine, which should come as no surprise after Gus Malzahn's squad reached the national championship game in just his first season as head coach.
Tre Mason might be the most recognizable name to the average fan, especially after he ran for more than 300 yards against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Or perhaps his 195-yard performance against Florida State caught your attention?
In any case, the Tigers are once again loaded with talent, as evidenced by the program sending five players to the combine for evaluation. Given Auburn's current trajectory, however, you can expect this number to grow in the coming years.
T-14: BYU Cougars, 5
Notable BYU players in the 2014 NFL combine: WR Cody Hoffman, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Devin Unga
BYU has seen its fair share of alumni go on to do great things in the NFL, but no player from this year's crop has a better chance to keep the Cougars on the professional map than linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
A rangy athlete capable of making plays in the open field as well as getting to the quarterback, he exemplifies the type of multi-threat athlete that teams have begun to covet in recent years. He finished the 2013 season with 17 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Another name to watch is wide receiver Cody Hoffman, a steady performer who racked up more than 3,000 yards receiving in his BYU career.
T-14: Boston College Eagles, 5
Notable Boston College players in the 2014 NFL combine: RB Andre Williams, DT Kaleb Ramsey, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
You may be surprised to see Boston College on this list, but former Eagles are littered all throughout the NFL. This year's group is sure to add a few more, and it is headlined of course by running back Andre Williams, who may end up as a fullback on Sundays.
The physically intimidating senior back bullied and bruised his way to more than 2,100 yards rushing and a Doak Walker Award. He may lack the elite speed of some of his peers, but his ability to break tackles and get stronger as the game goes on should make him a hot commodity in the draft.
Other names you might recognize are defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis. The two combined for 14.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2013.
T-14: Clemson Tigers, 5
Notable Clemson players in the 2014 NFL combine: QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Martavis Bryant
Clemson was one of the teams that was hit hardest by the loss of key talent, and it will have to address that early on with a brutal September slate in 2014. The upside, however, is several Tigers could have an impact right away in the NFL draft.
The most notable name is wide receiver Sammy Watkins, an all-around player with explosive attributes who has been making plays since he first arrived on campus. He finished the 2013 season with more than 1,400 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
Two other players to keep an eye on are quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Martavis Bryant. The latter man had more than 800 yards receiving and seven touchdowns, while Boyd has been one of the best quarterbacks in the game since 2011. He has tossed at least 30 touchdowns in each of his three years as the team's starting signal-caller.
T-14: Iowa Hawkeyes, 5
Notable Iowa players in the 2014 NFL combine: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Christian Kirksey
Iowa may not be a program that immediately comes to mind when you think of NFL talent, but that's more due to the recent rise of offense in college football. On defense, the Hawkeyes were as stout as anyone in holding opponents to fewer than 19 points per game.
Two of the key catalysts in that effort were linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. The pair combined for 216 tackles, including 18.5 for loss.
But Kirk Ferentz's team wouldn't have been playing in a New Year's Day bowl if it weren't for at least some offense, which is where tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz enters the picture. The senior had 299 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 2013.
T-14: Louisville Cardinals, 5
Notable Louisville players in the 2014 NFL combine: QB Teddy Bridgewater, S Calvin Pryor, WR Damien Copeland
Perhaps headlining the entire 2014 NFL draft is Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, who put together a complete body of work in his three years as a Cardinal. He has excellent mobility, accuracy and the poise to deliver when it matters the most.
He'll also make a great representative for Louisville, especially if he's the first player who is taken in the draft. Another surefire Day 1 selection is safety Calvin Pryor, a physical specimen who's often the first one to burst up to the line of scrimmage from his spot in the secondary and blow up a running play.
Both have a chance to make an instant impact wherever they land, and along with the three other Cardinal players at the combine, they give Louisville a strong presence on this list.
T-14: Miami Hurricanes, 5
Notable Miami players in the 2014 NFL combine: QB Stephen Morris, OT Seantrel Henderson, WR Allen Hurns
The Miami Hurricanes are an intriguing team when it comes to their former athletes in the NFL draft. You have a mix of players with a lot of potential and guys who have flown under-the-radar during their careers.
In the former category sits quarterback Stephen Morris and tackle Seantrel Henderson. Morris has all the physical tools it takes to play in the NFL, but he hasn't been able to put it all together on a consistent basis.
Henderson, meanwhile, at 6'8" and 345 pounds, has a frame that screams All-Pro for years to come. But he too has been unable to realize his full potential.
On the other side of the coin is wide receiver Allen Hurns, an 1,100-yard receiver in 2013 who could make a team very happy down the road.
