Best of the decade: OLBs

This is the 11th in a series of articles ranking Tennessee's best players of the decade 2000-2009. Today's focus: Outside linebackers.

1. KEVIN BURNETT: He blew out a knee in the 2002 opener vs. Wyoming but came back to start every game in 2003 and 2004, earning All-SEC and All-America honors as a senior. A two-time team captain, the 6-3, 225-pounder exhibited tremendous range and instincts, recording 90 tackles as a junior and 120 as a senior. His career numbers show 274 tackles, 8 sacks and an interception. Selected by the Dallas Cowboys in Round 2 of the 2005 NFL Draft, he is having a solid pro career.

2. ERIC WESTMORELAND: After beginning his career at safety, this Jasper product moved to linebacker and started in 1998, 1999 and 2000. One of the surest tacklers ever to play for the Vols, "E-mo" was a team captain and All-SEC performer as a senior. He logged 79 stops as a sophomore, 51 in an injury-shortened junior year and 83 as a senior. The 6-0, 210-pounder concluded his college career with 253 stops, 6 sacks and 2 interceptions. A third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2001 NFL Draft, he went on to spend six years in the pros.

3. EDDIE MOORE: Like Westmoreland, Moore came to UT as a lightly regarded in-state recruit (South Pittsburg) who blossomed into a quality player. He started in 2001 and 2002, being voted a team captain as a senior. The 6-1, 215-pounder registered 81 tackles as a junior and 101 as a senior. His career numbers include 219 tackles, 6 sacks and an interception. Taken by the Miami Dolphins in Round 2 of the 2003 NFL Draft, he played four years in The League.

4. RICO McCOY: A three-year starter (2007-09), McCoy is tied with Dale Jones for eighth place on UT's career tackle chart with 350. The 6-1, 220-pounder recorded 106 tackles as a sophomore, 87 as a junior and 119 as a senior. Oddly enough, he recorded just 2.5 sacks during his career, with one interception. McCoy was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft but has signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

5A. OMAR GAITHER: Though overshadowed by Kevin Burnett for much of his college career, this 6-1, 220-pounder still recorded 92 tackles as a junior and 78 as a senior in 2005. The two-year starter finished his time on The Hill with 210 tackles, 6 sacks and 2 interceptions. A fifth-round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2006 NFL Draft, he led the team with 170 tackles as a second-year player in '07 and is still with the franchise today.

5B. KEYON WHITESIDE: Despite starting in 2001, he had just 68 tackles and 2 sacks to show for his first three years on campus. The 6-0, 230-pounder exploded as a senior, however. Pressed into service by Burnett's Game 1 knee injury, Whiteside recorded 119 tackles, 5 sacks and 7 pass breakups in 2002. He was so impressive that season that he was a fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2003 NFL Draft. He wound up lasting three years in the pros.

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