2010 Hit Men: College Football's 25 Hardest Hitters—with Video
Nothing sets the tone of a college football game like a big hit—it can turn the momentum to your team's favor instantly.
For these 25 young men, making that hit is an innate quality. Just a natural process of what comes next after stepping on the field—to deliver bone-crushing hits.
The kind of helmet-cracking hits that make your girlfriend cringe and have you jumping out of your seat like it's spring-loaded, leaving you both wondering if you just witnessed some poor sap's death.
Don't worry, they get up. Usually.
So here it is, the biggest thumpers that all of college football has to offer for the 2010-11 season.
25. Stephon Morris, CB, Penn St.
Only standing 5'8" and weighing 182 pounds, Stephon is making a name for himself as a bruising hitter. Still just a sophomore, Morris has a chance to shine in 2010 after a great season last year.
One thing is for sure, though—don't bobble the ball when No. 12 for the Nittany Lions is out there lurking.
As one of the strongest players on the team, he has the tools to make you pay dearly for your mistakes.
24. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
One of three Badgers to have forced and recovered three fumbles in the same season, Borland is the type of hitter every coach wants.
Now a sophomore, he has been a high school legend in his home state of Ohio for some time.
A freshman first-teamer all-around (coaches and media), Borland's star is starting to rise. Take one look at his highlight reel and you will see why—he loves to hit.
23. Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU
Held A.J. Green and Julio Jones to just seven receptions. Not seven each, seven altogether.
Second team All-American and All-SEC.
The accolades are impressive. But "PP7" is also feared for his quick, closing-speed hits.
It's hard to separate yourself as a great defender in the SEC. Peterson has done it.
In 2010, he'll do it again.
22. Greg Lloyd, DE, Connecticut
The UConn football program has emerged on the scene as a force in the last few years. While the offense isn't bad, the defense is the reason for the turnaround.
Senior DE Greg Lloyd has been a defensive leader at UConn through it all. Though he is a well-rounded player, Lloyd has been known by Huskies fans for his hitting ability.
It's time the rest of the country started to take notice.
21. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Recorded the third-most tackles by a freshman for the Irish, played in every game, and was a starter for 10.
Some might say that's because the Irish defense is down. Big mistake.
Manti secured a 24-21 win against Pudue with a rip-down sack, and he has become one of the nation's most prolific linebackers.
While people debate if that's out of talent or due to the mass audience of the team he plays for, what's not up for debate is his hitting prowess, which is awesome.
20. Antwine Perez, DB, Maryland
I knew that I would find a USC safety to put on this list, and I almost did. Perez was one of the most sought-after recruits in 2006, and Pete Carrol got his man. At first.
But the L.A. life wasn't in the cards for Perez, and he ended up transferring to Maryland.
Many Terps fans feel he is primed to bust out on to the national scene for his senior year.
Perez has progressed well up to this point as an all-around defender, so the fans' feelings do come with merit.
Most may not appreciate this clip on the first viewing, but pay attention to the raw strength Perez shows to still de-cleat the ball-carrier.
19. Eric Martin, LB, Nebraska
While Martin is not in line for a QB spot (see here), he may finally earn that black shirt in starting for the Huskers this season.
A Nike camp standout, Martin made an immediate impact on special teams, as a wedge-busting hitter. If he can't hit the guy with the ball himself, he will just hit him with somebody else.
Watch the clip if you don't believe me (at the 45-second mark). Wow!
18. Taylor Wyndham, DE, Ketucky
After playing linebacker through high school, Wyndham added 30 pounds but lost none of his speed.
Thought of as a "project" guy at first, Wyndham has become a premier player in the SEC and a big-play guy for the Wildcats.
But from Day One he has shown a knack for leveraging big hits on ball-carriers.
Though he suffered a shoulder injury, Wyndham should be 100 percent come this fall, ready to drop the hammer again.
17. Sam Fehoko, LB, Texas Tech
I texted Red Raiders DT Pearlie Graves asking him who was the biggest hitter for his squad.
I thought he would say himself—either as a joke, or even for real.
I got back three letters: S A M.
A former Gatorade Player of the Year and recruited by some of the big boys (OU, Arkansas, AU), Fehoko is a beast when it comes to laying the wood.
