— Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State (6-3, 250): The first-team All-American (Sporting News) declared following his junior season. Playing all 13 games, he was second in tackles (69), first in sacks (five) and second in tackles for losses (seven) on the squad. Before the season, The Sporting News featured him under the headline "The Meanest Man in College Football." In that story, an NFL scout called the soft-spoken but short-fused Burfict "what you get after you kick Ray Lewis' dog." He idolizes Ray Lewis and, appropriately, Dick Butkus. In three seasons with 32 starts, he tallied 22.5 tackles for losses and forced four fumbles.
Part 1: 19 Quarterbacks.
Part 2: 30 Running backs.
Part 3: 47 Wide receivers.
Part 4: 14 Tight ends.
Part 5: 20 Interior offensive linemen.
Part 6: 35 Offensive tackles.
Part 7: 22 Safeties .
Part 8: 37 Cornerbacks .
Part 9: 31 Defensive tackles .
— Audie Cole, North Carolina State (6-5, 239): In his first season at middle linebacker, Cole was an honorable mention all-ACC selection after posting a team-high 132 total tackles. He notched 14 tackles for losses, six sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. He had seven double-digit tackle games, including career highs of 16 against Cincinnati and Georgia Tech. He ranks 12th in school history with 328 tackles and 10th with 15 sacks. When Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was the coach at Central Michigan, he recruited Cole to play quarterback. Cole threw for 3,285 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Monroe (Mich.) High School and was a Golden Gloves winner in boxing.
— Chris Galippo, USC (6-2, 250): Galippo, an all-USA Today first-teamer at Servite High School in Corona, Calif., broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore but couldn't hold the job. He started the final seven games as a junior and the first eight as a senior. He missed spring practice before his senior season with recurring back issues (he had back surgery in 2007 and 2008, causing him to take a medical redshirt in 2007). For his career, he tallied 166 tackles, 12 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks and six interceptions.
— Najee Goode, West Virginia (6-1, 241): Goode, a former walk-on, started on the strong side as a junior and moved into the middle as a senior. He was named the team's defensive MVP in 2011 with a team high 87 tackles and a second-ranked 14 tackles for loses. He added five sacks. His father, John, played tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. One of his brothers, Tariq, played at Youngstown State. That's where John played at is in the Hall of Fame.
Dont'a Hightower drills Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell.
Butch Dill/Getty Images
— James-Michael Johnson, Nevada (6-2, 240): Crowned by a career-high 100 tackles as a senior, Johnson finished his career with 295 tackles, nine sacks, 46 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions. He spent his final two seasons in the middle. Tough love made Johnson a tough guy, as his father told the Nevada Sagebrush. "He was about 13 or 14 and you know how boys are, they get testosterone going, so he tried to step up and get a little more argumentative with his mother," Michael Johnson said. "So, I said, ‘Well, let's do this. I'm going to teach you how to fight because at the rate you're going, we're going to have to throw down.'"
— Steven Johnson, Kansas (6-1, 237): Johnson led the Big 12 in tackles with 124 in 12 games as a senior, with six tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and an interception. Not a bad career for a walk-on from Media, Pa. — and by walk-on, this isn't your typical walk-on. During his final season at Wyoming Seminary College Prep School, he tore his ACL and LCL. So, when he arrived at Kansas, he wasn't around the football team. At the time, he lived in a general student dorm, and people would laugh when he would say he would play for the football team. He was a regular student when the Jayhawks played in the 2008 Orange Bowl, not joining the team until spring practice. He played sparingly as a freshman and was rewarded with a scholarship just before the first day of class in 2009.
— Mychael Kendricks, California (6-0, 240): Kendricks started 29 games over his final three and was named the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. In 2011, he posted a career-high 106 tackles and led the team with 14.5 tackles for losses. and three sacks. His father, Marvin, led UCLA in rushing in 1970 and 1971 and younger brother Eric led the Bruins in tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Eric had signed with UCLA when he and his dad attended the Cal-UCLA game. Mychael had a 68-yard pick-six. Eric and Marvin jumped off their feet and cheered — then remembered they were sitting in the UCLA section with fellow recruits and parents.
— Luke Kuechly Boston College (6-3, 237): Kuechly started all three seasons before entering the draft. There was nothing else to accomplish. How's this for a junior campaign: nation-high 191 total tackles and 102 solo tackles. He became Boston College's first two-time consensus All-American, and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Lott and Nagurski awards. He had at least 10 tackles in 33 consecutive games. In three years, he rang up 532 tackles. That's two short of the NCAA record (since the NCAA made tackles an official stat in 2000), with Northwestern's Tim McGarigle recording 534 over the course of four seasons. Kuechly, a three-star recruit out of St. Xavier in Cincinnati, figured he'd redshirt as a freshman but started in place of Mark Herzlich, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer, and team captain Mike McLaughlin, who had torn his Achilles.
— Travis Lewis, Oklahoma (6-2, 227): Lewis put up big tackle numbers, as well. In four seasons, he piled up 445 stops, including 51.5 for losses and seven sacks. He made a ton of big plays, with nine career interceptions and two forced fumbles. Lewis started 12 of 13 games as a senior, even though a broken big toe sustained on Aug. 9 was supposed to keep him out for eight weeks, and was voted second-team all-conference. With his tackle numbers and talkative nature, Lewis reminded some in Oklahoma of Brian Bosworth. He even broke Bosworth's team-freshman record with 144 tackles.
— Shawn Loiseau, Merrimack (6-1, 245): Loiseau broke the school record with 123 tackles as a sophomore, then broke it again with 133 tackles as a junior. As a senior, he ranked second in Division II with 121 tackles, 10.5 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks. He was named a first-team All-American and the Northeast-10 Conference's two-time defensive player of the year. His 382 career tackles are third in conference history. He's poised to become the first player drafted from a program that began in 1996.
— Caleb McSurdy, Montana (6-1, 242): McSurdy was named the Big Sky Conference's Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American after registering 131 tackles, including 9.5 for losses and four sacks, for the Griz as a senior. McSurdy is nicknamed "Dirty" — not for how he plays but for a "rookie tradition" in which the freshmen tell dirty jokes during pre-practice stretching.
— Bobby Wagner, Utah State (6-1, 232): Wagner answered questions about his small-school production by being named the North's MVP of the Senior Bowl with his seven tackles and an interception. Rather than return home to Ontario, Calif., for the summer, Wagner stayed on campus to prepare for his senior season. The hard work paid off: He led the Western Athletic Conference and ranked third in FBS with 147 tackles, and he tallied at least 10 tackles in nine of 13 games. He was named first-team all-WAC in each of his final three seasons.
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