CFN's Tuesday Question - All-Time Defense
Posted Aug 29, 2006

CFN's Tuesday Question - All-Time Greatest Defensive Team

- 10 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Defensive Players of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Regular Season Games of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Playmakers of All-Time
- 10 Worst Heisman Winners
- All-Time Offensive Team | All-Time Defensive Team

Pete Fiutak     
Q: The All-Time Defensive Team ...

A: I chose this team the same way I'd pick an All-America team: merit. I'm not trying to fill a position; I'm going off what actually happened along with how good they were at a collegiate level. I don't care two hoots about what these guys did in the pros.

Defensive Ends - Hugh Green, Pitt (1977-1980) and Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina (1977-1980)
Would any quarterback survive with these two on the ends? They're hybrids of linebackers and ends and were always, always, always in the backfield.

Defensive Tackles - Bubba Smith, Michigan State (1964-1966), Bronko Nagurski, Minnesota (1927-1929)
Tackle was much harder to come up with than end, but I love my combination of a big, tough player and a smallish, tougher defender.
Nagurski was the biggest, most intense and toughest player than the world of college football had ever seen as the prototype player for the old days of leather helmet college football. Remember, back in those days, tackles were 175 to 190 pounds which meant the 6-2, 228-pound Bronk was bigger than just about everyone else.

Smith wasn't just a big player, he was big and fast requiring teams to use two, three and four players to routinely keep their eyes on him to block and to make sure he was accounted for when the plays ran the other way.

Linebackers - Brian Bozworth, Oklahoma (1984-1986), Dick Butkus, Illinois (1962-1964), Tommy Nobis, Texas (1963-1965)
Nobis averaged 20 tackles per game during his career and had a flair for the dramatic highlighted by a stop on fourth and goal at the one to preserve a win in the over No. 1 Alabama in the 1965 Orange Bowl. Behind all the gimmicks and and all the self-promotion,

Bosworth wasn't just all bravado and brashness, he had an ability to rise up in the big games and had a tackling ability second to none. He was the model of consistency and improved each year making 128, 131 and 136 tackles leading the Sooners in tackles all three seasons highlighted by a 22-stop game in the 1986 classic against Miami. He was a consensus All-American in 1985 and 1986 and the first ever two time Butkus Award Winner. 

It wasn't just the 373 tackles he made in his career, it was the way he made the tackles as the most unblockable linebacker college football has ever seen. Butkus set the standard to which all other linebackers are measured with the Butkus Award going each year to the nation's best college football linebacker.

Cornerbacks - Deion Sanders, Florida State (1985-1988), Charles Woodson, Michigan (1995-1997)
No brainers on this one for me.
As part of one of the great secondaries in college football history including such future NFL notables as Leroy Butler and Martin Mayhew, Sanders picked off 14 passes including three in bowl games. Mere stats don't come close to showing what kind of player he was as he simply shut down any of the receivers he covered handling some of the nation's best. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1988 as the nation's best defensive back.

Even with everyone knowing all about Woodson and hardly ever throwing his way, he still picked off eight passes including a brilliant one handed grab against Michigan State which made every highlight reel. Want clutch? Along with the game-saving pick against Ohio State, he killed a drive in the Rose Bowl intercepting Ryan Leaf in the end zone. While QB Brian Griese had a magnificent season and the defense was great as a whole, without Woodson the Wolverines wouldn't have won the national title.

Safeties - Kenny Easley, UCLA (1977-1980), George Webster, Michigan State (1964-1966)

Ronnie Lott and Roy Williams were close and I won't argue if you want to add either one. Easley was everything you'd ever dream of in a defensive back with enough size (6-1, 206) to hit like a linebacker and 4.5 speed to cover most receivers. He made 374 tackles and picked off 19 passes. 

From his roverback position, the 6-4, 220 pound Webster was a devastating hitter making 93 stops in 1966 and ten tackles for loss. He was a menace in run support and still covered receivers as well as any defensive back with peerless speed for a player of his size. 

