College Football Discussion: Which School Is Defensive Tackle 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 tackle position in my series on which school should be known as Defensive Tackle U.

If you want to have a good defense, you need good interior line play from your defensive tackles and it is no surprise which schools rank at the top of the list with All-American defensive tackles.

USC rates an honorable mention when it comes to defensive tackle as the Trojans had 11 All-American defensive tackles in the past 50 years. Beginning with Al Cowlings in ’69, followed by: John Grant ’72, Gary Jeter ’76, George Achica ’82, Tim Ryan ’88-’89, Shaun Cody ’04, Mike Patterson ’04, two-time All-American Sedrick Ellis ’06-’07, Fili Moala ’08, Jurrell Casey ’10 and most recently two-time All-American Leonard Williams in 2013-14.

Michigan also rates as an honorable mention with 12 All-American defensive tackles the past 50 seasons. The Michigan All-American defensive tackles in the past 50 seasons were: Henry Hill ’70, Dave Gallagher ’73, Curtis Greer ’79, Mike Hammerstein ’85, two-time All-American Mark Messner ’87-’88, Chris Hutchinson ’92, Jason Horn ’95, William Carr ’96, Rob Renes ’99, Alan Branch ’06, Chris Wormley ’16, and two-time All-American Maurice Hurst in 2016 and 2017.

USC and Michigan don’t crack the top five schools for Defensive Tackle U because despite their list of All-Americans, neither school’s defensive tackles have won either the Lombardi or Outland Trophy in the past half-century of play.

At number five at Defensive Tackle U are the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions had 10 All-American defensive tackles beginning with Outland Award winner Mike Reid in 1969. Reid won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best football player and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting which is remarkable for an interior defensive lineman. The Lombardi Award was first presented in 1970 and if it existed in 1969, Reid would have won that too. In 1978, Penn State’s Bruce Clark would win the Lombardi Award.

After Reid, Penn State’s other All-American defensive tackles were: Randy Crowder ’73, Randy Sidler ’77, Lombardi Award winner in ’77 and two-time All-American Bruce Clark ’77 & ’78, Matt Millen ’78, Tim Johnson ’86, Lou Benfatti ’93, “Jimmy Kennedy ’02, Jared Odrick ’09 and Jordan Hill in 2012.

Continuing our countdown to which school is Defensive Tackle U, at number four is the University of Texas. Texas has had quite a few outstanding defensive tackles and in the past 50 seasons and the Longhorns had 10 named All-American beginning with Loyd Wainscott in ’68, Doug English ’74, followed by: Outland trophy winner Brad Shearer ’77, Steve McMichael ’78-’79, Lombardi trophy winner Kenneth Sims ’80-’81, another Lombardi trophy winner in Tony Degrate in ’84 and two more two-time All-Americans in Casey Hampton ’99-’00 and Rodrique Wright ’04-’05. In 2011, Kheeston Randall continued in the Texas tradition and was named All-American and the most recent Longhorn defensive tackle named All-American was Malcom Brown in 2014.

At number three in our countdown are the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska has a rich All-American tradition along the defensive front. Rich Glover was All-American in 1971 and in 1972 he won both the Outland and the Lombardi Award.  His linemate, Larry Jacobson won the Outland Trophy in ’71. Then came Husker All-American defensive tackles John Dutton ’73 and Mike Fultz ’76. In the mid ‘80s, for three consecutive seasons Nebraska had an All-American defensive tackle: Jim Skow ’85, Danny Noonan ’86, and Neil Smith ’87. Three years later, Kenny Walker ’90, then Jason Peter in ’97, and perhaps the best of them all in Outland Trophy winner Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and then most recently, two-time All American, Jared Crick in 2010 and 2011.

At number two in our countdown for Defensive Tackle U is Notre Dame. From 1969 to 1978, the Fighting Irish had an All-American defensive tackle seven of those nine seasons. The Irish All-American defensive tackles during that time were:  Mike McCoy ’69, Mike Kadish ’71, Greg Marx ’72, Mike Fanning ’74, Steve Niehaus ’74 and ’75, and two-time All-American Bob Golic ’77 and ’78. Then it was Mike Gann in ’84, Wally Kleine ’86, Jeff Alm ’89, three-time All American Chris Zordich ’88, ’89 and the Lombardi award winner in 1990 and Bryant Young in 1993. Stephen Tuitt in 2012 and Louis Nix in 2012 & 2013 and lastly, Sheldon Day in 2015.

In a slight edge over Notre Dame for Defensive Tackle U is the University of Alabama. Like the Fighting Irish, Alabama also had 14 All-American defensive tackles the past 50 seasons, but it is the current stretch of excellence that rates Alabama ahead of Notre Dame.

From 1973 to 1981, Alabama had an All-American defensive tackle seven out of those nine seasons, and once again, the Crimson Tide are currently on an impressive run at defensive tackle. Six of the past 10 years the Crimson Tide had an All-American defensive tackle.

Looking at Alabama’s list of All-American defensive tackles, it is easy to see why Alabama is Defensive Tackle U: Sam Gellerstedt ’68, Mike Raines ’73, two-time All-American Bob Baumhower ’75-’76, Marty Lyons ’78, two-time All-American Byron Braggs ’79 & ’80, Warren Lyles ’81, Jon Hand ’85, Robert Stewart ’91, Shannon Brown ’95, another two-time All-American in Terrence Cody in ’08 and ’09, Marcell Dareus in 2010, Josh Chapman in 2011, A’Shawn Robinson ’15, and Da’Ron Payne in 2017.

Alabama is Defensive Tackle U with Notre Dame sitting at number two.

Interesting fact:  Miami had 10 All-American defensive tackles since 1968, yet has not had any since Warren Sapp in 1994.

Alabama logo Photo credit: Greece Trip Admin on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Notre Dame Photo credit: glenn~ on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

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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