College Football Discussion: Which School Is Defensive End U?

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John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive end position in my series on which school should be known as Defensive End U.

When it comes to choosing which school is Defensive End U, a school needed at least nine defensive ends named All-American in the past 50 years and only five schools managed to do that.

Number five on our list as Defensive End U is the University of Texas. The Longhorns nine All-American defensive ends over the past 50 years were:  Bill Atessis ’70, Shane Dronett ’91, Tony Brackens ’95, two-time All-American Cory Redding ’01 & ’02, Tim Crowder ’06, Brian Orakpo ’08, Sam Acho ’10, Alex Okafor ’11, and Jackson Jeffcoat in 2013.

The Oklahoma Sooners also had nine defensive ends make All-America teams and those Sooners were: Jimbo Elrod ’75, Kevin Murphy ’85, Darrell Reed ’87, Cedric Jones ’95, Dan Cody ’04, two-time All-American Jeremy Beal ’09 & ’10, Frank Alexander ’11, Ronnell Lewis ’11 and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in 2017.

However, neither Oklahoma nor Texas had a Lombardi Award winning defensive end in the past 50 seasons which kept them from being on par with the number three school on our list, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The nine Nittany Lion defensive ends that made All-American were: Bruce Bannon ’72, Mike Hartenstine ’74, Walker Lee Ashley ’82, and then seemingly every three years beginning with Courtney Brown in ’99, another Penn State defensive end would be named All-American. Then came Michael Haynes in ’02, Tamba Hali in ’05, Aaron Maybin in ’08, Devon Still in 2011 and most recently Lombardi Award winner Carl Nassib in 2015.

If you think of great college football defensive lines, one must think of Alabama. In the ‘70s, Alabama was definitely Defensive End U. From 1971 to 1982, Alabama had a defensive end named All-American nine of those 12 years. Beginning with Robin Parkhouse in 1971, John Mitchell in ‘72, John Croyle in ‘73, Leroy Cook in ’74 and ’75, Wayne Hamilton in ’77 and E.J. Junior in ’79 and ’80 and lastly Mike Pitts in ’82. In the ‘90s, it was Dameian Jeffries ’91, John Copeland ’92, Eric Curry ’92, Michael Myers ’96, Chris Hood ’97 and most recently it was 2016 Lombardi Award winner Jonathan Allen.

With Alabama only having one defensive end named All-American since 1998, the choice for Defensive End U is Florida State.

The Seminoles first All-American defensive end in the past 50 seasons was Willie Jones in 1978. Since then, Florida State had 11 All-American defensive ends, and in the ‘90s, FSU could claim to be Defensive End U for the decade with a Seminole named All-American five times from 1993-1997. Those players were: Derrick Alexander ’93-’94, Peter Boulware ’96, Reinard Wilson ’96, and Andre Wadsworth in 1997.  Then along came Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds in 2000, and Alonzo Jackson in 2002, and in the last 10 seasons, the Seminoles once again have asserted their claim as Defensive End U with All-Americans Everette Brown in 2008, Brandon Jenkins in 2010 & 2011, Bjoern Werner in 2012, Mario Edwards in 2014 and DeMarcus Walker in 2016.

Florida State is Defensive End U with Alabama a close number two.

Interesting fact:  Notre Dame has not had a defensive end named All-American since Frank Stams in 1988.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Oklahoma Photo credit: 22860 on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Penn State Photo on Visual Hunt

Texas sign Photo credit: wallyg on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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John Baranowski

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

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