T-14: Oklahoma Sooners, 5
Notable Oklahoma players in the 2014 NFL draft: WR Jalen Saunders, RB Damien Williams, CB Aaron Colvin
Oklahoma is a team that you might expect to have more than five players headed to the NFL combine, but Sooners fans are likely still basking in the glow of the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and are unconcerned about the guys who are headed to the pros.
That's because quarterback Trevor Knight is returning along with a host of talented young guns, which should make the Sooners a real player over the next few years. But this is about the combine, so we turn our attention to guys like wide receiver Jalen Saunders, running back Damien Williams and cornerback Aaron Colvin.
Saunders in particular is an intriguing name to watch, if only because of his five-catch, 74-yard and two-touchdown effort against the Crimson Tide. Much like Auburn, look for the Sooners to have more than five players at the combine in the coming years.
T-14: South Carolina Gamecocks, 5
Notable South Carolina players in the 2014 NFL combine: DE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Kelcy Quarles, QB Connor Shaw
You can bet that South Carolina fans will be tuning in to watch the first round of the NFL draft, because standout defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is likely to hear his name called early on.
His case is an interesting one, because he didn't put up the numbers that are typical of a guy being talked about as the No. 1 overall pick. However, he's the kind of player who affects the game in so many ways, even when it doesn't result in tackling the ball-carrier or notching a sack.
In any case, his freak athleticism should be something to watch on Sundays in the fall for years to come.
Other names to listen for are defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and quarterback Connor Shaw. The Gamecocks signal-caller isn't going to have an easy path to playing in the NFL, but his grit and determination, not to mention his 24 touchdowns and one pick as a senior, make him a player you shouldn't count out.
T-14: Tennessee Volunteers, 5
Notable Tennessee players in the 2014 NFL combine: OT Antonio Richardson, OT Ja'Wuan James, DL Daniel McCullers
Despite a brutal couple of seasons when Tennessee wasn't even able to sniff the upper half of the SEC standings, the Volunteers are sending five players to the NFL combine.
But the lack of dynamic playmakers stands out here, as three of the more notable names play on the line. That shouldn't take away from what kind of impact they might have as professionals, however, especially in the case of tackle Antonio Richardson.
Ironically nicknamed "Tiny,: the hulking lineman has faced the best pass-rushers in the SEC over the past several years, and that experience could make him a valuable asset right away for an NFL team.
T-14: UCLA Bruins, 5
Notable UCLA Players in the 2014 NFL combine: LB Anthony Barr, OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, LB Jordan Zumwalt
UCLA's Anthony Barr is another name you've likely heard about as a potential top-five pick, even with the draft over two months away. He's very much in the mold of a Kyle Van Noy or Dion Jordan, who was selected third overall in 2013, in that he's as versatile as they come.
His ability to catch running backs from behind is unparalleled at his position, and his speed is due in large part to him beginning his career as a tight end and running back.
Xavier Su'a-Filo is one of the best offensive line prospects in the draft, and Jordan Zumwalt, while perhaps lacking elite physical tools, is one of the feistiest competitors in the sport. All three could go on to have long pro careers.
T-14: Utah Utes, 5
Notable Utah players in the 2014 NFL combine: LB/DE Trevor Reilly, TE Jake Murphy, WR Anthony Denham
Utah's move to the Pac-12 hasn't gone as planned, but that doesn't mean the Utes are failing to produce next-level talent.
This year's group is headlined by Trevor Reilly, one of the most underrated players in the country. He has a knack for making plays, as evidenced by his 100 tackles, nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2013. He's the kind of player you probably haven't noticed much, but don't be shocked to see him pop up as an All-Pro in several years.
Other names to look for are tight end Jake Murphy and wide receiver Anthony Denham—two of the main options in what has recently been an underwhelming passing attack due to a variety of issues at quarterback.
T-14: Vanderbilt Commodores, 5
Notable Vanderbilt players in the 2014 NFL combine: WR Jordan Matthews, WR Chris Boyd (dismissed from team), S Kenny Ladler
Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews had a whale of a career with the Commodores, and now he'll get the chance to make an impact in the NFL. In 2013, he tallied nearly 1,500 yards receiving to go along with seven touchdowns.
But perhaps the more interesting story is that of former wideout Chris Boyd, who had more than 700 yards receiving in 2012. He and Matthews figured to make one of the best tandems in the game before Boyd was dismissed from the team for legal issues.
Finding diamonds in the rough is often what separates good teams from the very best ones, and the Commodores are putting forth several guys who could end up playing that very role.
T-10: Baylor Bears, 6
Notable Baylor players in the 2014 NFL combine: RB Lache Seastrunk, OT Cyril Richardson, WR Tevin Reese, S Ahmad Dixon
If someone had told you even five years ago that Baylor would be tied for having the 10th-most prospects at the NFL combine, you'd say they were crazy. But the Bears have six players who are headed to Indianapolis, most notably among them running back Lache Seastrunk.
