College Football: The Greatest Defensive Player of All Time from Every FBS Team

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IMay 11, 2011

College Football: The Greatest Defensive Player of All Time from Every FBS Team

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    4 Nov 1995:  Ray Lewis of the Miami Hurricanes looks on during a game against the Baylor Bears at the Orange Bowl in Coral Gables, Florida.  Miami won the game, 35-14. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    They say defense wins championships, so we decided to take a look at the top defensive player in every FBS school's history and give you a solid list of which player has the honor at every stop around the country.

    These players have various decorations, myths, stats and traditions surrounding their names. Some are throwback players, and others are very recent top-level defenders. In any era they played, these are the top defensive players at every FBS school in college football.

    Let's get started.

Minnesota: Bobby Bell

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    A pro football and college football Hall of Famer, Bell is the top Gopher defender in history. He played both LB and DL during his day and is a two-time All-American in 1961 and 1962.

    He took home the Outland Trophy in 1962 and even finished third in Heisman voting.

Wisconsin: Erasmus James

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    Nicknamed "The Eraser," James was a first-round pick out of Camp Randall to the Vikings 2005. A 6'4", 266-pound defensive end, James was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and a first team All-American.

    He left Wisconsin with 126 tackles, 18 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The current head coach for the Wildcats, Fitz is also the school's best defensive player of all time. He was a ferocious LB in the mid-1990s and was a two-time Bednarik Award winner, a two-time Nagurski Trophy winner and a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Iowa: Andre Tippett

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    Tippett is regarded as won of the classiest men in football, and the former Patriots LB is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He was a two-time All-American as a DE at Iowa in early 1980s and was team captain in 1981.

    He made the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team and was the key cog on the Hawkeye defense in 1981, which is regarded as the best unit in school history.

Indiana: Tracy Porter

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    BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 3: Tracy Porter #9 of the Indiana Hoosiers looks on during the game against the Ball State Cardinals at Memorial Stadium November 3, 2007 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Before Porter became known as the cornerback that returned Peyton Manning's fourth-quarter interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV, he was a sticky cover corner for the Hoosiers. He's second all-time in school history with 16 interceptions and was a first team All-Big Ten member in 2007 and has 212 career tackles.

West Virginia: Sam Huff

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    Huff is known for his days as a Giant and Redskin in the 1960s, but he started as a guard and tackle in Morgantown. He was a four-year letterman for WVU and in 1955 was voted to the All-American squad.

    He went on to become a numerous All-Pro selection and is a member of both the college and Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

South Florida: Kawika Mitchell

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    Before he was a key defensive stalwart for the Giants on their 2007 Super Bowl team, Mitchell was plugging the run for the Bulls. He was a Butkus nominee during his junior and senior seasons and left school with the tackles record at 367. 

Rutgers: Deron Cherry

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    Cherry is considered one of the very best free safeties to ever play football, at any level. He started off as a punter, ironically.

    He was the Scarlet Knights' MVP in 1979 and was an AP All-East team member in 1979 and 1980. He went on to become an All-Pro safety and member of the 1980s All-Decade Team.

Louisville: Sam Madison

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    ATLANTA -  OCTOBER 15:  Cornerback Sam Madison #22 of the New York Giants lines up for a play against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 15, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Giants defeated the Falcons 27-14. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Im
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Madison is one of the top corners of his era. A three-time All-Pro pick and four-time Pro Bowler, the 5'11", 180-pounder was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 1997. He set records at Louisville with 16 interceptions and 44 passes broken up (PBUs), where he was a two-time All-American and first team All-Conference USA selection.

UConn: Darius Butler

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 4:  Darius Butler #1 of the Connecticut Huskies runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium on October 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    UConn is still a pretty young program, relatively, but Butler is their top overall defender. A 5'10", 185-pound corner, Butler was selected in the second round by the Patriots in 2009.

    A 2008 All-Big East first teamer, Butler left Storrs with 180 tackles and 10 picks, and also spent some time at receiver and returner.

Cincinnati: Trent Cole

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 02:  Trent Cole #58 of the Philadelphia Eagles takes the field during player introductions against the Houston Texans at Lincoln Financial Field on December 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Im
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The funny thing about Cole is that his numbers at Cinci would be better if he hadn't played out of position for much of his career. Cole currently plays DE for the Eagles, but at Cincinnati, he played NT.

    At 6'3", 270 pounds, Cole was a two-time All-CUSA pick and finished up with 238 tackles, 19 sacks and 48 tackles for losses. 

    Today, he is one the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

Texas Tech: Zach Thomas

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    7 Oct 1995:  Linebacker Zach Thomas of Texas Tech during the Red Raiders 14-7 win over Texas A&M at Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.  Mandatory Credit:  Al Bello/Allsport
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Thomas had the heart of a lion. A stout and tough 5'11", 240-pound LB, he was a tackling machine throughout his entire career. Thomas was a Butkus finalist, Conference DPOY and All-American in both his junior and senior years. 

    He left Lubbock with 390 career stops and had a Hall of Fame NFL career. 

