SEC FOOTBALL: Rating The SEC's All-Time Best LBs

With its reputation for hard hitting defenses throughout the years, it is no wonder that any list of the best all-time linebackers in the Southeastern Conference is loaded with members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

The all-time list of best SEC linebackers includes some of the best who ever played the game and a two (Wilber Marshall and Derrick Thomas) who revolutionized the game in some respects because they were so good at rushing the passer, physical enough to stuff the run and fast enough to run plays down from behind. Here is my all-time best list of SEC linebackers.

TOMORROW: Defensive backs.

1. LEE ROY JORDAN, ALABAMA: Not only was he the best offensive lineman in the history of the SEC, he was also the best linebacker. He was a tackling machine who just didn't make mistakes. In the Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma after the 1962 season, Jordan graded an astounding 100 percent at center, but it was on the defensive side of the ball that he made his mark with 31 unassisted tackles. Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson called it the greatest game ever played by a college football player. Some schools kept defensive statistics and some didn't in those days so there is no accurate accounting for his total tackles in his career, but Bear Bryant said "if they stay in the boundaries, Lee Roy will get 'em." Selected to the all-time SEC team. Played on a national championship team in college and won two Super Bowl rings in the NFL. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2. WILBER MARSHALL, FLORIDA: Big, fast and mean, he totally took one side of the field away. By the time he was a senior, nobody ran the ball in his direction but even then he turned chasing the play down from the backside into an art form. He was the most dominating defensive player in the nation his junior and senior seasons. Came to Florida as a tight end but was moved to linebacker his sophomore year and he flourished at the position. He had 343 tackles in his Florida career with 23 sacks and another 35 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He was selected First Team All-SEC for three years (1981-83) and made First Team All-America in 1982 and 1983.

3. STEVE KINER, TENNESSEE: Out of Tampa, Kiner was a tackling machine before Tennessee kept defensive stats (they started keeping them in 1971). He helped to lead Tennessee to two Southeastern Conference championships and was the ring-leader of a Tennessee defense that overwhelmed Alabama in 1967 (24-13 win) and 1968 (10-9 in one of the greatest defensive struggles ever seen in the SEC). Tennessee never allowed 200 points in a season while Kiner was the anchor in the middle for the UT defense and in 1967, the Vols held opponents to 93 total yards per game. He made First Team All-SEC in 1968-69 and was First Team All-America in 1968-69. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

4. CORNELIUS BENNETT, ALABAMA: Bennett was a three-time First Team All-America (1984-86). A big play specialist, Bennett seemed to come alive in the fourth quarter when games were on the line. Blessed with tremendous speed and great hands, he was famous for grabbing running backs by the shoulder pads and slinging them down. He was the SEC Player of the Year in 1986. He won the Lombardi Trophy in 1986 and finished seventh in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. He had 287 career tackles which included 15 sacks and another 23 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. First Team All-SEC from 1984-86. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

5. WOODROW LOWE, ALABAMA: Lowe is one of two Alabama players (Bennett is the other) who made First Team All-America three times. He was an undersized linebacker at 211 pounds, but he compensated for his lack of size with his incredible speed. He had 315 career tackles with 134 in 1973. In that season he had three interceptions and six sacks. He made First Team All-America from 1973-75, helping to lead Alabama to the national championship in 1973. Alabama went 43-5 during his four years as a starter. He was also a First Team All-SEC from 1973-75. Lowe is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

6. DERRICK THOMAS, ALABAMA: The "Sackman" was a second team All-America in 1987 and a unanimous choice for First Team All-America in 1988. He had 18 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a junior and an incredible 27 sacks and an additional 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a senior. For his career, he had 204 tackles, 52 sacks good for 408 yards in losses and 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, good for 119 yards in losses. He also holds the record in pro football for seven sacks in one game. Thomas was a scary combination of size (6-3, 235) and speed (sub 4.5) who dominated games. First Team All-SEC 1987 and 1988. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

7. FRANK EMANUEL, TENNESSEE: Emanuel was the linebacker whose great play led UT to be called Linebacker U in the 1960s. A ferocious tackler, he was known for never being out of position to make a play. It was his play at the goal line in 1965 that allowed Tennessee's underdog Vols (20 point dog in this game) to tie Alabama, 7-7. He was a great tackler that many compared in intensity and style to the great Lee Roy Jordan. Emanuel is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

8. MAXIE BAUGHAN, GEORGIA TECH: In an era of one-platoon football, Baughan was the center on offense and the middle linebacker on defense. Known as one of the hardest hitters ever to play in the SEC, he was a dominator for Coach Bobby Dodd, racking up 124 unassisted tackles in 1959. He was SEC Lineman of the Year in 1959 and First Team All-SEC in 1958 and 1959. First Team All-America in 1959. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

9. D.D. LEWIS, MISSISSIPPI STATE: Even though he played on teams that had losing records all three years he was on the varsity (7-23 overall) D.D. Lewis was very well known. Bear Bryant called him the best linebacker in the country in 1967 and Vince Dooley said he was the best he saw all year. Mississippi State didn't keep defensive stats until 1969 so there are no official records for tackles for Lewis, but considering how poorly the Bulldogs front line was in an era when everyone ran the ball 80 percent of the time, his tackle totals were probably off the charts. First Team All-SEC 1966 and 1967, First Team All-America in 1967. He is a member of the College football Hall of Fame.

10. ALONZO JOHNSON, FLORIDA: He was a first team All-America selection in 1984 and 1985. Known for his tremendous speed, he racked up 27 career sacks and 335 career tackles. He is second all-time at Florida behind Wilber Marshall in total tackles for loss with 28 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to go with his sacks. He had 106 tackles in 1985 with 12 sacks and another seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Hall, Alabama; Thomas Boyd, Alabama; Keith McCants, Alabama; Dwayne Rudd, Alabama; Greg Carr, Auburn; Ken Bernich, Auburn; Aundray Bruce, Auburn; Takeo Spikes, Auburn; Ralph Ortega, Florida; David Little, Florida; Jevon Kearse, Florida; Warren Capone, LSU; Michael Brooks, LSU; Roy Winston, LSU; Johnie Cooks, Mississippi State; Kalimba Edwards, South Carolina; Jack Reynolds, Tennessee; Jamie Rotella, Tennessee; Jackie Walker, Tennessee; Keith Delong, Tennessee; Al Wilson, Tennessee; Chip Healy, Vanderbilt; Jamie Duncan, Vanderbilt.

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