Seastrunk, a transfer from Oregon, is one of the fastest backs in the country, and he has that rare ability to make smooth cuts in the open field without having to slow down. Three other names you might recognize—Cyril Richardson, Tevin Reese and Ahmad Dixon—will be joining him.
Reese will have to prove he's more than just a product of the system (although former Bear Josh Gordon has done a fine job of that in his career), while Richardson and Dixon both possess first- or second-day talent. Can Baylor continue to transform its program into an NFL factory?
T-10: Ohio State Buckeyes, 6
Notable Ohio State players in the 2014 NFL combine: RB Carlos Hyde, CB Bradley Roby, LB Ryan Shazier
A trio of big names headlines the six players that Ohio State is sending to the NFL combine—led by either Carlos Hyde or Ryan Shazier, depending on whether you prefer offense or defense.
Hyde racked up more tan 1,500 rushing yards in 2013, including nine straight 100-yard outings to end the season. He also had 15 scores.
On the other side of the ball, Shazier piled up a whopping 144 tackles, including 23.5 for loss. He'll be joined by cornerback Bradley Roby, who had three picks and 69 tackles of his own.
Once again, the Buckeyes will have a strong presence in Indianapolis, though the six players being sent could grow quite a bit in the coming years as Urban Meyer continues to stockpile talent.
T-10: Oregon Ducks, 6
Notable Oregon players in the 2014 NFL combine: WR Josh Huff, TE Colt Lyerla (left the team), RB De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon would have a total of eight players if not for quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu opting to return to school, but Ducks fans should still be excited about the potential of the six guys who are going to the combine.
The biggest name is running back De'Anthony Thomas, an electrifying player who has been making defenders look silly in the open field throughout his career. Another intriguing name is tight end Colt Lyerla, who left the team in early October before running into some legal issues. His physical attributes are unparalleled at the position, and if he's willing to put in the effort, he has All-Pro potential.
One final name to keep an eye on is wide receiver Josh Huff, who's coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2013.
T-10: Wisconsin Badgers, 6
Notable Wisconsin players in the 2014 NFL combine: LB Chris Borland, RB James White, WR Jared Abbrederis
The Wisconsin Badgers join the group of teams that are sending six players to the NFL combine. Three of who Badgers have names that have been perennially underrated.
Among those is running back James White, who has had to play from the shadows of Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon in recent years. Nonetheless, he still managed to run for more than 1,400 yards in 2013. Jared Abbrederis also fits in the category and could probably make a case as the most reliable passing target in college football.
But the headline act is Chris Borland, a multi-year starter who has that special knack for knowing where the ball will go and getting there in time to make a play. Don't bet against him becoming one of the steals of the draft.
T-7: Missouri Tigers, 7
Notable Missouri players in the 2014 NFL combine: DE Michael Sam, DE Kony Ealy, RB Henry Josey
Missouri is a program to watch in the upcoming NFL draft, for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost is the fact that the Tigers are a flat-out talented bunch, and all seven players who are going to the NFL combine will have a chance to turn some heads. Defensive end Kony Ealy looks like a first-round pick, and running back Henry Josey could be a steal later on in the draft.
But the most talked-about story is obviously defensive end Michael Sam, who came out and will likely become the first openly gay player in the NFL. He dominated the SEC conference this past season and could play as an outside linebacker at the next level.
Regardless of where everyone ends up, the Tigers are sending a strong group of players to the pros.
T-7: North Carolina Tar Heels, 7
Notable North Carolina players in the 2014 NFL combine: TE Eric Ebron, QB Bryn Renner, CB Jabari Price
It seems odd to see a team like North Carolina near the top of this list, especially after the Tar Heels went 7-6 in 2013. What that says about the coaching staff's ability to translate talent into wins is up to you to decide, but the fact remains that North Carolina players are becoming increasingly common in the NFL.
Among the notable names in this year's group is tight end Eric Ebron, a new-age player at a position that has become vital to the league's top passing attacks. He runs like a deer and could develop into a big-time weapon, unlike tight ends of 15 years ago.
Quarterback Bryn Renner is also an interesting name, as he entered the 2013 season with a lot of hype. He failed to deliver, but that doesn't mean the tools are gone. His name might be someone who pops up several years down the road after learning behind a more experienced signal-caller.
T-7: USC Trojans, 7
Notable USC players in the 2014 NFL combine: WR Marqise Lee, RB Silas Redd, S Dion Bailey
Despite the multitude of issues that USC has faced over the past several years, the Trojans still send tons of players to the professional ranks.
This year's group is no exception and is led by wide receiver Marqise Lee, who, after a dominant sophomore campaign, struggled a bit as a junior. Part of that is due to injuries, while another reason could be mediocre quarterback play.
