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 SEC is all about running the football, playing great defense and winning championships. How do you run the ball and/or stop a great defense? With great hog mollies. The big uglies in the SEC are among the greatest of any conference and its why the SEC has been so successful in the BCS Championship Game. In particular, one school in Alabama has been a factory of sorts during the BCS Era for blockers.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones might not be the most physically gifted player to ever play in the SEC but he pretty much dominated college.
2. Chris Samuels, Alabama (1996-99, pictured)
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999 as a senior. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He entered the starting lineup during his freshman season and proceeded to start 42 straight games — without allowing a sack. Samuels was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft and went to six Pro Bowls.
3. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (2011-12)
The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. In three full seasons, Joeckel started all 39 possible career games at left tackle for Texas A&M. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. He was an all-conference pick in two different conferences and a consensus All-American. The TAMU star was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.
4. Shawn Andrews, Arkansas (2001-03)
A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03 — the only SEC player to win the award twice during the BCS Era and the first since Florida’s Jason Odom in 1994-95. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and was invited to three Pro Bowls during his seven years in the NFL.
5. Andre Smith, Alabama (2006-08)
Smith was a five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection. The Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.
6. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas (2005-08)
The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time, first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He also was a consensus All-American in '07 and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts and was a major part of one of the only two Arkansas teams to be ranked in the top five of the AP poll during the BCS Era (2006, '11).
7. Michael Oher, Ole Miss (2005-08)
One of the most high-profile linemen during the BCS Era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and helped take a team with three straight losing seasons to a nine-win campaign and a Cotton Bowl berth as a senior. Oher was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.
8. Marcus McNeil, Auburn (2002-05)
The All-American started 28 games in his four-year career, helping lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005, paving the way for one of the most talented backfields in SEC history. McNeil was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers.
9. Ben Wilkerson, LSU (2001-04)
Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. After winning the BCS title as a junior, he was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist and went undrafted in 2005.
10. Maurkice Pouncey, Florida (2007-09)
There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008 as the starting center as just a sophomore. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. Pouncey was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 and already has been to three Pro Bowls in his NFL career.
Just missed the cut:
11. Matt Stinchcomb, Georgia (1995-98)
The older Stinchcomb brother was a two-time All-American at Georgia as a junior and senior. He was awarded the Draddy Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." Stinchcomb was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1999 NFL Draft.
12. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (2010-13)
The son of NFL blocking legend Bruce Matthews, Jake paved his own impressive career path through both the Big 12 and SEC. He was a two-time All-American as an upperclassman blocking for Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and won the Jacobs Trophy as a senior. He played right tackle for three years and switched to left for his senior season as Texas A&M won 36 games during his career.
13. Chance Warmack, Alabama (2009-12)
Warmack has three BCS National Championship rings from his four-year career at Alabama — two of them as a starting blocker in 2011-12. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior, an Outland Trophy finalist and first-round pick of the Titans in the 2013 NFL Draft. He started 39 games over his final three years paving the way for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
14. Lee Ziemba, Auburn (2007-10)
The Auburn blocker was a four-year starter for the Tigers, earning freshman All-American honors in his first year. He set the school record with 52 consecutive starts and his final game on a college field was the BCS National Championship victory over Oregon in 2010. Ziemba was a consensus All-American and Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner.
15. Andrew Whitworth, LSU (2002-05)
Along with Ziemba, Whitworth started all four seasons ending with 52 career starts (which was No. 2 in NCAA history at the time). He was a two-time All-SEC selection, a freshman All-American and helped LSU claim the BCS National Championship as a sophomore.
16. Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas (1995-98)
For many reasons, Burlsworth is one of the greatest SEC linemen of all-time. The former walk-on worked his way from after thought on the depth chart to two-time, All-SEC first-teamer and an All-American as a senior. His No. 77 was just the second uniform ever retired by Arkansas and he was a four-time All-SEC Academic selection. His potential NFL career was cut short just 11 days after being drafted when he passed away in a car accident in 1999 at age 22. He was beloved by his fans and respected by his peers and is one of the SEC’s greatest walk-ons… ever.
17. Ciron Black, LSU (2006-09)
Picking up were Whitworth left off, Black started all four seasons while at LSU after Whitworth did the same in the previous four seasons. He led LSU to a BCS title in 2007 and a 40-13 overall record in 53 starts. He was a freshman All-American, three-time All-SEC selection and the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner in 2009.
18. Kendall Simmons, Auburn (1997-01)
Simmons was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick as an upperclassman in 2000 and '01. He played in every game as a true freshman and entered the starting lineup as a sophomore before missing all of the 1999 campaign. He returned to start for two years, earning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2001 as the SEC’s best offensive lineman. He was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2002.
19. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia (2002-05)
MJG was a huge part of the return to SEC greatness for the Georgia Bulldogs. He played a significant role on two SEC championship teams as a freshman and senior. Jean-Gilles was named a consensus All-American and was a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in 2006.
20. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State (2010-13)
Only one time in history has Mississippi State gone to four consecutive bowl games and Jackson was a part of all four teams. He was a four-year starter and three-time All-SEC pick from 2011-13.
Best of the rest:
21. Mike Pouncey, Florida (2007-10)
22. Ben Grubbs, Auburn (2003-06)
23. Kenyatta Walker, Florida (1998-00)
24. Wesley Britt, Alabama (2001-04)
25. Larry Warford, Kentucky (2009-12)
26. Michael Munoz, Tennessee (2000-04)
27. Aaron Sears, Tennessee (2003-06)
28. D.J. Fluker, Alabama (2010-12)
29. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (2011-13)
30. Greg Robinson, Auburn (2012-13)