Old-school football is a thing of the past, but LSU has earned its reputation as DLU by continuing to churn out defensive linemen in an offensive football world.

By Chase Goodbread | July 7, 2020

Where do NFL teams go to find the most pro-ready players? NFL.com's Pipelines to the Pros series explores which schools, at each of eight positions over the last 20 years, have been providing NFL clubs with not only the most draft choices but also the most impactful pro players early in their careers. And beyond that, an examination of why those schools are so successful and the factors that contribute to a college program's ability to maintain pipeline-like development at a particular spot on the field.

Today, in the sixth of eight installments, we examine the schools vying for the title of Defensive Line U.

The Top 10

  1. LSU 450.0 (Michael Brockers 51.0, Glenn Dorsey 50.5, Marcus Spears 48.5, Kyle Williams 46.0, Tyson Jackson 44.5, Bennie Logan 39.5, Danielle Hunter 33.0, Davon Godchaux 23.0, Melvin Oliver 16.0, Chad Lavalais 15.0, Jarvis Green 14.5, Arden Key 14.0, Ricky Jean Francois 9.5, Howard Green 8.0, Drake Nevis 5.5, Ego Ferguson 4.5, Marquise Hill 4.0, Sam Montgomery 4.0, Claude Wroten 4.0, Al Woods 3.5, Lavar Edwards 3.0, Kenderick Allen 2.0, Rashard Lawrence 2.0, Lazarius Levingston 2.0, Chase Pittman 2.0, Anthony Johnson 0.5)
  2. ALABAMA 419.5 (Marcell Dareus 60.0, Dalvin Tomlinson 36.0, Cornelius Griffin 34.0, Jarran Reed 30.5, Antwan Odom 29.5, Jonathan Allen 28.5, Daron Payne 28.5, A'Shawn Robinson 25.0, Quinton Dial 19.0, Quinnen Williams 19.0, Terrence Cody 15.0, Mark Anderson 12.5, Brandon Deaderick 12.5, Da'Shawn Hand 11.0, Josh Chapman 9.5, Kenny Smith 9.0, Kindal Moorehead 8.5, Ed Stinson 5.5, Anthony Bryant 5.0, Raekwon Davis 4.0, Damion Square 4.0, Kenny King 3.0, Isaiah Buggs 2.0, Josh Frazier 2.0, Jeoffrey Pagan 2.0, Jesse Williams 2.0, Wallace Gilberry 1.5, Jeremy Clark 0.5)
  3. USC 385.0 (Leonard Williams 57.0, Jurrell Casey 52.0, Sedrick Ellis 51.5, Mike Patterson 46.5, Kenechi Udeze 39.0, Lawrence Jackson 27.0, Fili Moala 27.0, Shaun Cody 17.0, Wes Horton 13.5, Antwaun Woods 12.5, Everson Griffen 10.5, Kyle Moore 9.0, Rasheem Green 8.0, Frostee Rucker 8.0, LaJuan Ramsey 4.5, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu 2.0)
  4. TEXAS 374.0 (Shaun Rogers 53.0, Casey Hampton 49.0, Malcom Brown 47.5, Lamarr Houston 45.5, Cory Redding 36.0, Roy Miller 28.5, Henry Melton 20.0, Marcus Tubbs 17.5, Brian Robison 16.0, Cedric Woodard 16.0, Tim Crowder 11.5, Hassan Ridgeway 10.0, Poona Ford 8.0, Rodrique Wright 6.5, Frank Okam 5.0, Charles Omenihu 2.0, Kheeston Randall 2.0)
