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Top 10 college football players of the 2000s

QB Tim Tebow had a magical career at Florida, but he didn't have staying power in the NFL.

Last week, College Football 24/7 took a look at the 10 greatest college football players from the 1990s; today, we're looking at the 10 best from 2000-09.

Important to note: This is about college careers, not what the players did/have done in the NFL. We focused on value to team and dominant play over at least three seasons. Raw statistics also were a consideration.

10. OT Jake Long, Michigan

(2003-07)

Long redshirted as a true freshman, then was a four-year starter for the Wolverines at left tackle. In his final two seasons, Long was penalized once in 1,743 plays. He was the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year as a junior and senior, then became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

9. RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

(2004-06)

Peterson rushed for an NCAA-freshman-record 1,925 yards in 2004, when he was second in the Heisman voting and helped OU reach the BCS national championship game. He battled injuries (to his ankle and collarbone) as a sophomore and junior, but still reached the 1,000-yard plateau in both seasons. He finished his career with 4,045 rushing yards, 73 yards short of OU's career record set by Heisman recipient Billy Sims, and 41 rushing TDs. He was a first-round pick in the 2007 draft, going No. 7 overall to the Minnesota Vikings.

8. QB Pat White, West Virginia

(2005-08)

West Virginia was one of the few major programs that recruited White, from Daphne (Ala.) High, as a quarterback. Then-Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez knew what he was doing, as White fit perfectly in RichRod's run-heavy version of the spread. White, the only starting quarterback in NCAA history to win four bowl games, finished his career with 4,480 rushing yards, an NCAA record for a quarterback. He also is one of just four quarterbacks ever to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for 6,000 yards, joining Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Missouri's Brad Smith. None of the others did it with quite the style of White. White was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins in the 2009 draft.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks digs deep into the game tape to evaluate college football's most talented players.

» Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
» Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
» Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
» Leonard Williams, DL, USC
» Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
» Wisconsin's Gordon vs. Georgia's Gurley

7. DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

(2006-09)

Suh was as dominant as any defensive linemen in college history in 2009, when he became the first defensive player to earn AP College Player of the Year honors; that season, his fourth-place finish in Heisman voting was the highest by a defensive lineman since Nebraska's Rich Glover placed third in 1972. Suh won the Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski awards as a senior. He was a backup as a redshirt freshman, was a solid starter in '07, then blossomed into a star. He led Nebraska in tackles as a junior and senior, becoming the first Huskers defensive lineman ever to do that in consecutive seasons. He was a first-round pick in the 2010 draft.

6. SS Eric Berry, Tennessee

(2007-09)

Berry was a three-year starter -- and a three-year star -- for the Vols. He picked off 14 passes in his career and ranks second in NCAA history with 494 interception-return yards, including three returns for TDs. He won the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. He finished his career with 245 tackles, 17 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Berry was a freshman All-America in 2007 and a consensus All-America selection in '08 and '09; he was the SEC defensive player of the year in '08, when he had seven interceptions. Berry was a first-round pick in the 2010 draft.


14 for '14 series:
CFB 24/7 counts down the 14 college football players or coaches to watch in varying categories in 2014.

» Top small-school prospects
» Impact freshmen in college football
» Top rivalries in college football
» Top personalities in college football
» Best uniforms in college football
» Best stadiums in college football
» Biggest hitters in college football
» Hot coordinators in college football
» Best recruiters in college football
» Hot-seat coaches in college football
» Best coaches in college football
» Best names in college football
» Heaviest players in college football
» Smallest players in college football
» Top celebrity college football fans
» Top Heisman Trophy candidates
» Most explosive athletes in college football
» Most versatile players in college football
» Most freakish athletes in college football
» Scariest players in college football
» Fastest players in college football
» Toughest players in college football
» Smartest players in college football
» Most physical players in college football
» College football players with best intangibles

5. QB Matt Leinart, USC

(2002-05)

He replaced Heisman winner Carson Palmer as USC's starting quarterback -- and made Trojans fans quickly forget Palmer. Leinart was 37-2 in three seasons as a starter and led the Trojans to the 2003 AP national championship and the BCS championship in 2004; he also won the Heisman in 2004. He led the Trojans to the national-title game against Texas in '05, but was outdueled in that all-time classic by Texas' Vince Young. He threw for 10,693 yards and 99 touchdowns in his career, and was a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 draft.

4. RB Reggie Bush, USC

(2003-05)

While the Heisman Trust has expunged any record of his winning the Heisman in 2005, his on-field play that season (and in the previous two seasons) was quite memorable. He was the most electrifying player of the decade. As a junior in '05, Bush had 1,740 rushing yards and 478 receiving yards and 19 total touchdowns. Bush finished his career with 3,169 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns while sharing carries with LenDale White; he also had 95 career receptions, 13 receiving touchdowns, three punt-return touchdowns and one kickoff-return TD. He was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2006 draft.

3. RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas

(2005-07)

McFadden finished his three-season career with a school-record 4,590 rushing yards -- that's No. 2 in SEC history, behind only Herschel Walker -- and set an SEC record by gaining 2,310 all-purpose yards as a junior in 2007. He rushed for 1,830 yards that season, the second-highest total in SEC history. He finished second in the Heisman balloting in each of his last two seasons. McFadden, who rushed for 41 yards in his career, also threw seven career touchdown passes and had two TD receptions. He was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 2008 draft.

2. QB Vince Young, Texas

(2002-05)

Texas won the national title in 2005 and it was all because of Young. He was the No. 1 national prospect in the 2002 signing class, but it took him a while to live up to the hype. He redshirted as a true freshman in '02 and struggled as a passer as a redshirt freshman in '03. But he began to hit his stride as a sophomore in '04, winning Rose Bowl MVP honors in a victory over Michigan that capped off the season. He had a huge season in 2005, culminating in a masterful performance in the championship-game victory over USC. He was 30-2 as a starting quarterback, and passed for 6,040 yards and 44 TDs and rushed for 3,127 yards and 37 TDs in his career. He was a first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2006 draft.

1. QB Tim Tebow, Florida

(2006-09)

Tebow had a magnificent college career. He was a key backup as a true freshman on a national-title team in 2006 (he ran for a TD and also threw for a score as Florida steamrolled Ohio State in the '06 national championship game), then started in his final three seasons with the Gators. He won the Heisman in 2007, the first sophomore to win the award; that season, he became the first player in NCAA history with at least 20 TDs as a runner (23) and passer (32) in the same season. In his final two seasons, Tebow guided Florida to a 26-2 record, including the national title in 2008. He was a Heisman finalist as a junior and senior, and finished his career with 9,285 passing yards, 2,947 rushing yards, 88 passing TDs and 57 rushing TDs. He is second in NCAA history in career passing efficiency and is one of only two players in NCAA history to run and pass for at least 50 TDs each and to account for at least 300 points as a runner and 500 as a passer. In four bowl games, he accounted for 12 TDs. He was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2010 draft.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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