Texas A&M: Dat Nguyen

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    12 Oct 1996:  Linebacker Dat Nguyen of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates during a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Cyclone Stadium in Ames, Iowa.  Texas A&M won the game, 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Nguyen was an undersized, yet tough and instinctive LB for the Aggies. He took home the Lombardi, Bednarik and Lambert awards in 1998 and was Butkus finalist. At 5'11", 238 pounds, Nguyen was a three-time first team All-Big 12 pick and the 1998 DPOY in the conference.

Texas: Derrick Johnson

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    AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 31:  Linebacker Derrick Johnson #11 of the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns runs during the game against the University of New Mexico Aggies at Texas Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2003 in Austin, Texas. Texas defeated New Mexic
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    At 6'3", 245 pounds, Johnson was dominant at Texas due to a blend of size, athletic ability and instincts. The Chiefs took him in the first round in 2005, as he left Austin as a two-time All-American, and with the Butkus and Nagurski awards attached to his name.

Oklahoma State: Kevin Williams

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    NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 24:  Defensive Tackle Kevin Williams #58 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks to be having fun as he breaks past offensive lineman Mike Skinner #75 of the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter of the game on November 24, 2001 at Owen
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    Williams is one of the top DTs in football. At 6'5", 311 pounds, he started 42 games in Stillwater and had 160 tackles, 38 for loss, and 18.5 sacks as a Cowboy. He's a six-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team. 

Missouri: Roger Wehrli

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    Wehrli did dabble on offense in his day but ultimately made his mark as a top-flight corner for the Tigers. He was a two-time All-Big 8 Conference member and the DPOY in his senior season. At 6'0", 190 pounds, he is a College Football Hall of Fame member and had a stellar NFL career. 

Kansas State: Gary Spani

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    Spani is College Football Hall of Famer, as he was a great LB for the Wildcats. He was a three-time All-Big 8 selection and was a DPOY in 1977, the same year he was voted as a consensus All-American. He's still the career tackles leader for KSU.

Kansas: Aqib Talib

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    BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 20:  Aqib Talib #3 of the Kansas Jayhawks defends against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field October 20, 2007 in Boulder, Colorado. Kansas defeated Colorado 19-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Talib takes the top honor for the Jayhawks. A terrific corner in the middle portion of last decade, Talib is one of the top young corners in the NFL today. He needs to stay out of trouble off the field, as if he can, he could become an elite defender in Tampa.

    He was first team All-Big 12 in 2006 and 2007 and a consensus All-American in the latter year.

Iowa State: Ellis Hobbs

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    AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 26:  Defensive back Ellis Hobbs #11 of the Iowa State Cyclones eyes wide receiver Roy Williams #4 of the Texas Longhorns as he runs his route on October 26, 2002 at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.   Texas defeated Iowa State
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    Hobbs was a three-year starter for the Cyclones and left school with 209 tackles and 29 PBUs under his belt. He was first team All-Big 12 as a senior and became a third-round pick to the Patriots in 2005.

Ole Miss: Patrick Willis

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 28: Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after stopping Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders for a loss during an NFL preseason game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 28, 2010 in Oakland, Californi
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    You can easily make an argument that Willis is the best defensive player in football. He seems primed to take the torch from Ray Lewis as the game's top LB. He's a two-time All-American, and in 2006, took home the Butkus, Lambert and SEC DPOY awards.

Mississippi State: Billy Jackson

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    I gave the top defensive player honor to Jackson for the Bulldogs. He's the top pass-rusher in MSU history, as he is the all-time leader in sacks with 49. Jackson also holds the single-season record for sacks with 17 in 1980.

LSU: Glenn Dorsey

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 07:  Glenn Dorsey #72 of the Louisiana State University Tigers celebrates a defensive stop during the AllState BCS National Championship against the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 7, 2008 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Lo
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    Dorsey was one the elite defenders in the country during his time in Baton Rouge, and the 6'1", 297-pound DT was dominant. A two-time All-American and first team All-SEC performer, Dorsey plugged the run and got after the passer with quickness and power.

    In 2007, he won the Lombardi, Nagurski, Outland and Lott trophies.

Auburn: Karlos Dansby

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 10:  Linebacker Karlos Dansby #11 of the Auburn Tigers takes off his chin strap during the SEC football game against the Georgia Bulldogs on November 10, 2001 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Auburn won 24-17.  (Photo by Scott
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    A two-time first team All-American in 2002 and 2003, Dansby is the top defender in Auburn history. At 6'4", 250 pounds, he's a big LB with great athletic ability, strength and instincts. 

    Ironically, Dansby came to Auburn as a strong safety but moved down to LB as a sophomore, and the rest is history.

Arkansas: Steve Atwater

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    Atwater was a big, hard-hitting safety who stood 6'3", 220 pounds. He was one of the key defenders for the Broncos in the 1990s.

    He came to Arkansas as a QB but moved to safety and became a two-time All-American and left as the school career leader in picks with 14.

Vanderbilt: Jonathan Goff

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    I may be a bit biased here as I like Goff as a player. I think he can develop into the middle linebacker the Giants need, and this is a crucial year for him moving forward.

    Yet at Vandy, Goff was solid, as he was a team captain and left the Commodores totaling 307 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 15.5 TFLs and three forced fumbles (FF).