  5. OHIO STATE 368.0 (Joey Bosa 54.0, Will Smith 41.5, Ryan Pickett 37.5, Nick Bosa 34.0, Johnathan Hankins 32.0, Cameron Heyward 30.5, Adolphus Washington 20.0, Jay Richardson 18.5, Darrion Scott 18.0, Tim Anderson 12.5, Sam Hubbard 11.5, Tyquan Lewis 10.0, Chase Young 10.0, Dre'Mont Jones 5.0, Quinn Pitcock 5.0, DaVon Hamilton 4.0, Kenny Peterson 4.0, Rodney Bailey 3.0, Simon Fraser 3.0, Michael Bennett 2.0, Jashon Cornell 2.0, James Cotton 2.0, Winfield Garnett 2.0, Thaddeus Gibson 2.0, Jalyn Holmes 2.0, Doug Worthington 2.0)
  6. GEORGIA 361.0 (Richard Seymour 59.5, Marcus Stroud 46.0, Charles Grant 45.0, Geno Atkins 38.0, Kedric Golston 30.0, Robert Geathers 24.5, Johnathan Sullivan 24.0, Charles Johnson 22.5, John Jenkins 18.0, Abry Jones 13.0, DeAngelo Tyson 6.0, Demetric Evans 5.5, Jarius Wynn 5.0, Corvey Irvin 4.0, Cornelius Washington 4.0, John Atkins 3.0, Josh Mallard 2.5, Marcus Howard 2.0, Jeff Owens 2.0, Tyrone Robertson 2.0, Kade Weston 2.0, Chris Clemons 1.5, Jonathan Ledbetter 1.0)
  7. FLORIDA STATE 360.5 (Corey Simon 59.0, Darnell Dockett 53.0, Eddie Goldman 41.5, Brodrick Bunkley 34.0, Travis Johnson 28.5, Timmy Jernigan 26.5, Derrick Nnadi 23.0, Mario Edwards 21.0, Chauncey Davis 16.0, Letroy Guion 11.0, Jamal Reynolds 10.0, Tank Carradine 8.0, Andre Fluellen 8.0, Everette Brown 6.0, DeMarcus Walker 4.5, Eric Moore 2.5, Demarcus Christmas 2.0, Everett Dawkins 2.0, Jerry Johnson 2.0, Josh Sweat 2.0)
  8. FLORIDA 358.5 (Gerard Warren 55.0, Alex Brown 43.0, Derrick Harvey 30.5, Bobby McCray 24.0, Marcus Thomas 21.5, Carlos Dunlap 20.5, Sharrif Floyd 20.5, Dante Fowler Jr. 20.5, Ian Scott 18.5, Jaye Howard 16.0, Ray McDonald 16.0, Taven Bryan 13.0, Dominique Easley 12.0, Jonathan Bullard 10.0, Jarvis Moss 9.5, Jeremy Mincey 6.0, Jonathan Greenard 4.0, Jabari Zuniga 4.0, Caleb Brantley 3.0, Joe Cohen 2.0, Joey Ivie 2.0, Tron LaFavor 2.0, Alex McCalister 2.0, Clint Mitchell 2.0, Bryan Cox 1.0)
  9. CLEMSON 346.5 (Vic Beasley 51.0, Grady Jarrett 36.0, D.J. Reader 31.5, Gaines Adams 28.5, Jarvis Jenkins 28.0, Clelin Ferrell 25.0, Dexter Lawrence 24.0, Christian Wilkins 22.0, Andre Branch 17.0, Shaq Lawson 17.0, Da'Quan Bowers 12.0, Carlos Watkins 8.5, Malliciah Goodman 8.0, Phillip Merling 7.5, Brandon Thompson 7.5, Darell Scott 7.0, Nick Eason 4.0, Donnell Washington 4.0, Charles Bennett 2.0, Austin Bryant 2.0, Bryant McNeal 2.0, Ricky Sapp 2.0)
  10. TENNESSEE 329.0 (John Henderson 58.5, Shaun Ellis 44.0, Albert Haynesworth 33.5, Darwin Walker 28.0, Dan Williams 28.0, Robert Ayers 22.0, Malik Jackson 22.0, Derek Barnett 18.0, Turk McBride 16.5, Rashad Moore 14.0, Justin Harrell 10.0, Aubrayo Franklin 9.0, Will Overstreet 5.0, Dan McCullers 4.0, Kyle Phillips 4.0, Darrell Taylor 4.0, Jesse Mahelona 3.0, Demetrin Veal 2.5, Tony McDaniel 2.0, Shy Tuttle 1.0)

