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Athlon Sports ranks the best SEC 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.
Defensive line is where many experts point when discussing the difference between the SEC and every other conference. It's all about SEC speed... along the defensive line. Just ask Troy Smith. And while there are some elite defensive ends that have passed through the nation's best conference, what sets this league apart from others is the extremely impressive tradition at defensive tackle. As you will see below.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. David Pollack, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest defensive lineman of the BCS Era.
2. Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07)
The local kid from Baton Rouge won everything there is to win in the college ranks. He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks. He started 31 of his 52 career games and was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
3. John Henderson, Tennessee (1998-01)
As a freshman, Henderson helped the Vols capture the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks — a huge number for an interior defensive lineman — in two first-team All-American seasons. The monstrosity of a man is one of just five defensive players during the BCS Era to claim the historic Outland Trophy and was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
4. Alex Brown, Florida (1998-01)
The two-time, first-team All-American set the Gators' school record for sacks when he left school in 2001. Brown won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped lead Florida to the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47.0 for a loss and a school-record 33.0 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
5. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011-13)
Certainly his final season left much to be desired with this freakish athlete, but no player has had a two-year start to a career like Clowney. He started his career as the SEC Freshman of the Year and also earned Freshman All-American honors after 36 total tackles, 12.0 for a loss, 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles. He refined his craft and exploded as a sophomore with 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13.0 sacks to go with three more forced fumbles, as he finished sixth in the Heisman voting a year ago. He was a unanimous All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award winner. His final season wasn’t as inspiring as anticipated but he helped South Carolina to three consecutive 11-win seasons and a 33-6 overall record during his time. He finished his career with 130 tackles, 47.0 tackles for a loss, 24.0 sacks and nine forced fumbles for a team that had never won 11 games in a season before he showed up.
6. Terrence Cody, Alabama (2008-09)
A two-time consensus All-American, Cody helped lead Alabama back to the national championship promised land in 2009 (just ask Lane Kiffin). Mount Cody finished his two-year SEC career with 51 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss and two key blocked kicks. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 3 in the nation during his first season and No. 2 in the nation during his second. He was a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2010.
7. Chad Lavalais, LSU (2000-03)
After two years working as a prison guard between high school and college, it should come as no surprise that Lavalais turned into one of the toughest lineman in SEC history. He played in nine games as a true freshman and eventually started 41 of 47 possible career games. He was the National (and SEC) Defensive Player of the Year for the 2003 BCS national champions and was a consensus All-American. He finished his career with 202 tackles and 12 sacks before getting selected in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
8. John Abraham, South Carolina (1996-99)
Unfortunately, Abraham played on bad teams and that likely hurts his overall ranking. One of the more productive ends in NFL history, “The Predator” led the Gamecocks — who won 12 games during his four years — in sacks in each of his four seasons. He posted 23.5 career sacks, good for second in school history, and was taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
9. Richard Seymour, Georgia (1997-00)
A stalwart on the defensive line as a four-year letterman, Seymour was a star at Georgia before going to become one of the most decorated NFL D-lineman in history. He started 25 of his 41 career games, finishing with 223 tackles — a huge number for an interior player — 25.5 for a loss and 9.5 sacks. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and an All-American in 2000 before being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
10. Marcus Spears, LSU (2001-04)
He played both sides of the ball as an All-SEC freshman on the conference championship squad of 2001 before moving full time to the defensive line. He excelled as a sophomore (46 tackles, 3.0 sacks) before earning All-SEC honors as a junior and senior. The eventual consensus All-American helped lead LSU to the 2003 BCS title over Oklahoma’s high-flying offense. Spears was a two-time SEC champ, a BCS champ and a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2005. He finished his LSU career with 152 tackles, 34.5 for a loss, 19 sacks and an absurd four interceptions (including the game-winning touchdown against the Sooners).
Just missed the cut:
11. Nick Fairley, Auburn (2009-10)
The 2010 Lombardi Award winner was a dominant force up the middle for the BCS national champs. He posted 60 tackles, 24.0 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks from his tackle spot during the ’10 title run. Fairley’s one season was as good as any in the league’s history and it led to him being the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
12. Shaun Ellis, Tennessee (1996-99)
Taken one pick ahead of Abraham in the first round by the same team (Jets) in the 2000 NFL Draft, Ellis was a horse for the Vols on the edge. He was a force for the ’98 BCS champs, posting 40 tackles and returning his only career INT for a touchdown. He finished with 104 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss.
13. Michael Sam, Missouri (2010-13)
In just their second year in the league, Missouri’s star end became the first lineman to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor since Dorsey in 2007. He led the SEC in sacks with 11.5 and led Mizzou to an SEC East title in ’13. He finished his career with 21.0 sacks, 123 tackles and 36.0 tackles for a loss.
14. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama (2008-10)
The three-year contributor helped lead Bama back to championship contention as a junior in ’09. Dareus posted 71 tackles, 20.0 for a loss and 11.0 sacks in 33 career games and was named Defensive MVP in the 2009 BCS title bout with Texas. He was an All-SEC performer and was the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
15. Antonio Coleman, Auburn (2006-09)
All-around performer was a three-time All-SEC pick over his final three seasons. He led Auburn in sacks and tackles for loss all three seasons, finishing with 24.5 QB takedowns and 46.5 TFL. The undersized end was the leader on a team that won 33 games in four seasons.
Best of the rest:
16. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (2008-11)
Posted 19 sacks in his final two seasons after switching to end. The consensus All-American was a first-round pick.
17. Gerard Warren, Florida (1998-00)
First-round draft pick and All-American posted 159 tackles (30 TFL) and 9.5 sacks in three seasons.
18. Anthony McFarland, LSU (1995-98)
SEC Freshman D.P.O.Y., first-team All-American and 15th overall pick in the 1999 draft.
19. Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee (1999-01)
Freshman All-American was a first-round pick and three-year starter alongside Henderson.
20. Dewayne Robertson, Kentucky (2000-02)
Two-time All-SEC pick as a sophomore and junior. Was the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
21. Peria Jerry, Ole Miss (2005-08)
First-team All-American, first-round draft pick and two-time All-SEC selection.
22. Geno Atkins, Georgia (2006-09)
Classic overachiever who posted 120 tackles, 33.5 for a loss and 11 sacks for the Dawgs.
23. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (2011-12)
In just two seasons, he posted 112 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles. First-round pick.
24. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (2010-12)
Consensus All-American finished his career with 26.5 sacks in just three seasons in College Station.
25. Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss, Florida (2003-06)
All-SEC, All-Americans who led Florida to the BCS title and were first-round picks.