Tennessee: Reggie White

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    White is one of the elite defensive players ever. Not just in Tennessee history, but I'm talking football history. A big, strong DE, White stood 6'5", 300 pounds and was called the "Minister of Defense."

    He is one of the most decorated players in history, and to sit here and rattle off all of accolades he's received would be too long. Just know he's one of the best players, period, on this list.

South Carolina: Eric Norwood

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Eric Norwood #40 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates a second half play against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Norwood is tops for the Gamecocks. A 6'1", 242-pound LB/DE hybrid, Norwood got after the passer with recklessness in Columbia. He was a fourth-round pick to the Panthers in 2010.

    At South Carolina, Norwood was an All-American and All-SEC performer and is the all-time leader in career sacks with 29.

Kentucky: Art Still

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    An All-American at Kentucky in 1977, Still was a stout defensive end for the Wildcats. He went on to play for the Bills and Chiefs in the NFL, where he was a four-time Pro Bowler.

Georgia: David Pollack

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  David Pollack #47, of the Georgia Bulldogs shouts to the crowd during their game against Georgia Tech on November 27, 2004 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Pollack was a LB/DE hybrid who stood 6'2", 265 pounds. He was a three-time All-American for the Bulldogs, only the second player to do that behind Herschel Walker.

    He's the UGA all-time leader in sacks with 36 and won awards such as the SEC MVP, SEC DPOY, Lombardi, Bednarik and Lott. 

Florida: Wilber Marshall

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    Marshall was the key player for the Gator defenses in the early 1980s, as the units were among the best in the country. He was a three-time All-SEC pick and left Gainesville with 343 tackles, 58 for loss, and 23 sacks.

    He was a two-time All-American and is considered the greatest Gator defender of the 20th century.

Utah: Larry Wilson

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    At 6'0", 190 pounds, Wilson patrolled the back end for the Utes in the late 1950s. He's a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was a great safety.

    He was an eight-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler and made the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade teams.

Colorado: Joe Romig

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    Romig played both ways in Boulder as a guard and as an LB. He was a tough and gritty player and only stood in the 5'10", 200-pound range.

    He's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and was a two-time All-American in 1960 and 1961. 

WSU: Marcus Trufant

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 1:  Cornerback Marcus Trufant #45 of the WSU Cougars on the field during the 89th Rose Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners on January 1, 2003 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  The University of Oklahoma Sooners defeated the W
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Trufant was one of the top corner prospects in the Pac-10 in the early 2000s, as he was a four-year starter for the Cougars. The 11th overall pick to the Seahawks in 2003, Trufant was a first team All-Pac-10 pick in 2002 and also a second team All-American selection.

Oregon State: Nick Barnett

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    3 Nov 2001: Nick Barnett # 42  of the Oregon State Beavers carries the ball during the game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Trojans defeated the Beavers 13-16. Mandatory Credit:  Matt Kincaid /Allsport
    Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

    Barnett started his last three seasons in Corvallis as a strong side linebacker ("Sam"). At 6'2", 240 pounds, Barnett led the Pac-10 in tackles in his senior year with 121. 

    He made 29 starts and had 249 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight sacks and 12 PBUs.

California: Hardy Nickerson

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    Nickerson is known mostly for his days a LB for the Bucs, he started out tracking ball carriers in Berkeley. He was at his best at the Mike spot in a 4-3 scheme, where Nickerson displayed speed, instincts and productivity.

    He made the Pro Bowl five times, was a four-time All Pro, and is a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.

BYU: Larry Carr

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    Carr was big-time middle linebacker ("Mike") for the Cougars and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he is the only BYU defender to have that honor.

    He became a second coach on the field for LaVell Edwards during the 1970s in Provo. 

Navy: Chet Moeller

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    Looking up Navy greats, you start to realize most of their dominance in the early parts of last century were on the offensive side. But Moeller is their lone defender in the HOF, as he was a prime cornerback for the Midshipmen.

    He was a unanimous All-American pick in 1975.

Army: Caleb Campbell

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    Army was an even tougher find than Navy was. Army has had some great players in history, but just about all of them have been on the offensive end.

    So I went with Campbell, a 6'2", 240-pound LB who was drafted by the Lions in 2008, and debuted for the team just this past season. Campbell once had a 31-game playing streak and was multiple-time MVP for the Cadets.  

UTEP: Seth Joyner

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    Joyner, a LB, goes down as the top Miner defender ever. He was eighth-round pick in 1986 to the Eagles and went on to become a three-time Pro Bowler in the early 1990s. He won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 1998.

Tulsa: Kaye Vaughan

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    Vaughan was an excellent two-way lineman in the 1950s. There may be some Tulsa defenders with better numbers, but Vaughan was the best.

    He went on to become a legend in the CFL, as he was an eight-time CFL All-Star and one of the greatest players in Canadian League history.

Tulane: Burnell Dent

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    Dent was a stud productive LB for Tulane, as he is the school's all-time leader in tackles with 492. He also holds the single-season record for tackles, as in 1983 he stopped 172 ball carriers. 

    He went on to play 70 games in the NFL with the Packers and Giants.