No argument if you want these guys on the list: Champ Bailey, DB Georgia; Bennie Blades, DB Miami; Terrell Buckley, DB Florida State; Chuck Bednarik, LB Penn; Steve Emtman, DL Washington; Jamar Fletcher, DB Wisconsin; Rich Glover, DL Nebraska; Randy Gradishar, LB Ohio State; Jack Ham, LB Penn State; Ted Hendricks, DL Miami; Terry Hoague, DB Georgia; Bob Lilly, DL TCU; Merlin Olsen, DL Utah State; Ronnie Lott, DB USC; Alan Page, DL Notre Dame; Mike Reid, DL Penn State; Jerry Robinson, LB UCLA; Lee Roy Selmon, DL Oklahoma; Kenneth Sims, DL Texas; Mike Singletary, LB Baylor; Bruce Smith, DL Virginia Tech; Chris Spielman, LB Ohio State; Jack Tatum, DB Ohio State; Derrick Thomas, LB Alabama; Randy White, DL Maryland; Reggie White, DL Tennessee; Roy Williams, DB Oklahoma; Rod Woodson, DB Purdue

Richard Cirminiello  
Q: The All-Time Defensive Team ...

: DE Hugh Green, Pittsburgh (1977-80) If ever a defensive player deserved to win the Heisman, it was Green in 1980.  And maybe 1978 and 1979, too.  He was arguably the fastest defensive end to ever play at this level.  Green had a sudden burst and speed off the edge that led to 441 tackles, 53 sacks and an infinite number of bewildered tackles in his wake.

DT Rich Glover, Nebraska (1970-72) – Glover wasn’t all that big by tackle standards, but he had blinding quickness that allowed him to author two of the best seasons ever by a defensive lineman.  During the Huskers’ great run of the early 1970s, he was the defensive catalyst, disrupting backfield, absorbing multiple blocks and earning Defensive MVP honors in the 1972 and 1973 Orange Bowls.

DT Lee Roy Selmon (1972-75) – Selmon was the most complete interior lineman to ever play the game, and the most heralded athlete in the rich history of Sooner football.  Physically and intellectually, he was the total package, and he parlayed that skill set into the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award following his senior year.  Washington’s Steve Emtman and Maryland’s Randy White were relentless beasts worthy of honorable mention.

DE Bubba Smith, Michigan State (1964-66) – Smith was a larger-than-life figure who terrorized quarterbacks in the 1960s and routinely commanded the attention of multiple blockers.  More than just respected by the opposition, the two-time All-American was genuinely feared, especially by quarterbacks. 

LB Dick Butkus, Illinois (1962-64) – The violent and physical side of football is encapsulated in a single photo of a bloodied and beaten Butkus.  He’s still the embodiment of what it means to de a defensive warrior.  So tough and competitive, Butkus would have body slammed his mother if she was fighting for extra yards.  
LB Tommy Nobis, Texas (1963-65) – Younger generations won’t remember Nobis, which is unfortunate because he was an absolute stud at linebacker and a pretty darn good offensive lineman as well.  He was the emotional catalyst of the ‘Horns’ 1963 national championship, and a two-time All-American.  During his three years in Austin, the fiercely competitive Nobis averaged almost 20 stops a game.

LB Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina (1977-80) – Taylor revolutionized the outside linebacker position in Chapel Hill, stalking unsuspecting quarterbacks with cornerback speed and unmatched ferocity.  He was one of those rare individuals that could completely change the tenor and the momentum of a game from the defensive side of the ball.  Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth gets unfairly judged by a forgettable NFL career, but in Norman, he was a tackling machine and a two-time recipient of the Butkus Award.  

CB Deion Sanders, Florida State (1985-88) – Had Deion been born in the 1930s, he’d never have made it to the football field.  His cover skills and playmaking ability would have been wasted on an era that largely shunned the forward pass.  However, in the 1980s, he was a game-changer, a defensive weapon capable of nullifying the other team’s best receiver.  He also had crazy speed and moves as a return man for the ‘Noles.     

