In the 1970’s Penn State was considered Linebacker University. The Nittany Lions produced 19 linebackers for the NFL in that 10-year span.
Over the last 9 years when it comes down to producing defensive linemen for the NFL the top school in that category has been LSU.
In 9 seasons LSU has produced 14 defensive linemen that went on to get selected via the NFL draft and they are the only college school from 2005-2012 to have a defensive lineman selected in every draft class.
2004 Marquise Hill-DE. 2nd Round New England Patriots
Chad Lavalais-DT. 5th Round Atlanta Falcons
2005 Marcus Spears-DT. 1st Round Dallas Cowboys
2006 Claude Wroten-DT. 3rd Round St. Louis Rams
Kyle Williams-DT. 5th Round Buffalo Bills
Melvin Oliver-DE. 6th Round San Francisco 49ers
2007 Chase Pittman-DE. 7th Round Cleveland Browns
2008 Glenn Dorsey-DT. 1st Round Kansas City Chiefs
2009 Tyson Jackson-DE. 1st Round Kansas City Chiefs
Ricky Jean-Francois-DT. 7th Round San Francisco 49ers
2010 Al Woods-DT. 4th Round New Orleans Saints
2011 Drake Nevis-DT. 3rd Round Indianapolis Colts
“Pep” Levingston-DE. 7th Round Seattle Seahawks
2012 Michael Brockers-DT. 1st Round St. Louis Rams
While the Tigers have produced four 1st round picks in that 9-year frame (Spears, Dorsey, Jackson and Brockers) it has been Kyle Williams, a fifth round pick in 2006 that has emerged as the most productive defensive lineman from LSU since 2004.
Williams, a two-time All-Pro defensive tackle (2009 and 2010)was hobbled by a foot injury most of the 2011 season after signing a 6-year, $39 million dollar contract last summer and $17 million of that deal was guaranteed.
Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey says that the former Ruston High School standout defensive lineman is a “one of kind” football player.
“There are defensive tackles in this league bigger, stronger and faster than Kyle, but no one plays with more heart, more passion for the sport and has better instincts,” Gailey said. “He’s one of those guys that maybe don’t look real athletic, but he can move well and he just has a knack for slipping blocks and getting penetration from the interior. He comes from a great program at LSU and they know how to play defense in the SEC. We love those SEC guys here in Buffalo and Kyle is one of my favorite players. He is one of the best defensive tackles in the league and it is not just me saying it.”
But while LSU has a long list of former defensive linemen in the NFL it is what may hit the league in 2013 that is eye-catching. The Tigers have three defensive linemen in defensive ends Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and defensive tackle Bennie Logan that I have rated in my top 15 players that could be available for the 2013 draft.
Along with the 3 probable 1st round draft choices next April the Tigers also have a potential fourth defensive lineman that could be selected in the 2013 draft in senior defensive end Lavar Edwards.
I have always believed that finding quality defensive linemen is the hardest area to find on the defensive side of the football and LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis agrees.
“I agree with you 1000% on getting quality defensive linemen,” Chavis said. “Those guys are really difficult to find and we put a premium on athletic, very fast, fast flowing defensive linemen who can hit hard and attack from all angles. I am fortunate to have those type players here. There is not a better defensive end tandem in the country than Sam (Montgomery) and Barkevious (Mingo). I wouldn’t want to try and figure out how to keep them blocked and they are fast and relentless. In Bennie Logan he may be the most underrated football player in the country. He has no quit in him and he is fast, athletic, country-strong and he has a knack for quickly finding the ball. You don’t have to be a football genius to coach these guys and I love their intense nature and they hate to lose or get beat. And we got guys like Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Josh Downs waiting to hit the field for us also.”
When you look back at what defensive linemen mean to SEC schools just think about the 2007 LSU club which featured Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Al Woods, Marlon Favorite, Ricky Jean Francois and “Pep” Levingston.
In 2008 the Gators were led by Tim Tebow at quarterback, but it was the tremendous play of defensive linemen in Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Trattou-all now playing in the NFL, that help propel the Gators to the national championship.
In 2009 the Alabama Crimson Tide won the national championship led by a huge presence in the middle in Terrence “Mount” Cody, defensive end Luther Davis and one of the most talented defensive end/tackle prospects in the nation in Marcell Dareus.
In 2010 Cam Newton was certainly the most dynamic offensive player in the land, but it was defensive tackle Nick Fairley who was clearly the most dominant defensive player.
In 2011 Alabama featured the best array of linebackers in the country in Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley, but it was the stellar play of the defensive front led by Josh Chapman, Nick Gentry, Australian-born Jesse Williams and one of the most underrated players in the SEC in defensive end Damien Square, that stood out each week in their advancement to the National Championship game.
Chavis says that getting good defensive linemen is the key to victory in the Southeast Conference.
“We have had great success and the numbers prove it, but look at what Nick Saban has done at Alabama and they have had a host of very talented defensive linemen hit that campus. Cam Newton was awesome at Auburn, but in that championship year, there was not a better defensive lineman than Nick Fairley. When Florida and Georgia have had their run to the championship it was built on defense and along the defensive line. When I was at Tennessee we were very successful, but I also had Leonard Little, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, John Henderson, Aubrayo Franklin, Robert Ayers, Justin Harrell, Turk McBride and Dan Williams and all of those defensive linemen went to the NFL. It’s an easy connect the successful dot in this league.”
And for LSU it will be their ticket to play in another BCS National Championship game in January of 2013.