Nonetheless, he has the ability to become one of the best receivers in the NFL. Running back Silas Redd, who transferred from Penn State, also has some intriguing qualities, while safety Dion Bailey brings speed and a linebacker's mentality to the secondary.
T-5: Florida Gators, 8
Notable Florida players in the 2014 NFL combine: DT Dominique Easley, LB Ronald Powell, CB Loucheiz Purifoy
The Florida Gators are coming off one of the worst seasons in recent memory, a four-win campaign in which the offense was dreadful at times and downright miserable on most occasions.
It shouldn't surprise you, then, to see a trio of defensive players headlining the list of the eight Gators who are headed to Indianapolis. After all, defense has never really been a problem for Will Muschamp.
Defensive tackle Dominique Easley, linebacker Ronald Powell and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy are capable of becoming starters within their first couple of seasons in the NFL. Watch for Easley in particular, if only to see how the former highly touted recruit responds from an injury that sidelined him for the better part of the 2013 season.
T-5: Stanford Cardinal, 8
Notable Stanford players in the 2014 NFL combine: LB Shayne Skov, LB Trent Murphy, OL David Yankey, RB Tyler Gaffney
It's interesting to see how much the players that a school sends to the combine define the style of play we're used to seeing from it. There's no better example than the Stanford Cardinal, who are sending eight players, with the majority coming from the defense or the offensive line.
Headlining the Cardinal contingency that is bound for Indianapolis are offensive lineman David Yankey and linebacker Trent Murphy, who also has the talent to put his hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback.
Yankey, however, might be the most dominant Pac-12 lineman from the past five years. Then there are linebacker Shayne Skov and running back Tyler Gaffney, two key cogs in the squad's back-to-back conference titles. Both players could figure into a role on Sundays, with Skov being the more likely to end up as a starter someday.
T-3: Florida State Seminoles, 9
Notable Florida State players in the 2014 NFL combine: DT Timmy Jernigan, CB Lamarcus Joyner, WR Kelvin Benjamin
After winning the BCS National Championship Game over Auburn, you'd expect the talent on Florida State to be heading to Indianapolis in hoards. That's exactly the case as the Seminoles have nine players who will represent the school at the NFL combine.
Every one should factor prominently into the draft, but we've selected defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin as the names to watch.
Jernigan, when he wasn't catching his breath, was wreaking havoc on Gus Malzahn's dynamic rushing attack, while Benjamin one-upped him by making the go-ahead touchdown catch to secure the title.
Then there's Joyner, who made play after play throughout the season en route to helping his team go undefeated. Look for this batch of 'Noles to be leading the charge on Sundays in the near future.
T-3: Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 9
Notable Notre Dame players in the 2014 NFL combine: DT Louis Nix III, DE Stephon Tuitt, RB George Atkinson
It might surprise you to see Notre Dame this high on the list, but remember that the Fighting Irish were in the national title game a little over a year ago. Despite the beatdown that ensued, plenty of talent remained on a defense that was rather salty once again in 2013.
The key cogs in the unit were Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, a dynamic defensive line duo that helped plug up holes in the run game and made it hard for opposing quarterbacks to escape the pocket.
Running back George Atkinson is a multi-talented athlete who, despite never racking up eye-popping stats, could be a factor in the NFL in the right system.
2: LSU Tigers, 11
Notable LSU players in the 2014 NFL combine: WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham Jr., RB Jeremy Hill, QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU has sent more players than you can count to the NFL combine in recent years, and 2014 is no different. But while it's the defensive-minded Tigers who often make the biggest splash, we've highlighted four players from the offensive side of the ball here.
The team's top two receivers, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., combined for more than 2,300 yards receiving last year with 18 total touchdowns. Both have excellent hands and can make highlight-reel catches. Running back Jeremy Hill is also a guy who should factor into somebody's plans come draft time, because reeling off seven 100-yard games in the SEC isn't an easy task.
Finally, there's quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who missed the tail end of the 2013 season due to an injury. Following a lackluster start to his career, he turned on the jets and became a productive senior with the ability to start someday in the NFL.
1: Alabama Crimson Tide, 12
Notable Alabama players in the 2014 NFL combine: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, QB AJ McCarron, LB C.J. Mosley, S Vinnie Sunseri
It should come as little surprise that Alabama has the most players in this year's NFL combine. The Crimson Tide won three championships in four years and would have had a shot at another if not for a few timely plays by Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Still, when Nick Saban walks in the door of a 5-star's home and promises that he will make it to the NFL with enough hard work, there's more than enough proof to back up the statement.
Highlighting this year's group are safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri, quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley. All four played key roles in the past couple of seasons, paving the way for next year's crop—which could be just as big, if not bigger.
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