S George Webster, Michigan State (1964-66) – The somewhat forgotten man on those suffocating Michigan State defenses, Webster was a hybrid—part safety, part linebacker and all-world.  At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he was one of those versatile size-speed types that was literally capable of playing any role that the coaching staff assigned him.  Ohio State’s Jack Tatum spent an entire career earning his nickname, The Assassin.  UCLA’s Kenny Easley was that rare breed of collegiate athlete that earned All-American honors three consecutive years.    

S Ronnie Lott, USC (1977-80) – The way Butkus and Taylor epitomized what it meant to be a linebacker, Lott evolved into the definition of a safety.  He was one of the most intimidating forces to ever patrol a secondary, and had uncanny football instincts and leadership skills.  Lott was a unique defensive player capable of changing the tone of a game with a single punishing hit or turnover.

CB Charles Woodson, Michigan (1995-97) – Safety size coupled with corner quickness and agility made Woodson one of the all-time great college cornerbacks.  Opposing quarterbacks avoided him like a tax audit in 1997, yet he still picked off eight passes and found time to make plays as a wide receiver and kick returner in a brilliant Heisman-culminating season.  Another Woodson, Purdue’s Rod, isn’t far behind Charles on the cornerback totem pole.

P Ray Guy, Southern Miss (1970-1972) – How good was Guy?  He was the first punter enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, first Southern Miss player to have his number retired and a first-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in 1973.  Guy also picked off 18 passes as a safety and cranked out a 61-yard field goal in his senior year.  Iowa’s Reggie Roby is next in line behind Guy. 

John Harris     
Q: The All-Time Defensive Team ...

All-time First Team Defensive roster
DT – Rich Glover, Nebraska
DT – Chris Zorich, Notre Dame
DE – Ted Hendricks, Miami
DE –
Hugh Green, Pitt
LB – Tommy Nobis, Texas
LB – Dick Butkus, Illinois
LB – Mike Singletary, Baylor
S – Jack Tatum, Ohio State
S – Kenny Easley, UCLA
CB – Deion Sanders, Florida State
CB – Charles Woodson, Michigan

All-time Second Team Defensive roster
DT – Steve Emtman, Washington
DT – Bubba Smith, Michigan State
DE – Reggie White, Tennessee
DE – David Pollack, Georgia
LB – Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina
LB – Cornelius Bennett, Alabama
LB – Jerry Robinson, UCLA
S – Bennie Blades, Miami
S/CB – Ronnie Lott, USC
CB – Jerry Gray, Texas
CB – Rod Woodson, Purdue

Matthew Zemek     
Q: The All-Time Defensive Team ...

Tackles: Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma; Chris Zorich, Notre Dame. Two imposing players at big-name schools who: A) were vital, central cogs in national championship seasons; and B) have tremendous staying power in the collective memories of fans who were able to see them play. If you're an enduring legend at Oklahoma or Notre Dame the way these two players are, that speaks to the depth of your greatness as a college football player, especially on defense.

Ends: Hugh Green, Pittsburgh; Bubba Smith, Michigan State. Green's dominance in the late 70s and 1980, plus the imposing nature of Smith's play, makes this a fierce and forceful combination of bookend pass rushers.

Linebackers: Tommy Nobis, Texas; Lee Roy Jordan, Alabama; Dick Butkus, Illinois. Three gamers, three warriors, three winners. Just contemplating a linebacking corps composed of this trifecta is enough to inspire reverent silence and open-mouthed awe.

Corners/DBs: Jim Thorpe, Carlisle Indian School; Charles Woodson, Michigan.

At opposite ends of the 20th century, these two young men featured tremendous athleticism and playmaking ability on a notably large scale.

Thorpe has the distinction of being one of the top three athletes of the 20th century (Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali); Woodson the honor of winning the Heisman Trophy. This is a pair of corners that can support the weight of history.

Safeties: Kenny Easley, UCLA; Ronnie Lott, USC. These two men would make all of LA a lot safer, based on the nature and trajectory of their decorated college careers, which were rich with accomplishment... and hard hits.

Punter: Todd Sauerbrun, West Virginia. By far, the most out-of-his-mind punter I've ever seen at the collegiate level. I remain dumbfounded that he performed so poorly in the NFL, but in college, he was nothing short of spectacular... VERY spectacular.