10 best in-state defensive players in SEC history
In a league known for punishing defenses and shutdown corners, these 10 homegrown stars stand out among their peers.
Some already are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Others soon will be. One still hasn’t finished dominating the SEC.
They are the best defensive lineman, linebackers and defensive backs to play for their in-state SEC school.
10. Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina
The most coveted and decorated recruit to ever choose South Carolina, regardless of hometown, the Rock Hill, S.C., star was the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 2011 class.
Clowney was part of the greatest three-year run in program history, a 33-6 stretch that included three bowl wins and a top 10 national finish.
He then became the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
9. Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
Already a two-time Pro Bowler, Dareus was Nick Saban’s first big run-stuffing signee, a four-star recruit in 2008 out of Birmingham.
Dareus, from Birmingham, Ala., helped the Tide win the 2009 national championship was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft — three spots ahead of teammate Julio Jones.
8. Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M
A five-star prospect out of Arlington, Texas, Garrett was the top-rated defensive end and No. 2-ranked player overall in the 2014 class.
He has spent the past two seasons proving the analysts correct.
He led the SEC with 12.5 sacks in 2015 after finishing second as a freshman with 11.5.
Likely to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, Garrett is in the mix to join Clowney as a No. 1 overall pick.
7. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU
DBU gets who it wants — even out of South Florida, where it pried away Patrick Peterson, making him ineligible for this all-star team.
The Honey Badger, from St. Augustine’s, the same New Orleans power that later produced Leonard Fournette, won the 2011 Bednarik Award and was a Heisman finalist, overcame some bad decisions in college, which caused him to slip to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but he has rebounded in style.
He had five interceptions this season and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
6. David Pollack, DL, Georgia
Pollack, who grew up 30 miles east of Atlanta, blossomed into a three-time All-American for Georgia during the early 2000s.
Injuries robbed him of an NFL career, but Pollack remains Georgia’s all-time sacks leader with 36, which still ranks fourth in SEC history.
5. Justin Smith, DL, Missouri
Smith, one of Missouri’s greatest homegrown Tigers, left long before they entered the SEC, but he also left his mark on the program.
A native of Holts Summit, just 30 miles from Missouri’s campus, Smith was an All-American in 2000 and left as the Tigers’ career leader in sacks (22.5).
Cincinnati drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2001 and he made five Pro Bowls before retiring after 14 seasons.
4. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
He left for the NFL just as the Aggies were moving into the SEC, but few if any linebackers were better — regardless of where they went to high school.
Miller, from suburban Dallas, was a consensus All-American and Butkus Award winner in 2010.
The Denver Broncos selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft — right after Carolina took Cam Newton. Miller outplayed Newton in Super Bowl 50, earning MVP honors as the Broncos toppled Newton’s Panthers.
Already a four-time Pro Bowler, he appears well on his way toward an induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
3. Dan Hampton, DL, Arkansas
Hampton, who arrived from suburban Little Rock, Ark., long before recruiting rankings, set the standard for every Razorback defensive lineman since.
An All-American defensive tackle in 1978, back when the Razorbacks were part of the Southwest Conference, Hampton was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. A key piece of the Chicago Bears’ famed 1985 defense, Hampton was a four-time Pro Bowler who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
2. Champ Bailey, DB, Georgia
A folk hero from Folkston, Ga., Bailey was a modern athlete with a throwback game. He starred on offense, defense and special teams.
In 1998, Bailey was named college football’s best defensive back and also scored five touchdowns. Bailey was an All-American in 1998, but many Bulldogs fans thought he should have won the Heisman, too.
In his spare time, set long jump records for Georgia’s track team, all before become a first-round draft pick and 12-time Pro Bowler in the NFL.
Next up is a call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1. Reggie White, DL, Tennessee
Just as Herschel Walker set the bar for SEC running backs, White did for defensive linemen.
The Minister of Defense traveled just 100 miles up I-75 from Chattanooga to Knoxville, where he became a Vols and SEC icon.
White set the Tennessee career sack record with 32, almost half of which (15) came during a dominant senior season in 1983.
White, whose jersey No. 92 was retired in 2005, was elected to the College Hall of Fame in 2002.
He was a 10-time All-Pro and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.