Big Ten's Best: LBs 2000-2010

When the casual college football fan thinks of the linebacker position, one program always stands out: Penn State. It’s called “Linebacker U,” after all. Jack Ham and others started the great tradition in the late 1960s, and it’s truly been a trend ever since. Perhaps no decade was more decorated for Penn State linebackers than the 2000s. You know the names: Sean Lee, Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny, among others. All three made the cut for BTN’s loaded list of top linebackers of the 2000s. Among the other recognized players, there’s the nation’s all-time leading tackler, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a guy who won three BCS bowls. Watch a clip from Tuesday’s show and see the entire list in this post.

1. Paul Posluszny, PENN STATE
-372 career tackles (left PSU No. 1 all-time, but Dan Connor reached 419 and passed Posluszny one year later)
-210 solo tackles, 162 assists
-Recorded 116 tackles in both 2005, 2006
-Led PSU in tackles as sophomore, junior and senior
-2005 Butkus Award winner (best linebacker in nation – first Big Ten player to win award since PSU’s LaVar Arrington in 1999)
-2005-2006 Chuck Bednarik Award winner (best defensive player)
-Two-time All-American
-Named first-team All-Big Ten twice
-34 career tackles for loss
-Made 22 tackles in 2005 win at Northwestern (most by PSU player in a game in 28 years)

2.  James Laurinaitis, OHIO STATE
-375 career tackles (left OSU 7th in program history)
-159 solo tackles, 216 assisted tackles, 13 career sacks
-Three-time All-American
-2006 Nagurski Award Winner (most outstanding defensive player)
-2008 Lott Trophy winner (athletic performance and character)
-Helped OSU reach BCS title game in 2006, 2007
-Led OSU in tackles in 2006 (115), 2007 (121), 2008 (130)

3. Greg Jones, MICHIGAN STATE
-465 career tackles (left MSU 3rd all-time in program history)
-Two-time All-American
-Second MSU player to lead team in tackles all four seasons (Dan Bass, 1976-79)
– Helped MSU win 2010 Big Ten title (first conference championship since 1990)
– Helped MSU beat Michigan three times
-Three-time All-Big Ten
-Led MSU in tackles in 31 of last 39 games
-Started 46 of 52 career games
-Helped MSU make 4 straight bowl games for 2nd time in program history)

4. A.J. Hawk, OHIO STATE
-394 career tackles (left OSU 5th in program history)
-196 solo tackles, 198 assisted tackles
-41 TFL (left OSU 8th in program history)
-15 sacks in career
-Member of two Big Ten title teams (2002, 2005)
-Member of three BCS bowl winning teams (2002, 2003, 2005)
-Two-time All-American
-2005 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
-Led OSU in tackles as sophomore (106 tackles), junior (141 tackles), senior (121 tackles)

5. Dan Connor, PENN STATE 
-227 solo tackles, 192 assisted tackles
-145 tackles in 2007 was second-most in PSU history at the time (Greg Buttle had 165 in 1974)
-34 career tackles for loss (left PSU tied for 12th)
-Started final 33 games of his career
-2007 All-American
-Selected in 3rd Round by Carolina Panthers in 2008 NFL Draft
-Helped Penn State win 2005 Big Ten title

6. Chad Greenway, IOWA
-Three seasons with more than 110 tackles (132 tackles in 2003, 113 tackles in 2004, 156 tackles in 2005)
-156 tackles in 2005, combined with teammate Abdul Hodge to total 314 that season
-Two-time All-American

7. J Leman, ILLINOIS
-407 career tackles (left Illinois 6th in program history)
-211 solo tackles
-152 tackles in 2006
-Led Illinois in tackles in 2006 (152), 2007 (132)
-38.5 TFL (left Illinois 5th in program history)
-Forced 6 fumbles
-20 tackles vs Missouri in 2007
-2007 All-American
-Two-time All-Big Ten

8. Sean Lee, PENN STATE
-154 solo tackles, 171 assisted tackles
-29.5 tackles for loss
-34 career starts
-Helped PSU win 2005 Big Ten title, sat out 2008 conference championship season with torn ACL
-Played for 4 bowl championship teams
-2007 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP

9.  Barrett Ruud, NEBRASKA
-218 solo tackles, 214 assisted tackles (both were Nebraska records), 50 TFL, 8 Sacks
-149 tackles in 2003 (set Nebraska record); 143 tackles in 2004
-86 solo tackles in 2004 (Nebraska record)
-Named All-Big 12 twice
-19 tackles vs Kansas State in 2004

10. Tim McGarigle, NORTHWESTERN
-545 career tackles (FBS record)
-319 solo tackles
-40 career starts (34 straight to end career)
-Two-time All-Big Ten

4 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (4 Comments)
bryan on 12/10/2011 @ 3:15pm EDT Said:

Greg Jones ranked 3rd? J Leman 7th, Tim McGarigle 10th……David “freakin” Harris not ranked???? Come on man. I guess because the 1.OSU vs 2.UM game ended up being a high scoring affair everyone has just forgot how absolutley dominate the 2006 UM defense really was.

Ericka Greenough on 3/9/2012 @ 10:52am EDT Said:

I agree with those rankings,looking for 2012 ranks.
thanks

Charlie on 10/24/2012 @ 11:19pm EDT Said:

Navorro Bowman wasn’t the most decorated out of college, but he’s definitely the best pro. Him or Sean Lee.. Poz and Greenway are also 2 of the best MLB in the NFL right now.

K. John on 6/8/2013 @ 11:17am EDT Said:

Only three Penn Staters on this list? Really? Pos, Conner, Lee and NaVorro Bowman are locks. They constitute four the top five linebackers the Big Ten has produced during that period (A.J. Hawk is the other) and Tim Shaw was better than several of the players on this list.