Note: All heights and weights are from the school, unless noted.
Kiko Alonso, Oregon: Alonso (6-4, 242) turned his life and career around after a DUI arrest in February 2010, a knee injury sustained during drills that spring and a burglary charge (that was reduced to criminal trespass in a plea deal that earned him two years probation and 200 hours of community service. Down to his final chance, he made the most of it. He finished second on the team with 81 tackles and led the way with 14 tackles for losses. Alonso's first name is Kristin — pronounced "Krees-tee-ahn," not that it mattered to teasing grade-schoolers.
Sam Barrington, South Florida: Barrington (6-1, 230) was a three-year starter who earned second-team all-Big East honors as a senior. His senior totals of 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles improved his career marks to 258 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles. He was arrested in November for driving with a revoked license. It was the fourth time arrest for driving with a revoked or suspended license.
Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers: Beauharnais (6-1, 236 at Senior Bowl), the starting middle linebacker and a team captain, contributed 83 tackles, one sack and six tackles for losses. He was a three-year starter at Rutgers, which was the only FBS-level school to offer a scholarship. Interestingly, he was one of 12 finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker, but didn't finish in the top six in all-conference voting.
Jonathan Bostic, Florida: Bostic (6-1, 246) started 32 games for his career, finishing with 237 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 7.5 sacks, five interceptions and two fumbles. He started all 13 games at middle linebacker the past two seasons. He was second-team all-SEC with 68 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, three sacks and two interceptions. Remarkably, Bostic posted a 4.0 grade-point average this fall.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State: Brown (6-1, 231) was five-star recruit from Wichita, Kan., who pursued his dream and played for Miami. He played sparingly in his first two seasons and transferred to Kansas State. In 2011, Brown and his brother, another five-star recruit who had transferred from Tennessee, played together. This season, Brown was named the Big 12's defensive player of the year, earned some All-American recognition and was a Butkus semifinalist with 100 tackles and two interceptions. While he sat out because of injury, he was the first Kansas State player invited to the Senior Bowl since Jordy Nelson.
Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi: Collins (6-3, 245 at Senior Bowl) was first-team all-Big 12 and earned some All-American recognition. Playing a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Collins led the team in tackles with 92 and ranked first in C-USA in tackles for losses (20.0) and third in sacks (10.0), which both rank fifth on the school's single-season chart. He added four forced fumbles for a team that finished 0-12. He started his college career as a defensive back.
Zaviar Gooden, Missouri: Gooden (6-1, 233 at Senior Bowl), a graduate student, started for a third consecutive year. He played in 10 of 12 games (missing two games with a hamstring), finishing with 61 tackles, four tackles for losses and an interception. Gooden, an all-district running back and safety at Pflugerville (Texas) High, started his career at Missouri playing safety before moving to linebacker for his redshirt freshman season. Gooden wore No. 25i n honor of former Missouri football player Aaron O'Neal, who died after a practice in 2005. Each year, one player is selected to wear No. 35 in O'Neal's memory.
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers: Greene (6-1, 236 at Senior Bowl), perhaps the best defender in school history, led the team with six sacks, 12 tackles for losses, 136 tackles and a whopping six forced fumbles, earning Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. It was quite an encore from 2001, when he was the co-Defensive Player of the Year with 141 tackles and 14 tackles for losses. It's an incredible transformation for a player who started at safety in 2010.
Brandon Hepburn, Florida A&M: Hepburn (6-4, 235) led the Rattlers with 86 tackles and 5.5 sacks, wa second with seven pass breakups and 4.5 sacks, and was named to the Allstate/AFCA Good Works Team. When he's not tackling running backs, he's the president of the Rattler Association of Chemists and during his summer internship found a way to kill certain cancer cells in rats using copper-loaded nanoparticles.
Gerald Hodges, Penn State: Hodges (6-2, 237) was all-Big Ten the past two seasons. As a senior, he finished fifth in the Big Ten with 109 tackles and added 8.5 tackles for losses, two interceptions and seven passes defensed. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. He missed most of 2010 with a broken leg. How athletic is Hodges? The former safety was used as a kickoff and punt returner against Ohio this season.
Devonte Holloman, South Carolina: Holloman (6-2, 241), a five-star recruit and the nation's No. 2 safety coming out of high school, played safety and the safety/linebacker hybrid "spur" position over his three years in the starting lineup. He finished his career with 207 tackles and seven interceptions. He was charged with DUI in June 2011.
Jelani Jenkins, Florida: Early entrant. Jenkins played in 36 games, including 31 starts, and totaled 182 tackles, 16.5 tackles for losses, six sacks and three interceptions. A thumb injury and a broken toe limited him to nine games this season and he managed only 29 tackles. The highlight of his season was returning a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 2 seconds left to beat Louisiana. At Our Lady Good Counsel in Olney, Md., he was Maryland's two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and the first player in the 71-year history of the District's Pigskin Club to win Defensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year with a 4.0 GPA.