SMU: Justin Rogers

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    When you think of SMU football, you think of the Pony Express, the overall dominance and even today the passing offense of June Jones. So there really isn't an elite defensive name there, but Rogers had a solid career for the Mustangs.

    He appeared in 54 games as a linebacker and had 123 tackles, 28 for loss, and 19.5 sacks, which made him a two-time All-C-USA selection.

Rice: Larry Izzo

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    Izzo made his pro career mark as a superb special teams player, mainly with the Patriots. He's fourth on the all-time tackles list with 301, but Izzo really turned it up when he smelled blood.

    Izzo has a school record 46 tackles for loss, including the season record of 18. He was a team MVP and captain his senior year.

Houston: Wilson Whitley

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    Whitley won the Lombardi Trophy in 1976 and was a top-notch defensive tackle for the Cougars. Whitley was so good that he even had the award presented to him by President Ford.

    He was a first-round pick by the Bengals and played with Notre Dame great Ross Browner. He's a member of the All-Southwest Conference 1970s Decade squad. 

UCF: Asante Samuel

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Asante Samuel #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after an interception in the second quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on November 21, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick
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    Samuel is a corner known for gambling, guessing and taking chances. Sometimes he's wrong, but many times, he's right, showing a knack for big plays.

    He is the UCF career leader with 38 PBUs. He also topped out with 127 tackles and eight picks.

UAB: Bryan Thomas

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    Thomas takes the cake for the Blazers. A LB-DE hybrid, he holds the all-time sack record for UAB with 36 and the season sack record with 14 coming in 2001.

    Thomas vaulted himself to becoming a first-round pick by the Jets in 2002 and has 31 career sacks for Gang Green.

Southern Miss: Adalius Thomas

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    At 6'2", 270 pounds, Thomas is a solid athlete as an OLB/DE type of player, bursting onto the scene with the Ravens. Yet, he started off at Southern Miss as he was a two-time C-USA DPOY.

    He's a two-time Pro Bowler and made the All-Pro team in 2006. 

Memphis: Danton Barto

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    I had the pleasure of working for Coach Barto when we were with the Las Vegas Gladiators. He was the head coach, and I was his player personnel assistant. 

    Barto was a top-level LB for the Tigers in the early 1990s and is the school's all-time tackle leader with 473. He went on to have a solid career in the CFL.

Marshall: BJ Cohen

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    Cohen starred as an excellent pass-rusher for the Thundering Herd in the mid 1990s. He left school with the sack record of 51 in his career. Today, he plays for the KC Brigade of the Arena League.

East Carolina: Robert Jones

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    Jones is a three-time Super Bowl champion, winning his rings with the Cowboys after they took him with the 24th overall pick in the 1992 draft. He was the 1992 NFL DROY and a finalist for the Butkus award as a senior in 1991, when he was consensus All-American. 

Western Michigan: Louis Delmas

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Safety Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions warms up prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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    Delmas is one the top young safeties in the NFL today and starred as a back end defender for WMU. He was an All-MAC selection in 2007 and 2008 and second-round pick to the Lions in 2009. 

    He made the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2009 and has 135 tackles so far.

Toledo: Curtis Johnson

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    Johnson was a starter at DB for the 1972 Dolphins. The defense lacked star power but got the job done. He played nine years in Miami, after they selected him in the fourth round.

    He won two Super Bowls, made 111 starts and had 22 interceptions.

NIU: Larry English

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    A two-time MAC MVP and three-time All-MAC selection, English is the best defender in Northern Illinois history. At 6'2", 255 pounds, he was a first-round pick by the Chargers in 2009. He registered 31.5 sacks and 237 tackles for the Huskies.

Eastern Michigan: Jason Jones

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    Jones is an underrated DT for the Titans as the 6'5", 275-pounder gets it done with toughness and effort. He works each snap and was a third team All-American in 2007.

    He also was among the leaders in college football with 19.5 TFL's.

Central Michigan: Dan Bazuin

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    Bazuin saw his career hampered with a knee injury in the NFL, but he flashed greatness all throughout his career at CMU. A 6'2", 260-pound DE, Bazuin left CMU as the career record holder in sacks and TFL's. He was voted the MAC DPOY in 2006.

Ball State: Blaine Bishop

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    Bishop was a strong safety type who was instinctive in the box and hustle guy for mainly the Titans. He was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler.

    An eighth-round pick by the then Houston Oilers, Bishop totaled 743 career tackles and 15.5 sacks.

Temple: Muhammad Wilkerson

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    At 6'4", 315 pounds, Wilkerson has the ability to factor as a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. He recorded 68 tackles and 10 sacks as a junior, earning first All-MAC honors and Temple team MVP.

Ohio: Dave Zastudil

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    Zastudil was a punter, which officially is a defensive position. At 6'3", 220 pounds, he has a solid leg and led the MAC in punting four straight years.

    He was a first team All-American as a senior. 

Miami of Ohio: Bob Babich

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    Babich is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and was a two-time team MVP for the Redhawks in the late 1960s as a linebacker. Team captain in 1968 and 1969, he was the MAC DPOY in 1968 and first team All-American.

Kent State: Jack Lambert

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    Lambert is known mostly for his four Super Bowls with the Steelers in the 1970s. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl LB and seven-time All-Pro team member.

