Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.
So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest defensive linemen of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 defensive lineman since the BCS was implemented in 1998:
1. David Pollack, DE, Georgia
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 earning consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice in 2002 and '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 the greatest defensive lineman of the BCS era.
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
If anyone is as decorated as Pollack it’s the Boy Named Suh. The star defensive tackle from Portland (Ore.) won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award when he came up just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57 for a loss, 24 sacks and six blocked kicks.
3. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
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 wound up ninth in the Heisman voting '07 too. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27 for a loss and 13 sacks. He started 31 of his 52 career games and was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
4. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State
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 and forced six fumbles that year tool. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss, 44 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
5. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina
From a talent standpoint, few players have ever been able to match Peppers' freakish quickness and size. As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American along with Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
6. Corey Moore, DE, Virginia Tech
The undersized linebacker turned defensive end helped establish the modern era of Hokies football. By his junior season, Moore earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and 13.5 sacks for a team that beat Alabama in the inaugural Music City Bowl. A year later, Moore set the Big East single-season record with 17 sacks en route to the BCS National Championship game. He was a unanimous All-American, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award winner and earned his second Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished his collegiate career with 58.0 tackles for a loss and 35.0 sacks.
7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Certainly there is some projecting with this freakish athlete but no player has had a two-year start to a career like Clowney. He started as the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned freshman All-American honors after 36 total tackles, 12 for a loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. He refined his craft and exploded as a sophomore with 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13 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, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award recipient. Should he bring the school’s first SEC crown to Columbia, he may have a case as the greatest defensive lineman in the BCS era.
8. Chris Long, DE, Virginia
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie, Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12 for a loss and four sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, 19 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks in his final season, in which he also finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
9. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville
After a slow first two seasons in Louisville, Dumervil burst onto the national scene with a 10-sack junior campaign. That was only a glimpse of things to come, however, as Dumervil posted one of the greatest single-seasons in NCAA history. As a senior, he set the NCAA record with six sacks against Kentucky and broke Dwight Freeney’s Big East single-season record with 20 sacks. He also set the NCAA record with 10 forced fumbles and claimed Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Hendricks and consensus All-American honors. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting that year as well before going in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
10. John Henderson, DT, Tennessee
As a freshman, Henderson helped lead the Vols to the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles and 20.5 sacks — a huge number for an interior defensive lineman — in two first-team All-American seasons. He is one of just four defensive players of the BCS era to claim the historic Outland Trophy and was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
11. Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse
Starring during the glory years of Orange football, Freeney left school as a two-time, first-team All-Big East performer after setting the conference’s single-season sack record (17.5). He finished with a school-record 34 career sacks and, at one point, posted 17 consecutive games with at least one QB takedown. His record-setting 2001 campaign made him a unanimous All-American and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting. Freeney posted 51.0 tackles for a loss in a Syracuse uniform and was the 11th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
12. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks trophies. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38 tackles for a loss, 22 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American saw his career slowed by a knee injury in 2007 or else his numbers would be even higher. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS National Championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
13. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
After filling a backup role for his first two seasons, Hughes took over as a full-time starter in 2008. He recorded 18.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks and forced six fumbles en route to his first of two Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year awards. He also earned All-American honors that year. He returned to Fort Worth as a senior and posted 54 tackles and 11.5 sacks in his second MWC DPOY and All-American season. He was awarded the Hendricks and Lott Trophies in 2009 before being a late first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hughes ended his Horned Frogs career with 139 tackles, 39 for a loss, 28.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
14. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
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
15. Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American and the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
16. Lamarr Woodley, DE, Michigan
The Wolverines' terror off the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Steelers.
17. Alex Brown, DE, Florida
The two-time, first-team All-American set the school record for sacks before his Gators career ended. Brown was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped Florida claim the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47 for a loss and 33 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
18. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The No. 1 prospect in the nation battled a knee injury during his sophomore year but still posted 58 tackles — including 11 in the ACC Championship game win over Georgia Tech — 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. However, Bowers exploded as a senior by leading the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5) to go with his 67 total stops. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and claimed both the Nagurski Trophy and the Hendricks Award.
