The era when SEC linebackers wracked up 100-tackle seasons like candy on Halloween is long gone.
As offenses have thrown more and operated at faster tempos and used a larger swath of the field in the last few decades, career tackle totals for the conference’s best defensive players have dipped.
Only one player ranking in the conference’s Top 10 career tackles list, Kentucky’s Marty Moore, played after the 1980s, and his college career ended in ’93. Just a few SEC players have reached 425 career tackles since, including Georgia’s Greg Bright (453; 1994-97) and Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson (425; 2011-14).
Surprisingly, Kentucky dominates the SEC’s career Top 10 list, claiming four of the top nine. (Two of those players, Jim Kovach and Moore, went on to enjoy successful NFL careers.)
Interestingly, Alabama doesn’t have a single player on the list, while Ole Miss and Florida claim two players each.
No current player has cracked the Top 50 even only dating back to 2005, so we’re unlikely to see any new additions to this list by the end of the 2015 season or any time soon. Making this Top 10 almost requires a strong freshman season. Vanderbilt LB Nigel Bowden led SEC freshmen with 78 tackles in ’14, and he’d need to average 130 tackles a season for three more years to make the list.
Tragically, the SEC’s all-time leading tackler, Andy Spiva, died in a car crash in 1979 at 25 years of age. A fifth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in ’77, he entered the ’78 season as the starting middle linebacker, but suffered a season-ending injury. The car crash took place in April of ’79, cutting short what could’ve been a strong career.
Here are the Top 10 all-time SEC defensive players ranked by career tackles.
|1. Andy Spiva||Tennessee||547||1973-76|
|T2. Freddie Smith||Auburn||528||1976-79|
|T2. Jeff Herrod||Ole Miss||528||1984-87|
|4. Jim Kovach||Kentucky||521||1974-76, 1978|
|5. Chris Chenault||Kentucky||482||1985-88|
|T6. David Little||Florida||475||1977-80|
|T6. Jeff Kremer||Kentucky||475||1984-87|
|8. Kem Coleman||Ole Miss||472||1974-77|
|9. Marty Moore||Kentucky||470||1990-93|
|T10. Scot Brantley||Florida||467||1976-79|
|T10. Ben Zambiasi||Georgia||467||1974-77|
|T10. Ray Costict||Mississippi State||467||1973-76|