    He was the 1976 NFL DPOY and was a teammate of Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel at Kent State. 

Buffalo: Trevor Scott

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    It was slim pickings a tad for Buffalo, but I chose Scott and defensive end for Buffalo in the early 2000's. At 6'5", 255 pounds, Scott's top year was his senior season as he made 12 starts, had 10 sacks, 46 tackles and 15 TFLs.

BGSU: Vince Palko

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    Palko was a tough, strong and gritty LB for the Falcons in the early 1990s. He is a two-time MAC DPOY in 1993 and 1994 and team MVP in 1993.

    He won two MAC titles and is in the BGSU Hall of Fame.

Akron: Chase Blackburn

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    Blackburn dabbled at both LB and DE for Akron and started 34 games for the Zips. He left school with 292 career tackles, 38.5 for loss and 11 sacks. 

    He played the "bandit" role well for Akron and was an All-MAC selection as a junior.

Wyoming: Mike Dirks

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    Dirks was a DT and key cog in the Wyoming legendary defenses in 1966 ad 1967. In '67, he was voted a co-captain and was an All-American and All-WAC selection.

    His specialty was stopping the run, and he led a Cowboy DL that set rushing yards allowed records in two consecutive seasons. He is in the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame.

UNLV: Adam Seward

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    Seward was a homegrown LB who was versatile enough to make starts at all three LB spots in the Rebel defense. At 6'3", 250 pounds, he is the UNLV and MWC career tackles leader with 433.

    He was a three-time All-MWC selection. 

TCU: Jerry Hughes

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    Gary Patterson saw the high ceiling and natural athletic ability Hughes had in high school and gave him a scholarship to TCU. Hughes repaid him by developing into a two-time All-American and the best defensive Horned Frog in school history.

    Hughes won the Lott Trophy in 2009 and also was a finalist for the Nagurski and Lombardi awards. He was a first-round pick to the Colts in 2010.

SDSU: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila

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    Simply known as KGB, Gbaja-Biamila is the SDSU career sacks leader with 33, playing for the Aztecs in the late 1990s. At 6'4", 250 pounds, the DE/LB was a three-time first team All-Conference selection.

New Mexico: Brian Urlacher

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    At 6'4", 260 pounds, Urlacher plays the "Mike" LB for the Bears but really played a free safety type of role for the Lobos. He was even used as a return man and receiver by head coach Rocky Long and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall.

    Urlacher nearly won the Thorpe award. Easy choice here.

Colorado State: Jack Christiansen

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    Before Christiansen was the 49ers' head coach, he was star defensive back at CSU and for the Lions. He was a six-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1950s All-Decade team. He was also known as one of the top return men in the game.

Boise State: Randy Trautman

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    Trautman was big-time defensive lineman for the Broncos. He was named an All-American twice in his Bronco career, including being the 1981 Big Sky conference DPOY. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Air Force: Chad Hennings

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    Hennings came to the Falcons as a tight end but left as the best defender in history as a defensive tackle. His senior year was ridiculous, as he led the country in sacks with 24, earning him consensus All-American honors.

    He won the Outland Trophy and is a part of the All-time WAC team and the College Football Hall of Fame.  

Western Kentucky: Carl Brazley

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    Brazley made his mark on football as a 13-year CFL player but also fared well at WKU as a defensive back. He won a Grey Cup with Toronto and even played for the Chargers as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike.

Troy: DeMarcus Ware

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    Ware is one the top overall defensive players in the NFL. Period. He is the prototypical pass-rusher, as he has elite quickness, power, strength, burst and speed.

    He went to Troy and left second all-time with 27.5 sacks and had 195 tackles, 10 FF's, 74 QB hurries and has the record for career TFLs with 57.

UNT: Mean Joe Greene

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    Mean Joe was a great defensive tackle at North Texas before his Steeler days, anchoring a defensive front that gave up less than two yards per rush. He's extremely decorated and is one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the sport.

    He's a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

MTSU: Don Griffin

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    At 6'0", 176 pounds, Griffin was a shutdown corner for MTSU is his day. He played 11 years in the NFL, after being drafted by San Francisco in the sixth round.

    He has been a part of two stout defenses as the 49ers squad in '87 gave up the fewest total yards and passing yards in the league. 

Louisiana Monroe: Cardia Jackson

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    Jackson is the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in total tackles and was the conference DPOY in 2009. He had 127 stops in just 12 games in 2008, which was among the top 10 in the NCAA in average tackles per game.

    He has spent time on the Rams' and Packers' practice squads.

Louisiana Lafayette: Charles Tillman

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    Tillman was a rare four-year starter in college, as he manned the cornerback position for the Rajin' Cajuns. He was a second-round pick to the Bears in 2003 and fits their Tampa-2 style defense well. At 6'1", 200 pounds, Tillman is a big corner who plays physical.

FIU: Antwan Barnes

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    Barnes is a solid 3-4 OLB for the Chargers and got his start at FIU. He left the Panther program as the all-time sacks leader with 22 and was the first player from FIU to get drafted when the Ravens took him in the fourth round in 2007.