Nico Johnson, Alabama: Johnson (6-3, 245), a rugged run-stopper in the middle of the Tide's 3-4 defense, finished third on the team with 55 tackles and second with two forced fumbles, even though he was removed in the sub packages. A finalist for the high school Butkus Award, Johnson was a three-year starter for Alabama. Johnson mourned the death of his mother in 2010 and, before this year's championship game, his beloved uncle Duke, who kept him on the right path.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia: Early entrant. Jones (6-3, 241) was a finalist for the Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski, Butkus and Lott awards, a two-time All-American and a likely top-five pick. He started all 26 games over the past two seasons and recorded 28 sacks during that span. A consensus first-team All-American in 2012, he piled up 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for losses and seven forced fumbles. The sacks and TFLs set school records. He sat out 2010 after transferring from USC, which wouldn't clear him from a neck injury, and was first-team All-American in 2011 with 13.5 sacks and 19.5 TFLs. In 2005, Jones' older brother, Darcell Kitchens was murdered on his 19th birthday. Jones said it "killed him inside" that he didn't try to talk Kitchens from going out that night.
A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein (6-2, 248) was a unanimous first-team all-Big 12 selection and was an honorable mention for Defensive Player of the Year, an award he won as a junior. The native of Kimberly, Wis., was a tackling machine with 117 stops and an interception as a senior. He finished his career with 368 tackles and tied the NCAA linebacker for a linebacker with four pick-sixes. He also was all-Big 12 in academics and a candidate for the Senior Class Award.
Jake Knott, Iowa State: Knott was first-team all-Big 12, as well, doing so even after missing the final four games with a shoulder injury that required surgery. In eight games, he tallied 79 tackles, six tackles for losses, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He piled up 347 tackles — fifth-most in Big 12 history — eight interceptions and forced 10 fumbles for his career. Knott was supposed to have his shoulder surgery on a Friday. He asked the medical staff to push it back to a Monday so he could play one final game. He had 11 tackles and forced a fumble against Baylor to win Big 12 defensive player of the week.
John Lotuelei, UNLV: Lotuelei (6-0, 235) was named first-team all-Mountain West in his first season as a full-time starter. The team captain piled up 120 tackles, the 10th-most in school history. His younger brother, Tau, redshirted this season as a freshman linebacker for UNLV.
Brandon Magee, Arizona State: Magee (6-0, 228) closed his career with 113 tackles in 12 games, with his 9.4 tackles per game ranking second in the Pac-12. The second-team all-conference selection added 6.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for losses, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also started in 2010 but tore his Achilles in 2011 preseason camp and missed the season. Magee was a 23rd-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2012 and has signed a contract, but the Sox agreed to let Magee play his senior season.
Michael Mauti, Penn State: Mauti (6-2, 232) had his 2009 and 2011 seasons ruined by torn ACLs, one in each knee. He rebounded with a bang, winning the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award as the Big Ten's top linebacker and earning some All-American honors. The Butkus Award semifinalist was the only Big Ten player ranked in the top 10 in the conference in tackles (96), interceptions (three) and forced fumbles (three). He added 2.5 sacks and four tackles for losses. How much does football mean? Ask Ted Thompson about the mail he received.
Lerentee McCray, Florida: A full-time starter for the first time, McCray finished with 25 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, three sacks and an interception. He tallied 65 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles for his career. McCray is the man of the house with a single mother, an older brother in prison and a 17-year-old at home.
Kevin Minter, LSU: Early entrant. Minter (6-2, 245) was a Butkus Award finalist, All-American and team MVP after piling up 130 tackles. His 15 tackles for loss led the Tigers and ranked No. 4 in the SEC ... It also tied for ninth on the LSU all-time single-season list. Against Florida, he had 20 tackles (second-most in school history) and 19 solo stops (most of anyone in the nation). He added 19 tackles in the bowl game against Clemson. Minter's stellar in the classroom, too; he's all-SEC in academics and earned his degree in December.
Nick Moody, Florida State: Moody (6-2, 237) was a part-time starter at safety as a sophomore and junior before moving to linebacker for his senior season. He finished with 20 tackles and 1.5 tackles for losses.
Sio Moore, Connecticut: Moore (6-1, 240) posted a strong finish to his career with 72 tackles and team-leading figures of eight sacks, 15 tackles for losses and 11 pass breakups. In 2011, he had three interceptions and forced two fumbles. Over his last two seasons, he chalked up 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for losses. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster after a strong week at the Shrine Game. Born in Liberia during its civil war, he came to the States when he was 5 months old. His full first name is Sinorsio, which means "God is the greatest."
