Top DTs, picks 1-5

College football has undergone tremendous changes during the past 40 years but one thing hasn't changed: Defensive tackles who can shut down the run are still worth their weight in gold. Except for strong-armed quarterbacks, they may be the most valuable commodities in the game.

I think the guys I've singled out as Tennessee's top five defensive tackles/middle guards of the 1964-2004 time frame match up pretty well with the top five from any school in America during that span. It's an imposing list that features some names I'm sure you'll recognize. Each of the five was an All-American, a first-round NFL Draft pick or both.

Here they are:

5. JESSE MAHELONA: Since this all-star list encompasses the years 1964-2004, I'm focusing mostly on Jesse's junior season of 2004. Still, he was so impressive that fall – leading the Southeastern Conference with 18.5 minus-yardage stops, earning All-SEC recognition from The Associated Press and All-America recognition from Sporting News – that he has to be listed. He was a marked man as a senior but still enjoyed a solid year in '05. He recently was drafted in Round 5 by the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

4. ALBERT HAYNESWORTH: After underachieving as a freshman and sophomore, Big Al blossomed as a junior in 2001. He recorded 11.5 tackles for loss, three more than heralded teammate John Henderson, and batted down seven passes, four more than Henderson. Electing to bypass his senior year of college, Haynesworth was tabbed by the Titans with the 15th pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. He recently was rated one of the NFL's top players under age 25 by former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt.

3. STEVE DeLONG: A two-way starter in 1963, DeLong focused on defense when Tennessee switched to two-platoon football in ‘64. He promptly won the Outland Trophy as the nation's premier interior lineman. A two-time All-SEC pick, DeLong was tabbed All-America by Football News and the Football Writers as a junior, then won consensus A-A honors as a senior in '64. A first-round draft pick, he went on to play eight seasons as a defensive lineman in the AFL and NFL.

2. JOHN HENDERSON: A starter in 1999, 2000 and 2001, Big John was first-team All-SEC and a consensus All-American in '00 and '01. A two-time finalist for the Outland Trophy, he won it as a junior. Selected by Jacksonville with the ninth pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Henderson has turned out to be a first-rate professional.

1. REGGIE WHITE: Slowed by injuries his first three years at UT, the "Minister of Defense" made up for lost time as a senior in 1983, recording a school record for sacks (15) that stands to this day. Voted All-SEC and All-America that year, he was the single most dominating defender that year I've ever seen. The fourth player picked in the 1984 NFL Draft, White spent two years in the World Football League, then 12 distinguished seasons with the NFL's Eagles and Packers. A perennial all-pro, he was considered by many the finest defensive player of his era and the greatest pro defensive end of all time. Now deceased, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this summer.

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