College Football: Greatest Defensive Player of the Decade

Justin HokansonSenior Writer IJuly 21, 2009

With the 2009 season almost upon us, this is a perfect time to take a look back at the best college football players of last decade on both sides of the ball.

Of course this is completely subjective. That's why if you don't like my list, please give your thoughts on who you think should be recognized as the best player over the last 10 years.

We'll start with defense, and I'll publish an offensive list tomorrow.

So let's get it going with the discussion of the best defensive players of the last decade and then I'll give you my choice at the end.

Julius Peppers, Defensive End, North Carolina

Peppers was an absolute stud in college, even pulling double duty as a Tar Heel basketball player.

David Pollack, Defensive End, Georgia

The words "motor never stops" will forever be linked to Pollack. 242 career tackles is incredible. Pollack won the Lombardi, Chuck Bednarik, and Lott awards in 2004, and the Ted Hendricks award as the nation's best defensive end in 2003 and 2004.

Terrell Suggs, Defensive End, Arizona State

An absolute terror in college, I would have loved to see Suggs play for a more high-profile program. NCAA-record 44 career sacks.

Chris Long, Defensive End, Virginia

Future NFL Pro Bowler, son of Raider great Howie Long, dominant college player. 2007 Ted Hendricks award winner.

Glenn Dorsey, Defensive Tackle, LSU

Thought of in the same breath as Warren Sapp, Dorsey was a preseason Heisman candidate heading into the 2007 season. 2007 winner of the Outland, Lott, Bronko Nagurski, and Lombardi awards.

Tommie Harris, Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma

Maybe the Sooners' most dominant defensive player in the Stoops era. 2003 Lombardi award winner.

Shaun Cody, Defensive Tackle, Southern Cal

Immovable tackle for the first of many great Trojan defenses to come after him. Went from freshman All-American to first team All-American as a senior.

John Henderson, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee

Outland Trophy winner in 2000, one of the best tackles in SEC history.

A.J. Hawk, Linebacker, Ohio State

Like his name, he's an absolute ball hawk. 2005 winner of the Jack Lambert and Lombardi awards.

James Laurinaitis, Linebacker, Ohio State

Former NHL draft pick, part of two national champion runner-up teams. 2006 Bronko Nagurski award winner, 2007 winner of the Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert awards, and 2008 winner of the Lott and Jack Lambert awards.

Derrick Johnson, Linebacker, Texas

Incredible athlete, Johnson roamed the outside with the best of them. How does 458 career tackles sound? Winner of the Bronko Nagurski and Dick Butkus awards in 2004.

Teddy Lehman, Linebacker, Oklahoma

Over 100 tackles his last two seasons and a first round draft pick, Lehman was the 2003 winner of the Butkus and Bednarki awards.

Terence Newman, Corner back, Kansas State

Part of the resurgent teams in Kansas State history, Newman was an incredible athlete. The 2002 Jim Thorpe award winner went on to be a top five NFL draft pick.

Deangelo Hall, Corner back, Virginia Tech

Part of some physical defenses for the Hokies, Hall was a standout at corner and punt returner. 190 tackles for a corner is rare as well.

Mike Doss, Safety, Ohio State

The physical safety for the Buckeyes was a two-time Jim Thorpe award finalist and racked up over 300 career tackles.

Roy Williams, Safety, Oklahoma

Known for his dive over the Texas offensive line that resulted in a Chris Simms fumble for a touchdown, Williams was a big-time hitter. Williams won the Jim Thorpe award  and the Bronko Nagurski award in 2001.

Sean Taylor, Safety, Miami (FL)

The late Sean Taylor was a freak in the best sense of the word roaming the field for the Hurricanes. Fourteen interceptions highlighted Taylor's career and he was the most intimidating safety since Ronnie Lott.

Ed Reed, Safety, Miami (FL)

How about having Reed and Taylor back-to-back? Reed was an instrumental part of the Hurricanes national title in 2001, and holds three different Miami records on defense.

Troy Polamalu, Safety, Southern Cal

One of the most exciting defensive players out there, when you see long-haired Polamalu after you, watch out. One of the few safeties that could truly roam the field sideline to sideline.

So who's my choice as defensive player of the decade?

My three finalists were Terrell Suggs, Derrick Johnson, and Ed Reed. Each of those three players were completely dominant at their positions and were truly spectacular.

Who takes home the honor?

My choice is Ed Reed. The Hurricane safety racked up three different Miami career records with 21 career interceptions, 389 interception return yards, and five interceptions returned for touchdowns. He also notched almost 300 career tackles as well.

Reed was the leader of a national championship team in 2001 and had maybe the play of the year in picking up a fumble and returning it for an 80-yard touchdown against Boston College. In a word, Reed was electrifying as a player. He was a guy that could truly do anything on the football field.

Did I mention that Reed also blocked four punts during his career and just to show off his athletic ability, he was also a Big East javelin champion?

So in a great class of defenders for the decade, my choice is Reed as the best overall defensive player in the last 10 years.

Coming tomorrow, the Greatest Offensive Player of the Decade is revealed.