Alec Ogletree, Georgia: Early entrant. A part-time starter in 2011 (at linebacker) and 2010 (safety), Ogletree (6-3, 232) led the Bulldogs this season with 111 tackles despite missing the first four games due to a suspension. He added three sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and a forced fumble. He missed six games in 2011 with a broken foot and was suspended for a game in 2010. His twin brother, Zander, is a fullback for the Bulldogs. They've been playing football together every year since they were 6, with the exception of their freshman years in high school, when Alec was promoted to the varsity.
Sean Porter, Texas A&M: Porter (6-1, 231 at Senior Bowl) capped a strong career with 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 TFLs, one interception and one forced fumble. A three-year starter, he was first-team all-Big 12 as a junior, when he had 9.5 sacks and 17 TFLs. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 under Mike Sherman and outside linebacker in a 4-3 under Kevin Sumlin.
Keith Pough, Howard: Pough (6-2, 241) is the FCS career leader with a whopping 83 tackles for losses. He was MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior with a relatively mundane 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. Pough got on the recruiting radar too late. He was a 5-foot-8 receiver for his first two years of high school in Orangeburg, S.C., before getting a chance at linebacker as a junior. He and his dad sent highlight tapes to schools on the East Coast before settling on Howard because of academics. He was a standout at Shrine Game practices
Kevin Reddick, North Carolina: Reddick (6-1, 246 at Senior Bowl) thrived in the Tar Heels' new, attacking defense. He was first-team all-ACC after a standout senior season of 85 tackles, an ACC-leading 18.5 tackles for losses and a team-high two forced fumbles. He started the final three-and-a-half seasons and was a two-year captain. He was the unquestioned leader of the team.
Etienne Sabino, Ohio State: Sabino (6-3, 237) had 45 tackles, including two sacks and four TFLs, and a forced fumble in eight games as a senior. He missed four games with a broken fibula. After redshirting in 2010, Sabino started five games (played in 13) and had 62 tackles, two sacks and seven TFLs. He's a former five-star recruit out of Miami who signed with Ohio State when he was 16. One of his high schools coaches was Sonny Spielman, the father of former Ohio State linebacker and NFL star Chris Spielman. He earned his degree in summer 2012.
Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M: Stewart finished second on the team with 81 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. Stewart started seven games as an outside linebacker as a freshman before moving inside. He led the team with 98 tackles as a junior. An A&M football history buff, he knows that his No. 11 was worn by former Packers linebacker Johnny Holland.
Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: Taylor (6-2, 244) was a three-year starter who was all-ACC honorable mention the past two seasons. As a junior, he missed six games with a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery. During his final three years, he tallied 16.5 sacks, 33.5 tackles for losses and 219 tackles. That's a lot of tackles, though its practically pales in comparison to his sophomore year at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High, when he had 205 tackles, including 42 for losses.
Mike Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor (6-2, 224) grew up just down the road from Lambeau Field. He was all-Big Ten in each of his final three seasons. In 47 career games (all starts), Taylor piled up 378 tackles, seven sacks, 38.5 tackles for losses and five interceptions. Nobody had more tackles over the past two seasons than Taylor among FBS defenders. He had 22 tackles against Ohio State in 2011. At Ashwaubenon High School, he was first-team all-state as a senior and a champion wrestler at 215 pounds.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame: The circus is coming to town. Few defenders have won as many honors as T'eo. Not only did he win the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, but he claimed the Walter Camp (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Lombardi (best lineman), Nagurski (best defensive player) and Lott (performance and character) awards. He was a finalist for the Heisman and won the Senior CLASS Award in part because of his well-documented "personal loss." Te'o (6-2, 255) had 113 tackles and a stunning seven interceptions as a senior.
Chase Thomas, Stanford: Thomas (6-3, 241 at Senior Bowl) was a finalist for the Lott Trophy, which recognizes athletic performance and personal character. A first-team all-Pac-12 selection, Thomas had 71 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for losses and a forced fumble as a senior. He was a first-team pick in 2011 and an honorable mention in 2010. Bulking up by eating peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, Thomas finished with 27.5 sacks, 50 tackles for losses and nine forced fumbles. Along with football, Thomas played lacrosse in high school. Opponents complained he was too violent.
Cornelius Washington, Georgia: Washington (6-4, 264 at Senior Bowl) had just one-half sack, three tackles for losses and 24 tackles as a senior while mostly playing defensive end. He had five sacks in 12 games (six starts) as a junior playing mostly outside linebacker. He's a two-time member of the Athletic Director's Honor Roll. He was arrested for DUI in 2011 and suspended for two games.
Tom Wort, Oklahoma: Early entrant. Wort (6-0, 238) started all three seasons at middle linebacker, finishing with 190 tackles, 17.5 tackles for losses, 10 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Wort was born in Crawley, England, a city of about 100,000 people, and moved to Rhode Island when he was 14. A fast study to the American version of football, Wort had 213 tackles as a junior and was an All-American as a senior at New Braunfels (Texas) High.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.