19. Rien Long, DE, Washington State
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 before leaving early for the NFL Draft, where he was a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.
20. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
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 a Morris Trophy winner and the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and a unanimous All-American in '07. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
21. Casey Hampton, DT, Texas
From 1997-2000, Hampton started 37 straight games for the Horns. He posted an absurd 329 tackles and nine forced fumbles. He was a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 before being taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
22. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
A two-time All-American, Cody helped lead Alabama back to the national championship promised land in 2009. He finished his two-year SEC career with 51 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss and two key blocked kicks. He was a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2010.
23. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
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 and earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010. The consensus All-American was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 NFL Draft.
24. Vince Wilfork, DT, Miami
Although Wilfork didn’t start until his third year, he was still a proven commodity on teams that played for a BCS national title in 2001. A track and field star as well, Wilfork was a first-team All-Big East performer and has gone onto a Hall of Fame-caliber NFL career.
25. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State
Reynolds helped lead the Seminoles to three consecutive BCS national championship games. He was named the Lombardi and Willis Trophy winners after a 58-tackle, 12-sack season in 2000. He was named a unanimous All-American and taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
26. David Ball, DE, UCLA
The Bruins' edge rusher led the nation in sacks in 2003 with 16.5 and finished with a school-record 30.5 career sacks. He was the Morris Trophy winner, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 2003.
27. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
The 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished with 157 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 26 sacks in 46 career games. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior and was taken fourth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Adams tragically passed away from cardiac arrest in 2010.
28. Corey Simon, DT, Florida State
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in the final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
29. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks before being picked 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.
30. Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida State
The four-year starter for Florida State was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003. He left Tallahassee with 247 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and a school-record 65 tackles for a loss. He was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
31. Shaun Cody, DT, USC
Consensus All-American who won back-to-back national championships with the Trojans.
32. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Star end posted 106 tackles, 36.5 TFL and 11.5 sacks in just two seasons in Madison.
33. Chad Lavalais, DT, LSU
National Defensive P.O.Y. in 2003 who won the BCS national title and started 41 career games.
34. Jevon Kearse, DE, Florida
The Freak played just one year in the BCS era but helped lead the Gators to a national title in 1997.
35. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College
Two-time All-American, Big East Defensive Player of the Year and three-time all-conference player.
36. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Played in the 2008 BCS title game and finished with 33.0 tackles for a loss and 14.5 career sacks.
37. John Abraham, DE, South Carolina
Posted 23.5 career sacks and was a first-team All-SEC performer.
38. Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin
Willis Award winner, consensus All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
39. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
All-American who won the Hendricks and Willis Awards after leading the nation in sacks (16.0).
40. Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
41. Richard Seymour, DE, Georgia
42. Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
43. Mario Williams, DE, NC State
44. Will Smith, DE, Ohio State
45. Justin Smith, DE, Missouri
46. Shaun Ellis, DT, Tennessee
47. Kevin Williams, DT, Oklahoma State
48. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
49. Tom Burke, DE, Wisconsin
50. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Next 25:
51. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
52. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
53. John Simon, DE, Ohio State
54. Devon Still, DT, Penn State
55. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
56. Kenechi Udeze, DE, USC
57. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee
58. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
59. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Boston College
60. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
61. Jared Devries, DE, Iowa
62. Demarcus Ware, DE, Troy
63. Rod Wright, DT, Texas
64. George Selvie, DE, USF
65. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
66. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
67. Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame
68. Gerard Warren, DT, Florida
69. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
70. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan
71. Dan Bazuin, DE, Central Michigan
72. Bill Swancutt, DE, Oregon State
73. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pitt
74. Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
75. Jason Babin, DE, Western Michigan
Top 50s of the BCS Era:
The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era