There is no position on a football field that brings to mind more vibrant images of brutality and fierceness better than the linebacker position. Linebackers are the leaders of their defenses, at both the collegiate and professional levels. Many universities, and one in particular, like to claim to be the best at producing NFL linebackers. We decided to go through and calculate which school, in the BCS era, truly was "Linebacker U."
We looked at every NFL draft of the BCS era (1999-2014) and used a simple scoring system to determine which school was the best at producing NFL-caliber talent. The higher the draft pick, the more points awarded to the school.
This is the latest installment of a series we've been running this summer. Last week, we showed you the 25 schools that can claim to be "Quarterback U."
First Round Selection: 7 Points
Second Round Selection: 6 Points
Third Round Selection: 5 Points
Fourth Round Selection: 4 Points
Fifth Round Selection: 3 Points
Sixth Round Selection: 2 Points
Seventh Round Selection: 1 Point
Here are the results:
25. (TIE) Kansas State: 25 Points (6 Selections)
The Wildcats came in tied for the 25th spot on this list despite the fact that they didn't really have any big name linebackers selected during the BCS era. Their two highest selections were Terry Pierce and Arthur Brown, both second-rounders. Somehow, KSU is one of only three Big 12 teams to make our list.
25. (TIE) California: 25 Points (10 Selections)
As far as NFL success, the Golden Bears have had a bit more quantity than quality when it comes to their linebacker alumni. Ten linebackers selected in the time frame is quite an accomplishment, but none have had huge impacts on the game. That said, fifth-round selection Scott Fujita has enjoyed a consistent career and sixth-round pick Desmond Bishop does have a Super Bowl ring. Cal's highest selection was second-round pick Mychal Kendricks in 2012.
24. Oregon State: 26 Points (7 Selections)
The Beavers were very consistent at sending linebackers to the NFL. They had at least one linebacker selected in each round of the draft, sans the second round. Oregon State's highest drafted LB (and most successful alumni in the NFL) was first-round pick Nick Barnett, who played for the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills.
22. (TIE) Auburn: 27 Points (6 Selections)
The team that cries "War Eagle" sent a few quality linebackers to the pro game over the last 16 years despite not getting one linebacker drafted in the first round. The best of the group was undoubtedly second-round selection Karlos Dansby, a current Cleveland Brown but former star of the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. Although, fellow second-round pick Marcus Washington hasn't been a slouch in the pros either.
22. (TIE) Notre Dame: 27 Points (8 Selections)
The Fighting Irish had a respectable eight linebackers drafted during the era. None more famous, or infamous we should say, than second-round selection Manti Te'o. Like Auburn, Notre Dame did not have a linebacker selected in the first round. Despite the school's rich tradition, none of the linebackers have made much of a splash at the professional level. But don't expect ND to stop sending them there.
21. North Carolina State: 28 Points (7 Selections)
The Wolfpack pulled off the impressive feat of getting exactly one linebacker drafted in each of the seven rounds of the NFL draft. And they are one of five current ACC schools on the list. North Carolina State's most proud alumni at the position is definitely fourth-round pick Stephen Tulloch. But the Wolfpack's highest draftee was first-round pick Manny Lawson in 2006. This isn't the last we've heard from the state of North Carolina on this top 25.
20. Maryland: 29 Points (7 Selections)
One of the more surprising teams to crack this list is the Maryland Terrapins. Second-round picks D'Qwell Jackson and E.J. Henderson have both played well for their respective teams in the NFL. But first-round selection Shawn Merriman was certainly the most well-known linebacker that Maryland sent to the pros. He was an absolute superstar for three years before fizzling out of the league amid steroid controversies.
19. Georgia Tech: 30 Points (7 Selections)
Impressively, five of the Yellow Jackets' selected linebackers were drafted in the first three rounds. Although, what Georgia Tech has in high draft picks it lacks in name recognition. None of G-Tech's linebackers became household names in the NFL, with maybe the exception of second-round pick Daryl Smith. Some believe that their next highest drafted linebacker, 2014 second-round selection Jeremiah Attaochu, may change that while playing for the San Diego Chargers.
17. (TIE) UCLA: 31 Points (6 Selections)
The Bruins featured two linebackers selected in the first-round of the NFL draft during the time frame. Those two players were Robert Thomas (no, not the recording artist) in 2002 and Anthony Barr in 2014. Other than those two, none of their other linebackers have made too big of a splash at the professional level. Although, third-year player and second-round pick Akeem Ayeers has been pretty solid so far for the Tennessee Titans. UCLA is one of four Pac-12 teams to make this list.
