Big Ten's Best: DL 2000-2010

How great were Big Ten defensive linemen during the 2000s? Consider this: Eight of the 10 players on “The Big Ten’s Best: Defensive Linemen of the 2000s,” which debuted Tuesday night on BTN, were first-round NFL picks. The other two guys, for what it’s worth, also were drafted. Yes, NFL teams often draft on potential or impressive NFL Combine performances, but all of these defensive linemen, including Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, were flat-out college stars.

Aaron Maybin (Penn State), Erasmus James (Wisconsin), Vernon Gholston (Ohio State), Tamba Hali (Penn State), Will Smith (Ohio State), Brandon Graham (Michigan), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) and Suh are the aforementioned first-rounders. That’s a star-studded cast of names. The only two non-first-round players are LaMarr Woodley (Michigan) and Shaun Phillips (Purdue), two guys who have gone on to have first-round caliber NFL careers. Watch a clip from the show now and check out the impressive list inside.

Ndamukong Suh, NEBRASKA

Career: 57 tackles for loss, 24 sacks

-As a junior, recorded a team-high 76 tackles, 7½ sacks, 19 tackles for loss, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns) and a touchdown reception while playing fullback

-Registered 85 tackles, 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, three blocked kicks and one interception as a senior

-Notched 12 tackles, including a school single game-record seven tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2009 Big 12 Championship Game

-Helped Nebraska record its first shutout in a bowl game and the first shutout in Holiday Bowl history by beating Arizona 33-0

-As a senior, earned consensus First-team All-American honors and won the Associated Press National Player of the Year, to go along with Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Defensive Lineman of the Year

Ryan Kerrigan, PURDUE

Career: 57 tackles for loss, 33.5 sacks

-Racked up 70 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles as a senior

-Led major college football with seven forced fumbles as a junior, while also registering 66 tackles, including 18 for loss, and a career-high 13 sacks

Brandon Graham, MICHIGAN

Career: 56 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks

-Recorded 3.5 sacks against Notre Dame in 2007

-Led the Big Ten with 20 tackles for loss in 2008 and led the nation with 26 in 2009

-Tallied multiple sack games four times during his senior season on way to a 10.5-sack year

Shaun Phillips, PURDUE

Career: 60.5 tackles for loss, school-record 33.5 sacks

-As a senior, totaled 14.5 sacks, including a 3.5 sack performance against Wisconsin

-Started 49 consecutive games as a Boilermaker

-Played some tight end in goal-line situations, catching two touchdown passes

LaMarr Woodley, MICHIGAN

-Career: 177 tackles, 52.5 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles

-Collected a Big Ten-best 12 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2006 on way to becoming first Wolverine to win the Lombardi Award (top lineman) and Tom Hendricks Award (top defensive end)

-Notched a career-high 70 tackles as a linebacker in 2004

Will Smith, OHIO STATE

-Career: 44.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks

-Tallied 5.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and an interception during Ohio State’s 2002 championship season

-Earned 2003 All-American honors after registering 10.5 sacks

Tamba Hali, PENN STATE

-Led the Big Ten with 11 sacks (tied for eighth nationally) and 17 tackles for loss on way to winning 2005 All-American honors and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year

-Registered 36 career tackles for loss, which are tied with Matt Millen for 10th best in school history

Vernon Gholston, OHIO STATE

-Finished career with 87 tackles (47 solo), 30.5 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks, which ranks fifth in school history

-Tied Ohio State records with four sacks for a total loss of 32 yards against Wisconsin in 2007

-Broke Ohio State record for sacks in a season with 14.5 in 2007

Erasmus James, WISCONSIN

-Career: 26.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, seven forced fumbles

-Notched a career-high eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2004

Aaron Maybin, PENN STATE

-Career: 20 tackles for loss, 16 sacks

-Tallied 49 tackles and 12 sacks on way to earning All-American honors in 2008


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (9 Comments)
Matt Pullen on 9/21/2011 @ 8:48pm EDT Said:

What about Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn, Matt Roth, Colin Cole, Jonathan Babineaux, Matt Kroul, Mitch King, Karl Klug, Kenny Iwebema, and Aaron Kampman? While these guys weren’t first rounders, they were all key parts of Iowa’s defenses through the 2000s and have definietly aided their NFL teams.

Tony Pierson on 9/25/2011 @ 11:25am EDT Said:

I bet that one would be hard pressed to find a school in the country that has contributed more NFL d-lineman than Iowa. They should be represented at the least with Adrian Clayborn. An argument could be made for Roth and Babineaux as well. Not the most thought out list I’ve ever seen.

Joel on 10/10/2011 @ 2:02pm EDT Said:

Suh didn’t even play in the Big 10. So was Tommy Frazier the best Big10 QB too?

bryan on 12/10/2011 @ 3:08pm EDT Said:

Where in the world is Alan Branch? UM had an all time run defense that year outside of 2 big runs in the armagedon game. Branch was a monster that season. As much as i respect Kerrigan, Woodley has to be #2 on this list, Lombardi and Hendricks winner.

Britt Brittfield Beats Whitfield on 5/29/2012 @ 2:33pm EDT Said:

too bad Ndamukong Suh didn’t play in the Big 10 good try though.

Fuzz E. on 5/31/2012 @ 1:15am EDT Said:

Lol…Big 10 fans are almost as bad as Big 12 fans…Crying about Ndamukong Suh not playing in the their conference…I’m almost outta cheese, so you’re gonna have to take your whine somewhere else. You poor babies are just pissed because Ndamukong Suh is undoubtedly better than anyone your teams have produced.

gabe o on 6/5/2012 @ 8:50pm EDT Said:

why does the big ten hate Iowa?!?!?! I could count four d linemen on iowa that could have made this list

Dave on 7/7/2012 @ 1:52pm EDT Said:

Enough crying for Iowa. Hate? You see who the #1 QB of 08’s was? Chuck Long. Let me get this straight, Matt mentions no less than 9 Iowa players for a Top Ten list? So, who would be the 1 non-Hawkeye to make the list?

K. John on 6/8/2013 @ 11:22am EDT Said:

Another horrible list. Should be the top ends list, not line. Jared Odrick ring a bell? How about Jimmy Kennedy? What about Wendell Bryant? These three guys were the top tackles in the Big Ten during this period. Rush ends get all the pub but tackles are where it is at. And please stop ranking pre-Big Ten Huskers. Speaking Husters, what about Kyle VandenBosch?