Best of the decade: DEs

This is the ninth in a series of articles ranking Tennessee's best players of the decade 2000-2009. Today's focus: Defensive ends.

1. WILL OVERSTREET: Known for his high-performance, non-stop motor, Overstreet started in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The 6-4, 260-pounder was All-SEC as a junior and senior and a team captain as a senior. Despite some injury problems in his final season, he posted 54, 43 and 35 tackles in his three years as a starter, finishing his career with 19 sacks, a school-record 49 quarterback pressures and an interception.

2. PARYS HARALSON: Another three-year starter (2003, 2004, 2005), Haralson was voted a team captain as a junior and senior. The 6-2, 245-pounder offset his lack of ideal size with explosive quickness. A model of consistency, he registered 44, 43 and 45 tackles in his three seasons as a starter. Haralson ranks fifth at UT in career sacks (21) and second in career pressures (44).

3. ROBERT AYERS: He teased fans with his potential for three years, then finally tapped into it as a senior in 2008 - recording 49 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception. He recorded 34 stops and 4 sacks as a junior reserve, splitting time between end and tackle. The 6-4, 275-pounder was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, despite starting just one season and recording a modest 9 career sacks.

4. CHRIS WALKER: He has started for just one season and has a year of eligibility remaining but the dynamic Memphian already earned his spot on this list. The 6-3, 245-pounder posted 42 tackles last fall, with 6 sacks and 2 interceptions - one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio University. Walker already has 9 career sacks - matching Ayers' career total - and appears primed for a huge season in 2010. He's also a tremendous team leader.

5. XAVIER MITCHELL: A starter in 2006 and 2007, this 6-2, 255-pounder was rock-solid but unspectacular. He recorded 43 tackles and 4 sacks as a junior, 51 tackles and 2 sacks as a senior. He finished with 8.5 career sacks and an interception.

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