Top 10 Pac-12 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era

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Athlon Sports ranks the best Pac-12 defensive linemen of the BCS Era.

Top 10 Pac-12 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The Pac-12 is known for its offensive prowess and offensive fireworks but it also owns a trophy that is presented to the league's best defensive lineman. The Morris Trophy has been voted on by fellow players since 1980 in an effort to truly determine who that season's best D-lineman. And only three players during the BCS Era have won the award twice.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. That year, Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies as well. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time in league history) and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

2. Haloti Ngata, Oregon (2003-05)
Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He blocked seven kicks and led Oregon to a 10-win season in 2005 — just the school’s third such campaign in school history at the time. 

3. Will Sutton, Arizona State (2009-13)
There are only two players in the history of the Pac-12 to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and Sutton is one of them (Washington’s Steve Emtman is the other) as he claimed both the 2012 and '13 honor. Sutton was an All-American after a huge junior season in 2012 before returning to help lead Arizona State to the best record in the Pac-12 and a South Division title. He won back-to-back Morris Trophies as well as the league’s best D-liner in both seasons. From his tackle spot, he finished with 19.5 career sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss.

4. Sedrick Ellis, USC (2004-07)
Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans to four straight conference titles and two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was one of three players to ever win the Morris Trophy twice during the BCS Era, earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was a unanimous All-American in '07. Ellis finished with 144 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 48 career games for the Men of Troy. USC was 47-5 during his four years and Ellis was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

5. Stephen Paea, Oregon State (2008-10)
This strong bull in the middle is one of the greatest players in OSU history. He was a two-time Morris Trophy winner in the Pac-10, one of only five players to ever accomplish the feat in league history (three during BCS Era). Paea earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and was named a consensus All-American. He finished with 129 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks in his Beavers career. One of the strongest players in NFL Combine history, Paea was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 draft.

6. Shaun Cody, USC (2001-04)
Cody made an instant impact, earning freshman All-American honors for the ’01 Trojans. He started as a sophomore for the Orange Bowl champs before anchoring the USC defensive line on back-to-back national championship teams in 2003-04. He was a consensus All-American who earned co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the league on a perfect ’04 squad. He finished his career with 130 tackles, 31.5 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks and four blocked kicks. Cody was a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. Rien Long, Washington State (2000-02)
The All-American who stayed in his home state is one of just four defensive players to win the Outland Trophy during the BCS Era. He was a first-team consensus All-American in 2002 after posting 13.0 sacks in 2002. He left early for the NFL Draft, where he was a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.

8. Dave Ball, UCLA (2000-03)
The Bruins' edge rusher led the nation in sacks in 2003 with 16.5 and finished with a school-record 30.5 career sacks — good for 12th all-time in league history. He was the Morris Trophy winner, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American that season as well. His 16.5 sacks in 2003 are good for seventh-best all-time in Pac-12 history and Ball went on to be selected in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

9. Bill Swancutt, Oregon State (2001-04)
Among players during the BCS Era, only Suggs has more sacks than Swancutt’s 37.0 QB takedowns — which is good for sixth all-time in league history. The same can be said for tackles for a loss as his 59.5 rank sixth all-time and second to only Suggs during the BCS Era. Swancutt was Pac-10 co-Defensive Player of the Year with Shaun Cody in 2004. He is Oregon State’s all-time leader in sacks, tackles for a loss as well as forced fumbles (seven). He was a sixth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

10. Kenechi Udeze, USC (2001-03)
Udeze posted 26 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks — good for second all-time to Tim Ryan (1989) in USC history and tied for second in the league during the BCS Era (Suggs) — during the Trojans' 2003 run to a shared national championship. He tied an NCAA record with 14 career forced fumbles and finished with 53.0 career tackles for a loss — a school record and 12th all-time in league history.

Just missed the cut:

11. Andre Carter, Cal (1997-00)
One of the league’s best, Carter is ninth all-time in league history with 55.0 tackles for a loss and 10th all-time with 31.0 sacks. He won the Morris Trophy in 2000 and was named a unanimous first-team All-American. The Nagurski finalist was the seventh overall pick of the 49ers in the 2001 NFL Draft.

12. Star Lotulelei, Utah (2010-12)
The man in the middle for the Utes didn’t miss a game in his three-year Utah career. Lotulelei was the 2011 Morris Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive lineman and earned All-American honors as a senior in '12. The Utah star defender finished with 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

13. Lawrence Jackson, USC (2004-07)
Twice Jackson led the Trojans in sacks and twice helped lead the Trojans to the BCS National Championship Game. He was a terror off the edge and finished tied for 12th in league history with 30.5 sacks and is tied for 18th in league history with 52.0 tackles for a loss. He started 51 of 52 possible career games and was an All-American in 2007 before becoming the 28th overall pick in the first round of the '08 NFL Draft.]

14. Brian Price, UCLA (2006-09)
The big defensive tackle was a freshman All-American before breaking out as a sophomore the following year (14.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks). As an upperclassman, Price was a two-time, first-team all-league performer, a consensus All-American and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year before getting picked with the 35th overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.

15. Bruce Davis, UCLA (2004-07)
The hybrid end is second all-time in UCLA history behind only Dave Ball with 29.0 career sacks (17th in Pac-12 history). His 42.5 tackles for a loss rank third all-time in UCLA history behind Ball and Carnell Lake. Price totaled 33.0 tackles for a loss and 24.5 sacks over his final two seasons, earning All-American consideration both seasons. He was a third-round pick of the Steelers in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

16. Nick Reed, Oregon (2005-08)
The Morris Trophy winner finished with 29.5 sacks and 51.5 tackles for a loss.

17. Riall Johnson, Stanford (1997-00)
Seventh all-time in sacks (36.0) after back-to-back seasons with at least 13 QB takedowns. Is 12th all-time with 53.0 TFLs.

18. Mike Patterson, USC (2001-04)
Anchored middle of the Trojans line on two national title teams, three-time all-conference.

19. Inoke Breckterfield, Oregon State (1995-98)
Morris Trophy winner left school as the all-time leader in TFL (55.5) and sacks (19.5). Both since broken.

20. Scott Crichton, Oregon State (2011-13)
Posted 51.5 TFL and 22.5 sacks in just three years. Freshman All-American and two-time all-league pick.

21. Mkristo Bruce, Washington State (2003-06)
Owns single-game league record with 5.0 sacks in 2006, 15th all-time with 29.5 sacks.

22. Justin Hickman, UCLA (2003-06)
A consensus All-American who led the league in sacks (12.5) and tackles for a loss (19.0) in 2006

23. Kenyon Coleman, UCLA (1997-01)
Won the 2001 Morris Trophy after returning from a knee injury. Three-time all-league selection.

24. D.D. Acholonu, Washington State (2000-03)
Is ninth all-time with 32.5 sacks and set a school record with 16.5 in 2003.

25. Dexter Davis, Arizona State (2006-09)
Played in ASU-record 50 games with 31 sacks — 10th all-time in league history.

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