The whispers are getting louder over Tubberville's newfound home.
They will reach peak levels with a few more deafening hits by Mr. Fehoko.
16. Jordan Futch, LB, Miami
You knew a UM guy had to make this list; in fact, Miami is one of a few programs to almost get two on this list (the other being DB Ray Ray Armstrong).
A converted high school safety, Futch has not seen much playing time. But when he does get on the field he will electrify the crowd with blistering hits.
Though he may not get a starting role, his hitting ability on special teams will ensure that fans will see No. 58 on the field in 2010.
15. Elijah Blu-Smith, FS, Colorado St.
Quietly becoming a force in the Mountain West since starting as a true freshman, Blu-Smith, now a junior, has become the Rams' big-play guy on defense.
Slapping down passes and making picture-perfect open-field tackles, like the one he made on BYU's Harvey Unga.
While he is the only player in CSU history to record an interception in three straight games, it's his teeth-rattling hits that have people talking.
Look for more from this underrated talent in 2010.
14. Akeem Aguste, FS, South Carolina
An instinctual defensive player, Aguste has been moved around between starting at corner and safety. For two years he has made his presence felt as a premier hitter in the defensive juggernaut that is the SEC.
By all accounts he will be the Gamecocks' starting safety for 2010. One big reason for that move—hitting ability.
13. Tank Carder, LB, TCU
With a name like Tank Carder, should I have to say anything else?
Ranked second for the Horned Frogs with 89 tackles in 2009, Tank had a breakout game against Utah, where he earned a helmet sticker from ESPN's Rece Davis.
He has progressed tremendously every year and will anchor that hard-nosed TCU defense even more in 2010, and he's just now a junior.
12. Wil Ebner, LB, Missouri
Ebner proved to be one of the toughest players around when, just two weeks after knee surgery, he took the field against Texas and leveled one of the game's best receivers in Jordan Shipley.
With only seven starts, Ebner still ranked third in tackles last year, earning an honorable mention All-Big 12.
With a quiet disposition off the field, Ebner is looking to become a leader for the Tigers on the field in 2010.
With hits like these, I don't see what could stop him.
11. DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson
Preseason All-American, never missed a game, and the most valuable player on the Clemson defense (maybe of the whole team).
McDaniel has an impressive resume and looks like he may even be a high NFL draft pick following this season after making the jump from LB to SS last year.
No matter the position, McDaniel is a devastating hitter who leaves ball-carriers wondering what just happened to them.
With a 37-inch vertical leap, McDaniel averages one interception for every 10 snaps.
Gotta love a natural hitter like McDaniel, effortless set-up with an explosive pop. Could be "the" premier DB in the ACC in 2010. If he isn't already.
10. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
This California kid didn't follow in his father's footsteps and go to USC. Likely because he only had three stars by his name.
I know another three-star guy that just got selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
Earning his way to the top, Matthews started late in the season against Arizona as true frosh.
Then, as a sophomore, he was sixth on the team in tackles and started striking fear in opponents' hearts on special teams.
Matthews' junior year ended with Second Team All-Pac-10 honors and has led him to a spot on the Lott Trophy watch list.
As good as he was, Matthews advanced his vertical jump by an astounding 5.5 inches.
Mark it down, 2010 will be a big year for Casey Matthews.
9. Jerico Nelson, S/LB, Arkansas
We all remember that crushing hit Nelson made on Auburn's Mario Fannin. Well, Fannin doesn't.
But what you may not know is that Nelson was just a true frosh last year. Impressive.
Impressive because it was as smart of a play as it was effective. That's how he won a starting spot at safety last year, a spot he will keep for 2010.
A spot where he will look to lead the secondary again in sacks (3.5), helping further his reputation as a devastating hitter.
8. Winston Venable, LB, Boise St.
Winston Venable is a big-play machine!
What a gem head coach Chris Peterson found in this JUCO kid.
Venable had eight solo tackles in the Fiesta Bowl against TCU, finishing third on the team, and secured the Bronco celebration with a late interception.
He is a big reason why nobody wants to play Boise State. Earning Second-Team All-WAC in just his first season, Winston, now a senior, will have one last year to prove to the NFL scouts that he's not just a flash in the pan.
Is there any doubt of how he will perform in 2010?