17. (TIE) Texas: 31 Points (7 Selections)
The Longhorns have had three linebackers selected in the NFL draft in the last three years. Time will tell if they will develop into big time players in the pros or not. But Texas' top linebacker alumni of the era is also its highest selected linebacker of the era -- Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs. He's played consistently great football for all nine of the years he's been in the league.
16. North Carolina: 32 Points (8 Selections)
Known as one of the nation's premier basketball programs, the Tar Heels have also been excelling in some areas in football, too. Their two highest drafted linebackers have come recently, in second-round picks Zach Brown in 2012 and Bruce Carter in 2011. Despite the Tar Heels' success, none of their linebackers became superstars at the next level, although Brown is really developing into a solid player.
15. Iowa: 33 Points (7 Selections)
The Hawkeyes are the first Big Ten team to crack this top 25. They've had some ups and downs during the BCS era but one thing remained the same; their defense. Their best linebacker in the pros is certainly 2006 first-round pick Chad Greenway. Greenway is a star for the Minnesota Vikings and has missed only one start over the last seven seasons. Second-round selection Pat Angerer has played well for the Indianapolis Colts, too. In 2014, Iowa had two linebackers drafted in third-rounder Christian Kirksey and fourth-rounder Anthony Hitchens.
14. LSU: 34 Points (7 Selections)
The Tigers have been one of the SEC's most consistent programs for years and were even crowned "Running Back U" in part one of our series. But they haven't been half-bad at sending linebackers to the NFL either. None of LSU's linebackers have absolutely lit-up the NFL during the time frame, but they do have two young players who were drafted in 2013 in first-round pick Barkevious Mingo and second-round pick Kevin Minter. It should be noted that 2010 fourth-round pick Perry Riley of the Washington Redskins is seemingly on his way to becoming a big time player though.
11. (TIE) Michigan: 43 Points (9 Selections)
Michigan's nine selections were the fifth-most in the Big Ten over the last 16 years. U of M made it this high on the list despite not having a single linebacker selected in the first round. The Wolverines' five second round selections led the NCAA in the era. Two of the school's top linebackers, second-round pick LaMarr Woodley and fourth-round pick Larry Foote, were both stars for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But their list of successful NFL linebackers doesn't end with those two players - second-round selections David Harris and Ian Gold have both been played great professional ball, too.
11. (TIE) Nebraska: 43 Points (12 Selections)
The Cornhuskers are the second of three current Big Ten teams tied for the 11th spot on this list and their 12 selections are the most thus far on the countdown. Like Michigan, Nebraska didn't have a single linebacker selected in the first round, but it had at least one in every other round. Nebraska's mass of selections didn't exactly translate to a ton of linebackers with household names in the NFL, with the exception of 2012 second-round selection Lavonte David.
11. (TIE) Penn State: 43 Points (11 Selections)
The team that has claimed "Linebacker U," without much opposition for years, comes in just short of the top ten -- in our era, of course. The Nittany Lions have as much history as anyone in the country at the linebacker position, but over the last 16 years they may have fallen off a tad. Penn State's list of successful NFL linebacker alumni is quite daunting so I'll just name its top four: third-round pick NaVorro Bowman, second-round pick Paul Posluszny, first-round pick LaVar Arrington, and second-round pick Sean Lee. Despite coming in at 11th in our rankings, I'm sure Nittany Lions fans won't stop referring to their program as "Linebacker U" anytime soon.
10. Alabama: 44 Points (9 Selections)
Alabama is the first school to boast three first-round picks on the list (but not the last). They were Dont'a Hightower, Ronaldo McClain, and 2014 selection C.J. Mosely. We'll see how Mosely develops, but Hightower and McClain have both played pretty well, and both have room to improve in the coming years. Bama's best linebacker may be DeMeco Ryans of the Philadelphia Ealges. He's been consistent and has only missed 10 starts in eight years. Second-round pick Courney Upshaw is another player who has some time to continue to develop as well.
9. Oklahoma: 47 Points (12 Selections)
The highest ranked Big 12 team on the list is none other than the Sooners. Second-round pick Curtis Lofton, currently a member of the New Orleans Saints, has arguably been the best of the batch. The Sooners' other two second-round picks, Dan Cody and Teddy Lehman, both failed to live up to the expectations. It should be noted that Cody's career was cut short by multiple injuries. Oklahoma was certainly a quantity over quality program for linebacker success in the NFL during the time frame.
