Back for part II of the all Tennessee mash up series. Last week we made an offensive team by taking the greatest offensive units in Tennessee history. In this edition we will mash up the greatest defensive units of all time.
There have been so many great defenses over the years at Tennessee that it will be hard to narrow some of these down, but I'll do my best and at the very least generate some discussion. Just like last week I will warn you that these teams will tend to focus more on current players and units because of my age.
I have gone through a lot of records of previous players and teams, though, and will try to make a case for why I chose the following players. Here we go ...
These guys played well before my time, and probably a lot of yours. However, even the youngest of Vol fans still knows the names Kiner, Reynolds and Walker. This group also included Jamie Rotella and Ray Nettles.
Six of the linebackers on this team would go on to be All-SEC. Steve Kiner and Jackie Walker were All-SEC multiple times. Steve Kiner, Jackie Walker, Jack Reynolds and Jamie Rotella earned All-American honors. Hard to believe you have four All-American linebackers on the same team.
Defensive Line: 1999
This was pretty much a no brainer. You will be hard-pressed to find a defensive line in the history of college football that had more talent than the 1999 Tennessee team. The fact that they did not even win their own division still physically upsets me when I think about it.
To show you how talented this line was think about this: This team played more than 10 years ago and they still have four guys playing in the NFL. We all know the names of Darwin Walker, John Henderson, Will Overstreet, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Omari Hand, Bernard Jackson, Rashad Moore and Billy Ratliff. Walker, Ellis, Henderson and Overstreet were All-SEC. Henderson was a two-time First Team All American and Outland Trophy winner and runnerup. Haynesworth, Henderson and Ellis all went top 15 in the NFL draft.
Defensive Backs: 2002
This was by far the hardest unit on either side of the ball to choose. The 2002 secondary would only produce three All-SEC players; Julian Battle, Rashad Baker and Jason Allen. However, Tennessee has never produced a team with a secondary that has had as many guys who played multiple years in the NFL.
Looking back I think you see a lot of talent that didn't peak until the next level. Guys like Jonathan Wade, Jabari Greer and Gibril Wilson have had very productive NFL careers. In fact, seven guys from this secondary played three-plus NFL seasons and six are still in the league. The 2002 secondary also featured great specialists such as Mark Jones and Corey Larkins.
Well there you have it, the all-time Tennessee mash up team. Looking back over all the players listed in this article really puts into perspective the quality of players that have come through this school.
Please send rants about 1940s football players to AlexAnderson1985@gmail.com.