Defensive Line U overview

USC and Texas ahead of Ohio State? It's true, but the Buckeyes are in the passing lane and breaking the speed limit. Bosa brothers Nick and Joey alone are dominating on Sundays with just five years of combined pro experience, leading a plethora of young NFL defensive linemen from OSU. Up next: star-in-making Chase Young, the fourth DL picked in the first round by the Redskins in as many years. Meanwhile, the only ones from USC young enough to continue scoring points are Antwaun Woods and Rasheem Green, and from Texas, it's Poona Ford, Hassan Ridgeway and Charles Omenihu.

LSU, Alabama get defensive when talk turns to influence of defensive linemen

Count Marcus Spears among those who believe the 2011 Alabama-LSU football game was the final nail in the coffin of defensive college football. And that the days of dominant defensive lines controlling games ended right there, at Bryant-Denny Stadium, as well.

The advent of the spread offense had begun mitigating defensive line play many years earlier, but the trends of RPO and the no-huddle tempo were still dawning. And they were certainly nowhere to be found on a chilly Nov. 5 night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the top-ranked teams in the nation warred to a 9-6 LSU overtime win largely because two defensive lines could not be blocked. Even with an overtime period, neither team reached the end zone and each totaled fewer than 300 total yards.

To old-school fans, it was a thing of beauty; to a younger generation, unwatchable. And to Spears, the end of an era.

"That was the last knockdown drag-out where people still respected defense. You had a 9-6 game and people still left that stadium saying, 'That was a hell of a game,'" said Spears, the former LSU defensive lineman and current ESPN analyst. "Now, if you can't score 10 points, they talk about disbanding your football team."

Nearly a decade later, LSU and Alabama are still turning out NFL-quality defensive linemen like nobody else, even if they can no longer influence the scoreboard as much as they once did. The Tigers edged Alabama in NFL.com's Pipeline to the Pros series for defensive linemen, which ranks college programs by their ability to develop NFL-ready players.

Part of a long line of dominant defensive linemen at LSU, Spears accounted for more than one-tenth of LSU's 450 points in the exercise. When he arrived at LSU as a freshman tight end in 2001, eventual draft picks Jarvis Green and Chad Lavalais led the defensive line. Three years later Spears was a consensus All-American, became a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys and passed the torch to eventual No. 5 overall pick Glenn Dorsey. The lineage has since continued without much interruption right up to the latest draftee from LSU -- the Arizona Cardinals took DT Rashard Lawrence with a fourth-round pick in April -- although Tigers coach Ed Orgeron senses a current lull.

"Lately, we haven't had the No. 1 draft choices that we want there (at defensive line)," said Orgeron, a former defensive lineman at LSU (1979) who transferred to Northwestern State (1980-1983). "But in the next couple years, we've got some guys who will be outstanding players. I think this freshman class is going to be one of the best that we've brought in."

The majority of top defensive linemen to come through LSU have been in-state signees, including two of the three four-star recruits in Orgeron's 2020 class. Those from the Bayou state include Green, Lavalais, Dorsey, Lavar Edwards, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Kyle Williams, Claude Wroten, Al Woods, Tyson Jackson, Drake Nevis, Davon Godchaux and Spears, who believes defensive linemen from his home state benefit greatly from a tendency to play multiple sports in high school.

"Most of the D-linemen from Louisiana are multi-sport athletes. Guys I played with came in with a background in basketball. To me, a basketball player in a defensive lineman is a plus," said Spears, who competed in football, basketball and track at Southern University Lab in Baton Rouge. "And during that time, we eat a lot of good food, so good athletes at other positions can eat their way to being defensive linemen."

A stunning 45 players who played in the 9-6 game eventually became NFL draft picks, and the defensive lines were well-stocked. LSU anchored up front with Michael Brockers, who was drafted in the first round less than six months later; another eventual first-rounder in Mingo; and other draft picks in Sam Montgomery, Logan and Edwards. Alabama countered with draft picks from Quinton Dial to Jesse Williams to Josh Chapman and Courtney Upshaw, who was technically a linebacker but functioned as a full-time pass rusher.

Nine years later, the profile for top defensive linemen has gotten a bit lighter and longer, a bit faster and sleeker. Offensive football has evolved to demand that quarterbacks get off quick passes to the perimeter and in space, neutralizing pass rushes, which in turn has placed a premium on speedier defensive linemen who can make plays after the pass is thrown, not just before. Nose guards, absent pass-rush skills, have largely been relegated to goal-line duty.

"You have to have a different type of D-lineman now," Spears said. "Long, rangy guys."

But the best of them still gravitate toward LSU or Alabama as much as anywhere.

Three and Out

  1. Consider Clemson on the ascent, as well. The Tigers ranked just ninth, but have nine active DLs in the pros, five of whom were first-round picks. Clemson's entire starting D-line was drafted in 2019 (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant, with the first three being first-rounders) and the quartet responded with 140 combined tackles as rookies. …
  2. Georgia's top two scorers, Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud, came out of the same draft (2001) and were Pro Bowl teammates in 2003, '04 and '05. …
  3. From the draft-steal file comes former Florida DE Bobby McCray, just a few picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant as a seventh-round pick of the Jaguars in 2004. McCray made 29 starts in Jacksonville and posted 10 sacks in 2006. In the Pipeline to the Pros scoring system, he rated higher than first-round former Gators including Sharrif Floyd, Dante Fowler Jr., Taven Bryan, Dominique Easley and Jarvis Moss.

Coming Wednesday: Linebacker U.

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