Best of Fulmer era - DEs

Tennessee opponents spent most of their time from 1995 through '97 literally looking out for No. 1.

That was the number Leonard Little wore while terrorizing opposing quarterbacks for the '95, '96 and '97 Vols. Little's career total of 28 sacks is topped by just one player in Big Orange history – the late Reggie White, arguably the greatest pass rusher in the game's history.

The fact that Little fell just four sacks shy of White's career total is even more telling when you consider that he missed five games of his junior year with a knee injury and played most of his senior year at middle linebacker.

Given all of the above, Little clearly is the best defensive end of the Phillip Fulmer era (1992-present). After No. 1, though, there's plenty of room for debate. Regardless, here is my ranking of the starting defensive ends of the Fulmer era:

1. Leonard Little (1995-97): The numbers tell the story. He recorded 62 tackles with 11 sacks in '95, 33 tackles with 8.5 sacks in '96 and 87 tackles with 8.5 sacks in '97. A two-time All-SEC pick, he earned All-America recognition as a senior. Because he was somewhat undersized at 6-3 and 245 pounds, he lasted until the third round of the '98 NFL Draft.

2. Will Overstreet (1999-2001): Since these picks are based on what guys did in college – not the NFL – this three-year starter gets the nod. Iron Will's non-stop motor enabled him to record 54 tackles with 7.5 sacks in '99, 43 tackles with 4.5 sacks in '00, 35 tackles with 5 sacks in '01. In addition to 17 career sacks, he registered a school-record 49 hurries. Tabbed All-SEC in 2000 and 2001, he was a third-round NFL Draft pick.

3. Jonathan Brown (1996-97): Sure, he benefited from being on the flank opposite Leonard Little. Still, Brown put up some impressive numbers of his own – 39 tackles with 6.5 sacks in '96, 37 tackles with 13.5 sacks in '97. His '97 sack total still stands as the second-best single-season mark in program history. Voted All-SEC as a senior, he was a third-round NFL Draft pick the following spring.

4. Steve White (1994-95): Perhaps the most underrated end in UT history, White provided outstanding speed off the edge. His pass-rushing ability helped him record 7 sacks among his 43 tackles in '94 and 9 sacks among his 35 tackles in '95. He was a sixth-round NFL Draft pick.

5. Shaun Ellis (1998-99): You're wondering how a guy who was the 12th player selected in the 2000 NFL Draft ranks so low, aren't you? Remember: This is about what guys did in college, and Ellis had just one good year as a Vol. He recorded just 40 tackles and 1 sack in '98 before having a breakout senior season with 42 tackles and 8.5 sacks in '99. Tabbed All-SEC in '99, he really wasn't an impact player previous to that.

6. Parys Haralson (2003-05): He had a Leonard Little frame and a Leonard Little motor but, unfortunately, lacked the Leonard Little explosiveness. Still, Haralson was a very productive college player. The three-year starter registered 44 tackles with 4.5 sacks in '02, 43 tackles with 7 sacks in '04, 45 tackles with 8.5 sacks in '05. A fifth-round NFL Draft pick, he is playing linebacker in the pros.

7. James Wilson (1992-93): Like Steve White, Wilson made a high percentage of his hits on opposing quarterbacks. He contributed 8.5 sacks among his 41 tackles in '92 and 7.5 sacks among his 34 tackles in '93.

8. Ben Talley (1994): After starting at linebacker in 1992 and '93, Talley bulked up and became a force at end as a senior. He recorded 72 tackles and 5.5 sacks, numbers which got him picked in Round 4 of the NFL Draft.

9. Corey Terry (1997-98): He wasn't much of a pass rusher but he was an ultra-productive tackler, recording 114 stops in his two years as a starter. The breakdowns: 56 tackles with 4 sacks in '97 and 58 tackles with 4 sacks in '98. He was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick.

10. Constantin Ritzmann (2003): Originally from Berlin, "The Germanator" struggled with injuries for a couple of years, then blossomed as a senior, recording 52 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He was not taken in the NFL Draft but managed to stick for a couple of years as a free agent.

Other starting ends of the Fulmer era:

Demetrin Veal (2002): 41 tackles with 3 sacks ... seventh-round NFL pick

Horace Morris (1993): 31 tackles with 8 sacks ... fifth-round NFL pick

Jason Hall (2005): 51 tackles with 7 sacks ... not drafted

Xavier Mitchell (2006-07): 43 tackles with 4 sacks in '06, 51 tackles with 2 sacks in '07 ... not drafted

Omari Hand (2002): 68 tackles with 2 sacks ... not drafted

Antonio Reynolds (2006-07): 37 tackles with 1 sack in '06, 31 tackles with 3 sacks in '07 ... not drafted

Bernard Jackson (2001): 40 tackles with 3 sacks ... not drafted

Karlton Neal (2004): 21 tackles with 3 sacks ... not drafted

DeAngelo Lloyd (2000): 29 tackles with 1 sack ... not drafted

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