SEC FOOTBALL: Rating The SEC's All-Time D-Linemen

The Southeastern Conference first made its name in college football because of its fierce defensive teams. With tough coaches like General Bob Neyland, Bobby Dodd, Frank Thomas, Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan setting the pace, the name of the game in the SEC for decades was defense and field position. Quite naturally, the league has put out some of the best defensive players in the history of college football. This is my top-ten all-time SEC defensive linemen.

TOMORROW: Linebackers.

1. DOUG ATKINS, TENNESSEE: Most coaches and players who played against him said he was without question the meanest human being on a football field they ever saw, and that goes for college and the pros. General Neyland said it. Bear Bryant said it. George Halas said it. Atkins was 6-8 and 280 with incredible speed and agility. He simply took over games at the line of scrimmage. Teams didn't dare run to his side of the field, yet when they ran away from him he had the speed to catch people from behind. As a pass rusher he had few peers. It is said that the character T.J. Lambert in Dan Jenkins' book "Semi-Tough" is modeled after Doug Atkins. Atkins is a member of the College Football hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2. REGGIE WHITE, TENNESSEE: When Reggie White played, one side of the line simply collapsed the moment the ball was snapped. He was such a presence in the middle that just about any linebacker playing behind him was sure to have great tackle totals. Played both defensive tackle and defensive end but he was the best pass rusher in the nation from either position. He had 15 sacks in 1983 and finished his career with 32 to go with 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and he is certain to be a first ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. JACK YOUNGBLOOD, FLORIDA: He was known as a tough guy long before he played the Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams with a broken leg. Youngblood came to Florida as a fullback out of Monticello but by the time he graduated, he was the best defensive end in the nation. Although he wasn't the biggest guy (6-4, 225 at Florida … played in the NFL at about 240-245 most of his career), he never was overpowered by tackles. Quick off the ball, he had a very strong upper body so he could fight off defensive tackles. He was named to the All-SEC team for the Decade of the 1970s. He was the Most Valuable Player in the Senior Bowl after his senior season at Florida. Florida didn't keep sack statistics until the mid-1970s but it's pretty likely he would be the school leader by a wide margin if stats had been kept. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

4. BRUISER KINARD, OLE MISS: Other than Archie Manning, Bruiser is the greatest player in Ole Miss history. He was the first All-America player at Ole Miss, winning first team honors in 1936 and 1937. He played offensive and defensive tackle. A dominator on both sides of the ball, he was best known for his defensive play. He was named to the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame, selected to the All-Time All-America team by the All-America board and is a member of the Walter Camp Foundation's All-Century team (20th). He was selected to the All-Time SEC team by the Football Writers Association of America. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. TRACY ROCKER, AUBURN: Rocker became the first player from the Southeastern Conference to win both the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award in 1988. Too quick off the ball for any one lineman to handle, he was double and triple teamed his entire career, yet in his four years as a starter on some of the nation's top defensive teams, Rocker recorded 354 tackles which is most impressive for an interior defensive lineman. He had 48 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. In 1988, when he won the Lombardi and Outland trophies, he had 100 tackles. He was three times a First Team All-SEC at defensive tackle and he made All-America First Team in 1987 and 1988. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

6. DAVID POLLACK, GEORGIA: He came to Georgia as an undersized defensive tackle and an oversized fullback. Moved to defensive end his freshman year, he began a four year reign of terror in the SEC. He made All-SEC First Team three times and he was a three year selection for First Team All-America. He won the Lombardi Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation's top defensive player), the Ronnie Lott Trophy (biggest impact player on defense) and the Ted Hendricks Trophy (nation's best defensive end) in 2004. He also won the Hendricks Trophy in 2003. He had 36 sacks in his career along with 58 additional tackles for loss. He intercepted four passes, had 18 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and he also had 283 career tackles. First team All-America 2002, 2003 and 2004. Coming to a College Hall of Fame near you someday.

