With college football just around the corner — less than one month away! — I figured now would be a good time to piss off a lot of people by unveiling my ultimate 11. This is sort of a preseason All-American list, but it is my list, so I expect to get hammered in the comments section due to leaving off your favorite player. Yes, there are several great players at each position, but only one can make it. This means I will undoubtedly leave someone off who may deserve a spot on the list. For this I’m sorry (honestly, I’m not sorry, but I figured I’d give you a weak apology to ease your anger). The numbers mentioned indicate the players’ stats from last season, not projections for the upcoming year. Here is you’re Ultimate 11 on defense (we did the Ultimate 11 on offense yesterday). Let the bitch-fest commence!
Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU: Hughes has been a stud for TCU for the past few years and he looks to have one more sack-filled season before he opts for the NFL. While many people know next-to-nothing about TCU, the college football nuts know that this is one of the premier Non-BCS schools alongside Utah and Boise State. The Horned Frogs have gone 30-9 over the past three seasons, and almost all of that success has been due to a stout defense. Hughes is the statistical leader of the TCU defense, finishing last season with 52 tackles, 15 sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions and one touchdown. The guy is a freak. Though he is small for a defensive end (6-2), he is quick and has some serious strength.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska: Not as many people know about Suh as they should. Last season Suh was the best defensive tackle in the country, but because Nebraska has been all-but-forgotten in the national media (losing a lot will do that), he went relatively unnoticed. That won’t be the case this year. Nebraska has four nationally televised games and Suh will be the anchor of a Bo Pelini defense. Last season Suh tallied 76 tackles, seven sacks, two interceptions and two touchdowns (one of them on offense). The guy is a total beast and will most likely be a top-1o pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Here is a 2 minute video of Suh whopping that ass.
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma: McCoy is a beast, like Suh, but his stats don’t tell all of the story. He finished last season with 26 tackles, six sacks and one interception, but he did so while facing double and triple teams weekly. McCoy is a huge dude, standing 6-4 and weighing just a shade under three bills, so his body can take the pounding that the NFL will demand. While I think he is not quite the player Suh is, he is still a dominant force.
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: Dunlap is an interesting cat. He stands 6-6 and weighs 290 pounds, but he looks quicker than he is strong. He plays like a pure speed rusher, but the man is gigantic, which makes him scary as hell to offensive lineman. Last season he finished with 36 tackles and nine sacks. Before Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis left the Florida team, Dunlap looked like he was a lock for single coverage most of the year. Now that the big man in the middle is gone, Dunlap can once again deal with double teams early and often. I still like him to get to 10 sacks this season, and then bolt due to a top-10 draft grade.
Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State: The Spartans have always seemed to be one great player short of making a run at the Big 10. They might have a good offense, but the defense falls short. They might have a great running game, but their quarterback falls short. This year the Spartans are said to be a defensive team first. This is not a real surprise as head coach Mark Dantonio comes from a defensive background. The Spartans are led by preseason defensive player of the year winner Greg Jones. Jones is a man-child for Sparty. Any time you are recognized as the best linebacker in the Big 10, you know you’re good. While Jones’s sack numbers are low (six in the past two years as a starter), his tackle numbers are insane. Last year he finished with 127 tackles (80 solo). This year he will be the face of the Spartans and should make his presence well known.
Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida: One of the most ridiculous stats entering the 2009 season is that the defending national champion Gators return all 11 starters from last year’s defense. I don’t remember ever hearing about a team winning a title and returning all starters on any side of the ball. The Gators defense will be led by middle linebacker Brandon Spikes. As a sophomore Spikes led the Gators in tackles with 131, but last year, with a much-improved defense, his tackles dipped considerably (87), but he added four interceptions and two touchdowns. Spikes turned down the NFL (rumors were he did not get a first round grade) and will now look to make it three national championships in four seasons for the Gators. He can be seen here almost killing Knowshon Moreno.
Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma: This is one of the defensive choices that will probably enlist a harsh response. Lewis started for the Sooners last year after their initial starter went down to injury. As a true freshman, Lewis finished with 135 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and four picks…as a true freshman playing in a league where offenses dominate. This year Lewis will be a stud for the Sooners and should help Oklahoma bring the pain on that side of the ball. With McCoy eating up offensive lineman, look for Lewis to be able to attack the quarterback more often than last year and make a name for himself nationally.
Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky: Lindley might be the most unknown member of my Ultimate 11, but the dude can play. Sadly for him, he plays for Kentucky so no one cares what he does. His a legit lock-down corner, so he gets few balls thrown his way. Last season he ended with four picks and one touchdown to go along with 38 tackles. While he is a relative unknown, the dude can play and just may be a first round pick when he opts for the big leagues.
Ahmad Black, CB, Florida: Black might not be as well known as fellow Gator defensive backs Joe Haden or Major Wright, but the dude is a baller of the highest order. As a sophomore he finished with 54 tackles, seven picks (for 191 return yards) and two touchdowns. Black is just one of the reasons why Florida will have the nastiest secondary in college football next year. He has speed, quickness and all of the confidence to be a top flight corner. While he is on the small side (5-9), he makes up for it by being a total badass.
Eric Berry, SS, Tennessee: You know what is depressing? Having a man-crush on one of your rivals’ star players. Berry was the one lock for this list for me. Dude is a machine. Last year he finished with 72 tackles, three sacks and seven picks. He has averaged, in just two years, 243.5 yards in interception returns. He is just 15 yards shy of breaking Terrell Buckley’s record, which he will most likely do in the first game. Now that he has the best defensive mind in football coaching him in Monte Kiffin, the sky isn’t even the limit for Berry this year. While Tebow and Bradford gets all of the love in the national media, Berry is my pick as the best player in all of college football. Here you can watch Berry dominate.
Taylor Mays, FS, Southern California: Mays is somewhat of an enigma. He has the size (6-3, 230) and speed (electronic sub 4.4 forty) to dominate as a free safety, yet his numbers aren’t what they should be. He had just 53 tackles last year and had a grand total of zero sacks and interceptions. However, his lack of numbers may have been due to the fact that his USC defense was unstoppable last year and by the time the ball reached Mays’s spot in the secondary the play was over. Mays shocked the college football world when he opted to stay at USC for one more year, but he stayed to be the team leader on defense and this year look for Mays to share the defensive limelight with Eric Berry.
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