7. Greg Jones, LB, Michigan St.
Meet the Big Ten defensive MVP: Greg Jones.
A two-time All-Big Ten and 2009 consensus All-American, eighth all-time in tackles at MSU, Jones' 154 tackles in 2009 ranked third in the nation.
A three-year starter (27 straight starts), Jones is in the hunt for the Lombardi, Nagurski, and Butkus awards.
On top of all that is the reason he is No.7 on this list: Sporting News named him as the hardest hitter in the Big Ten.
6. Nate Irving, LB, NC State
With 8.7 tackles per game in 12 starts, four interceptions (most all-time by a Wolfpack LB), an honorable mention All-ACC, and 84 tackles to tie for third on the team, Irving made quite the impression in 2008.
All that and he didn't play a third of the season with a lower leg injury.
After earning preseason All-ACC honors, "Nasty" Nate, as he also is known by fans, missed all of 2009 with another injury.
2010 will see Irving back at top form, according to reports.
Most college football fans don't know who he is. If he stays healthy, though, he will become a household name.
You don't get a moniker like "The Predator" for being cute, and you don't get cute while Nate Irving is lined up across from you.
5. Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State
Though he may not have the accolades that some of the others on this have, one thing is clear—Etienne Sabino can flat-out hit.
Though he may not get a lot of playing time as the backup SAM LB for the Buckeyes, Sabino will still be knocking out mouth pieces on special teams.
Consider yourself warned!
4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
MVP of the FedEx Orange Bowl, Third-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big Ten, permanent team captain, and a handful of player of the week honors.
This kid is a stud.
Clayborn seems to pressure the quarterback at will and gave Michigan signal-caller Tate Forcier a concussion with nothing more than a shove.
Just a nasty big guy that loves to hit; even after the play has passed him, Clayborn looks to make contact with somebody.
Opposing players call that being a bully. Clayborn calls it building your presence on the field. When you're Adrian Clayborn, there's nothing they can do about it anyway.
3. Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
Special teams terror.
That's the best way to describe Lewis' impact for the Sooners so far, though he may be too much of a talent to keep sidelined.
Lewis was an Oklahoma All-Stater on both sides of the ball coming out of a high school that played eight-man football, which explains his sideline-to-sideline coverage (much more field to cover).
But after you watch the clips, you will see why he was kept on the defensive side of the ball as a LB. Lewis is a lightning-strike hitter out on the field and makes no hesitation at contact, earning him the nickname "The Hammer" by the Sooner Nation.
Just a face-up, pure-form tackler with a load of hitting power that wows the crowd every time.
2. Marcel Dareus, DL, Alabama
As a freshman, Dareus filled in here and there on the D-line at nose guard. But he soon earned a DE position because of his incredible pass-rush ability.
It proved a wise move.
In 2009 Dareus led the SEC in sacks (6.5) and was a very big part of the Crimson Tide's championship run (sidelining Colt McCoy damn sure didn't hurt their chances).
Excellent on the edge, quarterbacks seem to always have that "I'm about to get hit" disposition when Dareus is on the field.
For those who think that the Bama defensive line won't be as good now that Terrance "Mt." Cody is in the NFL, guess again.
There are a few solid hitters that play for Alabama, but when it comes to the type of hits that may lead to a trip to the hospital, no one comes close to Marcel Dareus.
1. Robert Sands, SS, West Virginia
Don't make a mistake against Robert Sands. Just don't do it.
If you're lucky, you may just have to go sit on the bench for a few plays to stop the ringing in your head.
Again, if you're lucky.
Standing at a solid 6'5" and weighing 221 pounds, Sands is somewhat of a phenom.
A guy that tall shouldn't have that kind of quicks or be able to level any combatant who makes the bad choice of carrying the pigskin within 10 yards of him.
A three-year starter at SS, and an All-Big East selection, Sands led the Mountaineers in passes defended (13), and tied for the lead in interceptions (five) in 2009.
When you need a play on defense, just call on No. 2 for WVU and sit back and enjoy the show.
Selected as the West Virginia Gridiron Gladiator Award by the coaching staff for his spine-tingling hitting ability, I believe Sands is the hardest pound-for-pound hitter in all of college football.
Don't dare disagree, either, because "Predator 2" may just take offense.
Believe me—you don't want that.