8. Florida: 51 Points (13 Selections)
Florida matched Michigan in having the most linebackers drafted in the second-round (five). None of Florida's linebackers have been absolute superstars in the pros, but many have either built or are building solid careers. Those players include second-round pick Mike Peterson, third-round pick Channing Crowder, and second-round pick Brandon Spikes -- Peterson being the best of the group But 2013 second-round selection Jon Bostic has the chance to become a real star for the Chicago Bears.
7. Purdue: 52 Points (11 Selections)
Purdue? Yep. The six following linebackers are the best of Purdue's vast and proud contribution to the NFL over the last 16 years: first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan, first-round pick Anthony Spencer, fourth-round selection Shaun Phillips, third-round pick Chike Okeafor, third-round pick Landon Johnson, and fourth-round pick Rosevelt Colvin. Some of these linebackers played some defensive end in the NFL, too, but all were drafted as linebackers and played it at the professional level. Purdue's linebackers have produced a ton of sacks in the NFL.
6. Tennessee: 53 Points (12 Selections)
The Volunteers made the top ten of this list despite the fact that they haven't had a linebacker drafted into the NFL since 2009; which happened to be first-round pick Robert Ayers. That happened to be the second year in a row that Tennessee had a linebacker taken in the first round - in 2008, Jerod Mayo was selected by the New England Patriots. The only other first-round pick that the Volunteers produced, Al Wilson (2001) had a pretty good career for the Denver Broncos. Tennessee is also one of only seven schools to have at least three linebackers drafted in the first round
5. Georgia: 62 Points (12 Selections)
The Bulldogs are the the highest-ranked team from the SEC on this list. Interestingly, most of Georgia's contributions to the NFL via the linebacker position have come in recent years. It has a plethora of young talent in the league right now at linebacker but none more exciting than the pair of 2013 first-round selections Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones. Third-round selection Justin Hunt has been a beast at rushing the passer for the Kansas City Chiefs in his three seasons and second-round pick Kendrell Bell has found a role with the Pittsburgh Steelers as well.
4. Miami: 64 Points (13 Selections)
The Hurricanes are known as "The U" but based on this data, they could certainly make a case to be called "Linebacker U" as well. They had four linebackers taken in the first-round of the NFL draft - Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, and Dan Morgan. All have had relative success in the NFL, but Vilma and Williams stood above the others. The rest of the Hurricanes' linebackers didn't make too much of a splash in the pros. Most people associate the Hurricanes with producing only offensive skill position players, but this list shows that to be a misconception.
3. USC: 73 Points (16 Selections)
USC claimed our title of "Quarterback U" in last week's piece. The Trojans are one of only two teams to have a mind-boggling five linebackers selected in the first round of the NFL draft during the era - Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Nick Perry, Keith Rivers and Chris Claiborne. Matthews and Cushing are safely among the NFL's elite linebackers. But the Trojans' star power at the linebacker position doesn't end there. They also boast second-round selections Loa Tatupu and Rey Maualuga as well. And that only accounts for seven of their 16 linebackers taken in the era. No other Pac-12 team came remotely close to USC's point total.
2. Florida State: 75 Points (18 Points)
The last team to hoist the crystal ball almost celebrated another title as "Linebacker U" but came up just short. The Seminoles literally were the epitome of consistency when it came to getting linebackers drafted into the NFL. They had at least two linebackers selected in all seven rounds of the draft - no other program can make that claim. Their four first-round selections were Bjoern Werner, Lawrence Timmons, Ernie Sims, and Kamerion Wimbley. Timmons and Wimbley have had the best careers thus far. Sixth-round pick Geno Hayes has arguably put together the next best career of any of their alumni in the NFL. But Florida State has a potential to become even more well known for it's professional linebackers - it had three linebackers selected in the 2013 draft alone.
1. Ohio State: 82 Points (19 Selections)
The Ohio State University has earned the title of "Linebacker U" of the 16-year BCS era. And it did it by a fairly wide margin, too. OSU had 12 linebackers drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL draft. Its five first-round picks - A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Vernon Gholston, Andy Katzenmoyer, and Ryan Shazier - tied USC for the most in the country. One player many OSU fans adore is second-round pick James Laurinaitis. He has played five great seasons for the St. Louis Rams and hasn't missed a start yet. Fourth-round pick Na'il Diggs also threw together a pretty nice career in the NFL.
Maybe it's time the nation begins to give Ohio State the respect it deserves when it comes to preparing linebackers to be drafted into the NFL.