FAU: Chris Laskowski

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    Laskowski was a walk-on at FAU who in two years was voted team MVP. He was an undersized linebacker who was turned into a safety when he signed with the Colts. His career was shortened due to a sports hernia injury. 

Arkansas State: Tyrell Johnson

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    A safety, Johnson takes the honor for the Wolfpack. He started all 46 games he played for the Wolfpack and set a then-Sun Belt record with 363 tackles, 13 picks and four forced fumbles. Johnson also has a conference record for tackles in a game with 25. 

Utah State: Merlin Olsen

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    The 1961 Outland Trophy winner, Olsen was three-year starter at DT for the Aggies. He played on record-setting defenses for Utah State and was a consensus two-time All-American.

    He went to become one of the greatest players of all-time with the Rams, making 14 Pro Bowls, the NFL's All-Decade teams for the '70s and 80s and the 75th anniversary team.

San Jose State: Louis Wright

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    Wright transferred in from Arizona State and became a solid corner for the Spartans. He was a two-year starter and QB's rarely threw to his side, which is why he only had three picks.

    He went on to play for the Broncos and was a five-time Pro Bowler.

New Mexico State: Davon House

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    House is a typical Palmdale, California player. The area is fertile in great athletes, but for some reason, big-name schools mainly shy away. Josh Shaw at Florida is a rare exception.

    However, House went on to NMSU and became a first team All-WAC performer as a corner back. At 6'0", 200 pounds, House was a fourth-round pick to the Packers in the 2011 draft.

Nevada: Dontay Moch

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    At 6'2", 250 pounds, Moch played DE at Nevada but will likely move to OLB with the Bengals, as they selected him in the third round in the 2011 draft. He is the Wolf Pack leader in sacks and tackles for loss and was voted WAC DPOY in 2009.

Louisiana Tech: Fred Dean

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    Dean became an All-Southland Conference defensive tackle for Louisiana Tech. What makes Dean's story more unique is the fact that he chose to go to Louisiana Tech over Grambling, which was looked as as an initial mistake by some at the time.

    He became a four-time Pro Bowler and played for the Chargers and 49ers.

Idaho: Wayne Walker

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    At 6'2",225 pounds, Walker was an excellent LB for the Vandals. He and Jerry Kramer were the first two Idaho players drafted, and he also played center as well. He was voted team captain in 1957 and lit up the East-West Shrine Game with 15 tackles and two interceptions.

Hawaii: Solomon Elimimian

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    Not known necessarily for their defensive prowess, the Warriors' best defender in school history is Elimimian. From Nigeria, he played LB and currently is the reigning CFL ROY.

Fresno State: Richard Marshall

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    BOISE, ID - DECEMBER 27: Heath Miller #89 of the Virginia Cavaliers carries the ball against Richard Marshall #24 of the Fresno State Bulldogs during the MPC Computers Bowl at Bronco Stadium on December 27, 2004 in Boise, Idaho. Fresno State defeated Virg
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Marshall is a solid cover corner with very good quickness and foot speed. At 5'11", 190 pounds, Marshall was a second-round pick by the Panthers and has been a solid corner for Carolina. He honed his skills at Fresno State under Pat Hill and Co.  

Virginia Tech: Bruce Smith

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    No-brainer here. Smith is one of the top defensive ends in history. The No.1 overall pick in 1985, his legend grew with the Bills, as he played in four Super Bowls.

    He totaled 200 career sacks in the NFL and is a dual Hall of Fame member. He's an 11-time All-Pro selection, and his name is in constant debate with Reggie White's as to who's the top defensive end of all time. 

Georgia Tech: Keith Brooking

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    Brooking isn't just the guy who gives those goofy pregame rant speeches for the Cowboys, he's also a very solid LB. His 467 stops at GA Tech are tops in school history, as he started his final 35 games and led the team in tackles three straight years.

    Brooking is a two-time All-Pro performer and will get some HOF consideration.

Duke: Al DeRogatis

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    DeRogatis, a stellar defensive tackle, is a college football HOF member. He was named to the All-American team in 1948 even though he missed time with a knee injury. 

    He went on to become a two-time Pro Bowler with the Giants.

Wake Forest: Aaron Curry

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    Curry was the top defensive player in the country in 2008, as he took home the Butkus and was a first team All-American and All-ACC pick. He's a 6'2", 255-pound LB that can play the "Sam" and "Will" (weakside linebacker)" and can even put his hand down and rush well.

    He should continue to develop into one of the top LBs in the NFL.

North Carolina State: Mario Williams

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    At 6'7", 290 pounds, Williams goes down as the top defender for the Wolfpack. He was an amazing athlete for such a large man, and after those who seriously questioned him being the No.1 pick to Houston in 2006, he has proven doubters wrong.

Penn State: Lavar Arrington

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    Only fitting a LB be the top defender for "Linebacker U" right? Surely that player is Arrington. One of the most athletic players you'll ever watch on tape, we all remember the "LaVar Leap" vs. Illinois.

    Injuries shut down Arrington too soon in his days with the Redskins and Giants. But he was extremely dominant at PSU. 

Boston College: Mathias Kiwanuka

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    Kiwanuka is the BC leader in sacks with 37.5 and tackles for loss with 64.5. He was the Big East DPOY in 2004 and one of the key pass-rushers for the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl-winning team.

