College Football Position U: Who Is Offense University?
Welcome back to college football's Position U series.
Bleacher Report writers David Kenyon and Kerry Miller have finished detailing the college programs that have generated the most productive NFL players at all eight position groups since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
- Defensive Line U
- Wide Receiver U
- Running Back U
- Defensive Back U
- Quarterback U
- Offensive Line U
- Tight End U
- Linebacker U
Based on the results of those positions, the next step is highlighting the programs that fared the best across all categories. First up is Offense U, followed by Defense U.
Please note, this evaluation is not intended to field the best 11-man unit possible at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive line. The focus is instead on the number of great NFL players to consider.
Throughout this Position U series, B/R's focus has remained on NFL production. While the total number of players was considered, on-field NFL production since 1970 shaped the final order.
LSU appeared in three offensive categories, earning an honorable mention at running back and on the offensive line. The highlight, though, is wide receiver. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are the current stars in a group that previously featured Brandon LaFell, Dwayne Bowe, Eddie Kennison, Eric Martin and Carlos Carson. LSU checked in at No. 3 on Wide Receiver U.
Second in both Quarterback U and Offensive Line U, Michigan left a significant mark on this series. Tom Brady is the headliner, but the Wolverines produced three other quarterbacks—Jim Harbaugh, Brian Griese and Elvis Grbac—with a Pro Bowl season. Up front, Michigan boasts Hall of Famers in Dan Dierdorf, Tom Mack and Steve Hutchinson. Recent standouts include Jake Long and Taylor Lewan.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish enjoyed a second-place finish in Tight End U, along with honorable mentions in QBU and OLU. Notre Dame has graduated four Pro Bowl tight ends to the NFL—most recently Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert. Star quarterbacks Joe Montana and Joe Theismann also hail from Notre Dame, which has an exceptional group of offensive linemen in the league right now. They'll only add to a resume of 10 alums with 100-plus NFL starts.
Oklahoma merited a QBU mention because of its 2010s success with Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. If Mayfield and Murray thrive at the pro level, the Sooners may rise. Still, they earned a TEU honorable mention with four Pro Bowlers, but running back is OU's best claim. Eight players secured a Pro Bowl trip, led by Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray, Billy Sims and Greg Pruitt with at least three apiece.
3. USC Trojans
On volume alone, USC is unmatched with 18 NFL starters and merited an honorable mention. However, it's basically Carson Palmer and a bunch of players in the average/mediocre range. Matt Cassel and Pat Haden went to a Pro Bowl, but Haden, Vince Evans, Rodney Peete and Mark Sanchez all threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Save them, Sam Darnold?
The story is somewhat similar at running back, but the elite tier is much better. Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson both entered the Hall of Fame, while Reggie Bush and Sam Cunningham both surpassed 5,000 yards on the ground. Relative to its peers, though, USC fell narrowly shy and settled for an honorable mention.
Once again, USC had a strong case at a stacked position. Another honorable mention for the Trojans, who produced Keyshawn Johnson, Lynn Swann, Johnnie Morton and Curtis Conway. USC's current NFL representation includes Robert Woods, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor.
All-Pro tight end Charle Young highlights this—you guessed it—honorable mention group. Hoby Brenner and Jordan Cameron also headed to a Pro Bowl, while Bob Klein, Billy Miller and Fred Davis each topped 2,000 yards in their respective careers.
USC fully deserved the OLU designation. Since the merger, the Trojans have showcased Hall of Famers in Ron Yary, Bruce Matthews and Anthony Munoz. Marvin Powell, Tony Boselli, Ryan Kalil and Tyron Smith all have at least five Pro Bowl trips. Overall, 17 linemen have at least 80 NFL starts.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Let's just say Ohio State is hoping Dwayne Haskins (and Justin Fields) can reverse the trend. The most prolific player is Mike Tomczak with 16,079 yards, 88 touchdowns...and 106 interceptions.
Eddie George is a potential Hall of Famer, and both John Brockington and current Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott have three Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro nod. Four others—Jim Otis, Pete Johnson, Keith Byars and Robert Smith—headed to a Pro Bowl. Ohio State finished second in RBU.
Ohio State stands atop WRU thanks to Michael Thomas and a heck of a run from the late 1980s to 2000s. That era of receivers includes Hall of Famer Cris Carter, All-Pro David Boston and 10,000-yard target Joey Galloway, as well as Terry Glenn, Jeff Graham, Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes. Two-time All-Pro Paul Warfield rounds out the Buckeyes' impressive group.
Not much for Ohio State here. Byars is included with the running backs because he played fullback in the NFL. Otherwise, the Buckeyes had Rickey Dudley, who tallied 3,024 receiving yards and 33 scores. Nobody else has surpassed 1,000 career yards, though Jeff Heuerman or Nick Vannett could be next.
The Buckeyes checked in at No. 3 on OLU. Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace headlines the group, which features four other All-Pro talents in Jim Lachey, Nick Mangold, Andrew Norwell and Jim Tyrer. Seven more—Tom DeLeone, Bob Vogel, Dave Foley, Doug France, William Roberts, Korey Stringer and LeCharles Bentley—reached a Pro Bowl.
1. Miami Hurricanes
Miami had a narrow window of success with quarterbacks in the 1980s and 1990s, but it's a respectable one. Jim Kelly assembled a Hall of Fame career, journeyman Vinny Testaverde tossed 275 touchdowns—the 16th-most ever—and Bernie Kosar threw for 23,301 yards. Honorable mention here for the Hurricanes.
One obvious theme is about to emerge: Miami accounts for a large portion of players who reached a statistical benchmark at several positions. The 'Canes boast six of the 65 post-merger running backs with 9,000-plus scrimmage yards. Overall, Frank Gore is third in career rushing yards, and Edgerrin James is a Hall of Famer. Chuck Foreman, Ottis Anderson, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee appeared in multiple Pro Bowls, and Lamar Miller did once. Miami earned the RBU crown.
Hall of Fame wideout Michael Irvin—a five-time Pro Bowler with nearly 12,000 career yards—headlines a terrific top tier from Miami. College teammates Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and Andre Johnson all surpassed 10,000 yards in the NFL, giving The U four of the 48 receivers to ever reach 10,000. Brian Blades, Brett Perriman and Eddie Brown each tallied at least 6,000 yards. Miami ended up second in WRU.
Thirty-nine tight ends have totaled 5,000-plus receiving yards since 1970. The 'Canes produced four of them: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow. For good measure, Bubba Franks is a three-time Pro Bowler. That collection of top-tier talent gave Miami the TEU title.
Though shy of an honorable mention, Miami has another formidable group up front. Five players went to a Pro Bowl, including Hall of Famer Jim Otto and six-timer Dennis Harrah.