7. BILL STANFILL, GEORGIA: Stanfill was one of the top pass rushers in the nation in the 1960s. He came to Georgia as a fullback and left Georgia as a pass rushing phenom who recorded 67.5 sacks in only three years. He won the Outland Trophy in 1968 as the nation's top lineman. He was also Academic All-America in 1968. Second team All-SEC in 1966, he was a First Team All-SEC selection in both 1967 and 1968. A Pro Bowl defensive end with the Miami Dolphins, he was a key member of the Dolphins 17-0 season in 1972, the only perfect season in pro football history. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

(TIE) 8. ERIC CURRY, ALABAMA: The leader of that great Alabama defense which carried the Crimson Tide to the 1992 National Championship, Curry was selected the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. He was a tremendous pass rusher with a penchant for big plays at critical points in the game. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He finished his career with 61 tackles for loss to go with 22.5 quarterback sacks. He had 10.5 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures in the 1992 championship season. First Team All-SEC in 1991 and 1992, he was First Team All-America in 1992.

(TIE) 8. E.J. JUNIOR, ALABAMA: Junior was a First Team All-SEC selection from 1978-80. He was one of the great defensive players on Alabama's back to back national championship seasons in 1979 and 1980. He was selected the SEC Lineman of the Year in 1980. For his career he had 21 quarterback sacks to go with 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He forced 10 fumbles in his career. Junior was a finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1980. He made First Team All-America in 1980.

(TIE) 10. ART STILL, KENTUCKY: A four-year starter at defensive end, Still finished his college career with 327 tackles. Teams always ran away from him but he had the speed to run down people from behind. This was not a big era for passing in the SEC so his sack totals are not great but he was indeed one of the most feared defensive linemen in the nation. He had 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 1976 and 22.5 in 1977. He made First Team All-SEC in 1976 and 1977. He was All-America First Team both of those years as well.

(TIE) 10. JOHN HENDERSON, TENNESSEE: The winner of the 2000 Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman, Henderson spent his entire career fighting off double teams. He was a finalist in 2000 for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation's defensive player of the year. He finished his career with 20.5 sacks, but it was in 2000 that he put together his best season with 12 sacks. He was a First Team All-SEC selection in both 1999 and 2000. He made First Team All-America in 1999 and 2000.

SPECIAL MENTION:

BILLY RAY SMITH, JR., ARKANSAS: Because he never played in the SEC, he only merits special mention. His daddy was an All-Southwest Conference defensive lineman who had a great pro career with the Baltimore Colts. Billy Ray Jr. was even better, earning First Team All-America in both 1981 and 1982. He had 63 career tackles for loss. Until 1983, Arkansas didn't differentiate between a sack and a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He was a dominating defensive end who could take away one side of the field. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

LOYD PHILLIPS, ARKANSAS: Like Smith, he never played in the SEC so he only gets special mention for his achievements. He won the Outland Trophy in 1966. He finished his career with 304 tackles, which is phenomenal for a defensive tackle. In 1966, he had one of the greatest games ever by a defensive linemen in college football history with 22 solo tackles. He was First Team All-America in 1965 and 1966. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. 98 tackles and 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

DAN HAMPTON: In his All-America season of 1978, he had 98 tackles and 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

HONORABLE MENTION: John Mitchell, Alabama; Leroy Cook, Alabama; Marty Lyons, Alabama; Jon Hand, Alabama; John Copeland, Alabama; Wayne Martin, Arkansas; Ken Rice, Auburn; David Rocker, Auburn; Lynn Matthews, Florida; Brad Culpepper, Florida; Kevin Carter, Florida; Trace Armstrong, Florida; Alex Brown, Florida; Richard Seymour, Georgia; Freddie Gilbert, Georgia; George Brodnax, Georgia Tech; Bill Healy, Georgia Tech; Lamar Wheat, Georgia Tech; Billy Martin, Georgia Tech; Lou Michaels, Kentucky; Howard Schnellenberger, Kentucky; Ken Kavanaugh, LSU; Barney Poole, Ole Miss; Jim Dunaway, Ole Miss; Jim Urbanek, Ole Miss; Glen Collins, Mississippi State; Andrew Provence, South Carolina.


Fightin Gators Top Stories