    He has shifted back and forth between "Sam" and DE for the G-Men and is currently battling a neck injury.

Virginia: Chris Long

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    Whether you agree with the Rams selecting Long at No. 2 overall in 2008 or not, you couldn't deny his production and play at Virginia. Long has excellent technique and effort. He really showed outstanding hand usage as a Cav and had 22 sacks and 187 tackles in his career, earning first team All-American honors in 2007.

North Carolina: (tie) Lawrence Thomas and Julius Peppers

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    29 Sep 2001:  Julius Peppers #49 of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels avoids getting tackled during the game against the North Carolina State University Wolfpack at the Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The Tar Heels defeated the
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    Peppers is one of the most complete defensive ends to ever play football. At 6'7", 285 pounds and a freak athlete, Peppers can get after the passer and plug the run equally and effectively.

    Thomas is one of the greatest players of all time, regardless of position. He played a DE/LB hybrid role and is regarded as the premier pass-rusher in football history.

Arizona St.: Terrelle Suggs

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    1 Dec 2001:  Terrell Suggs #48 of the Arizona State Sun Devils rumbles around the line during the Pac-10 Conference football game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils 52-42.Mandatory Credit:
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Suggs played defensive end for the Sun Devils but plays OLB for the Ravens today. At 6'3", 260 pounds, he is one of the most exciting pass-rushers in the NFL.

    He had 163 tackles and 44 sacks for Arizona State, including tying an NCAA record of 24 in a season as a junior.

Oregon: Haloti Ngata

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    At 6'4", 350 pounds, Ngata, who is a teammate of Suggs' in Baltimore, may be the best defensive lineman in the NFL. It's debatable, but it is hard to argue that statement being completely false.

    Ngata was so dominant as a Duck that he was not allowed to be on the practice field when a practice period was focusing on the offense, because he was such a force.

Washington: Steve Emtman

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    Emtman was a big DE at 6'4", 295 pounds and was a college superstar in Seattle. A College Football HOF member, talk is Emtman was the undisputed best player on the U-Dub '91 national title team.

    Aside from being a unanimous All-American, Emtman also won the Outland, Lombardi, Willis trophies and was the UPI Lineman of the Year. He also finished fourth in the Heisman race.

Miami: Ray Lewis

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    2 Sep 1995:  Linebacker Ray Lewis of the Miami Hurricanes during the Hurricanes 31-8 loss to the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  Mandatory Credit:  Mike Powell/Allsport
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    I'll tell you a story about Ray Lewis.

    When I worked for the Giants, my boss told me a story of how when he was a scout with the Broncos, he was asked to watch film on a LB from Miami that everyone was raving about.

    My boss goes on to tell me that he watched the LB, and the player couldn't run and was not impressive at all. He writes his report and gives him a low grade. He then reads his report some time later at a draft meeting, and the rest of the scouting staff asks him what games he watched on film. 

    Come to find out the games he watched the LB play, the LB was playing with a broken leg.

    That's Ray Lewis in a nutshell.

Maryland: Randy White

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    White played fullback during his freshman year but moved to defensive end as a sophomore. His speed and quickness was his biggest asset, and White went on to win ACC POY honors, aside from Lombardi and Outland trophies in 1974.

    He's now in the College Football Hall of Fame and was the No. 2 overall pick by the Cowboys in 1975, where he became a nine-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler.

Michigan State: Bubba Smith

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    At 6'7", 265 pounds, Smith was two-time All-American for the Spartans in 1965 and 1966. He was one of the star draws in the Game of the Century game vs. Notre Dame in 1966 and had his No. 95 jersey retired by the Spartans in 2006. 

    The big DE was the No.1 overall pick by Colts in 1967 and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Michigan: Charles Woodson

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    What else can you say about Woodson? The first defensive player to win the Heisman in 1997, a big 6'1", 200-pound corner with amazing athleticism and still today is one of the top defenders in football.

    Woodson owned the year of 1997, as not only the Heisman, but the Camp, Lombardi, Tatum, Thorpe, Nagurski and Bednarik awards were also his. He's a seven-time Pro Bowler and a six-time All Pro, where he won 2009 NFL DPOY. 

Stanford: John Lynch

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    Lynch is one the top strong safeties in history. He was an extremely bright and instinctive player who may not have been the fastest or most athletic but was a great playmaker for the Bucs' great defenses in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Syracuse: Dwight Freeney

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    Freeney is one of the top defensive ends of this generation. He's almost as a big a reason for the Colts' success as Peyton Manning is and is considered one of the greatest defensive NFL players of the past decade.

    He got his start at Syracuse as an undersized, but ultra-quick defensive that wrecked havoc on Big East QB's. He's the all-time leader in sacks with 34, with another record 17.5 coming in one season as a senior.

Baylor: Mike Singletary

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    Singletary is the Bears' all-time leader in tackles for career with a silly 662 stops. Wow. He also set the season record of 232 in 1978.

    Known for his focus, drive and wide eyes, Singletary wasn't overly big, but he brought the wood at every collision and was a fierce leader and competitor.

USC: Ronnie Lott

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    OK, so when you get part of your pinky chopped off, you know you're tough. Enough said. Lott takes the top defensive honor of all-time for the Trojans, as he dabbled at both safety and corner.

    A big-time hitter, Lott defined the scouting term "plays big at the point of attack." He had solid instincts, speed and athletic ability and is one of the greatest players of all time.

Arizona: Chris McAlister

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    At 6'1", 206 pounds, McAlister combined great size with amazing athletic ability and cover skills. He was one of the greatest corners of the past decade and was a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler. He left Arizona with 18 career picks and made the first team All-Pac-10 squad three straight years.

Nebraska: Ndamukong Suh

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 5: Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers gets ready at the line during Big 12 Football Championship game against the Texas Longhorns at Cowboys Stadium on December 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty
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    Suh is a monster. At 6'4", over 300 pounds, his best trait is his strength and power, as he plays with great leverage to walk blockers back at each snap. He nearly won the Heisman in 2009 and won numerous DPOY awards ala Charles Woodson.

    He was the No. 2 overall pick by the Lions and won NFL DROY in 2010. He is regarded as one of the premier defensive talents in football, regardless of position. 

Purdue: Rod Woodson

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    Woodson is classic case of why it is so important to have instincts and smarts. He came into the league as a dominant corner, who would shut down top opposing receivers. Yet, as his world class speed diminished, he moved to safety and still was a Pro Bowler thanks to him being so smart and instinctive.

    He's one of the greatest defensive players ever, and it all started as a Boilermaker.

Notre Dame: Ross Browner

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    The Irish eyes look to Browner as their defensive stalwart, as he has more decorations than a Royal Wedding attached to his name. A big-time defensive tackle for Notre Dame, Browner was a four-year starter and won the Lombardi, Outland, UPI LOY Maxwell and was a consensus All-American as a junior and senior.

    Oh, almost forgot, he almost won the Heisman in 1977, won two national titles, had over 340 tackles, was a first-round pick by the Bengals 1978 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

UCLA: Kenny Easley

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    A standout safety, Easley left Westwood with a record 19 interceptions and 324 tackles under his belt. He made the All-American squad three straight years and even finished ninth in the Heisman race in 1980. 

    His No. 5 has been retired by the Bruins, and he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Easley went on to become fourth overall pick to the Seahawks in 1981 and was a five-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler. 

Ohio State: Jack Tatum

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    "The Assassin" came to Columbus with the intent on being a running back, but Lou Hotlz told Woody Hayes to move him to safety and the rest is history. Tatum layed the wood. Period. He was a tough and hard-nosed defender that would light a ball carrier up like a Christmas tree in December.

    He was a three-time first team All-Big Ten performer, along with a two-time All-American selection and the National DPOY in 1970—the same year he was a Heisman contender.  

Oklahoma: Lee Roy Selmon

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    Selmon was a stout defensive end and one of the great players off the 1974 squad's staunch defense. Barry Switzer called Selmon the best player he'd ever coached.

    Back-to-back national champs in '74 and '75, OU saw Selmon win the Outland and Lombardi awards and become a two-time unanimous All-American. He was the No.1 overall pick to the Bucs in 1976, was a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro.

    Not bad for a guy who just went to Oklahoma to play with his brothers, Dewey and Lucious.  

Alabama: Lee Roy Jordan

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    Jordan was two-way player for Bear Bryant as a center and linebacker. Bryant once said of Jordan, "If runners stayed between the sidelines, he tackled them." Talk about doing your job. 

    Jordan became a first-round pick to the Cowboys and was a five-time Pro Bowler.

Pitt: Hugh Green

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    A three-time All-American, Green was 6'2", 225-pound defensive end that also could play linebacker. He had 463 career tackles and 53 sacks for the Panthers, and John McKay stated "he's the most productive player I've ever seen in college."

    He became a two-time All-Pro with the Buccaneers in the early '80s. 

Florida State: Deion Sanders

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    Sanders is regarded as the greatest cover corner of all time. His athleticism, feet, burst, quickness, agility, hips, size and instincts make him one of the exciting players to ever play. His game and flare still is evident in today's game as many corners try to compare themselves to him.

    He is the last pure and true "shutdown corner." There are some great ones in the NFL today, but they aren't quite on Prime Time's level. He's the top defender to come out of talent rich Florida State, and that is a huge feat in itself as the honorable mention list is very long.

Illinois: Dick Butkus

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    I mean, the trophy is named after him, so how can Butkus not be the top defender from Illinois? At 6'3", 245 pounds, Butkus was a two-time consensus All-American, Big Ten MVP in 1963 and finished sixth in Heisman voting in 1963 and third in 1964.

    The Bears took him with the No. 3 overall pick in 1965 and he became an eight-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro and is a member of both the 60s and 70s All-Decade teams, along with the NFL 75th anniversary squad.

Clemson: Terry Kinard

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    At 6'1", 200 pounds, Kinard was  a standout safety, before Brian Dawkins came to Clemson. He left the Tigers as the leader in picks with 17 and most tackles by a defensive back with 294.

    He was forced to redshirt as a freshman due to a separated shoulder, but then all Kinard did was go on to become a two-time All-American, CBS DPOY in 1982 and College Football Hall of Famer.