Who is ‘Linebacker U?’

USC's Keith Rivers looks to be the first linebacker taken in AprilWhen Penn State’s Dan Connor and USC’s Keith Rivers are chosen in this year’s NFL Draft, they will continue a tradition that has entrenched their schools as two of the preeminent linebacker-producing schools in the country.

JoePa’s program has had such a propensity for producing first-rate linebackers, the school is one of several that have earned the nickname “Linebacker U,” and Connor is only the latest to come down the line.

Last year, Paul Posluszny was drafted in the second round by the Buffalo Bills after twice being named an All-American and Bednarik Award winner. And next in line is Sean Lee, who some will no doubt call one of the greatest Nittany Lion linebackers of all time.

The names of great Penn State linebackers is a who’s who of college football defensive greats: LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short, Mark D’Onofrio, Andre Collins, Shane Conlan, and of course, Jack Ham.

Certainly, any conversation about linebacker-producing schools has to have Happy Valley in the mix. But it doesn’t end there.

The USC Trojans have an extremely storied history as a top-flight linebacker producing school as well. Rivers is expected to go in the first round of this year’s draft, and he’s the latest to become a star in the storied #55, following Junior Seau, Willie McGinest, and Chris Claiborne, who all rank among legendary USC linebackers, along with Richard Wood, Chip Banks, and current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, to name a few, along with current Seahawks star Lofa Tatupu. The 2009 draft could see a pair of Trojans, Brian Cushing and Ray Mauluga, go in the first round as well.

Ray Lewis was a great at Miami before becoming one of the NFL's top linebackers.But perhaps the school with the biggest stake to the claim “Linebacker U”, is the Miami Hurricanes. In fact, some may argue that the Hurricanes have produced more and better linebackers than either USC or Penn State.

When you look at the names, there certainly is an argument: Ray Lewis, Jon Beason, Michael Barrow, Darrin Smith, Jessie Armstead, Nate Webster, Dan Morgan, DJ Williams, Jonathan Vilma and Rocky McIntosh all hail from “The U.”

That list includes four first rounders, four Pro Bowlers and two MVPs.

Of course, being hailed as THE university for a particular position is all relative. The Hurricanes have also been called “Quarterback U,” but what about USC? Or, to some extent, Notre Dame? Every major college program produces so many NFL-caliber players, almost by default they will send on any number of elite players from a particular position. USC is also known as ‘Tailback U,’ having produced five Heisman Trophy-winning running backs starting with Mike Garrett in 1965 to Reggie Bush 40 years later.

For a time during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Texas A&M was being called “Linebacker U” after producing players such as Quentin Coryatt, John Roper, Aaron Wallace, Marcus Buckley and Dat Nguyen.

Since then, the moniker has tapered off and is moving on to schools like USC and now Ohio State.

Former Buckeye A.J. Hawk is quickly becoming a star with the Green Bay Packers.The Buckeyes have produced the likes of Na’il Diggs, Andy Katzenmoyer, AJ Hawk, Mike Vrabel, Steve Tovar, Lorenzo Styles, and current star James Laurinaitis.

But they have also shown a knack for producing great corners (Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements, Ahmad Plummer, Malcolm Jenkins).

Anytime you declare a team “Position U,” you’re going to be second-guessed by countless devotees to a particular college.

Penn State is Linebacker U?

Tell that to Georgia Bulldog fans, who have seen the likes of Randall Godfrey, Kendrell Bell, Charlie Clemons, Boss Bailey, David Pollack, Odell Thurman, and Thomas Davis play between the hedges.

Or Virginia? Take Jamie Sharper, Chris Slade, James Farrior or Darryl Blackstock.

Florida State? How about Peter Boulware, Henri Crockett, Sam Cowart, Reinard Wilson, Marvin Jones, Derrick Brooks, or Ernie Sims.

So, who is truly “Linebacker U?” I’ll leave that to you to decide.

  • http://none Guerrero

    i am a huge USC fan having watched greats come in and out from my TV at home and in the aluminum bleachers in the east endzone, but i think its safe to say even as an LA boy, that The “U” has the top spot at the LB position, then us. Theres nothing wrong with silver. p.s. u forgot recent probowler Lofa Tatupu

  • Brian Walzel

    There were a number of linebackers I’m sure I left off for a lot of schools. That’s what’s great about these types of discussions. You’ll always have a fan of a particular program say “Hey, what about this guy?!” You raise me with Tatupu, I call with Junior Seau. The list could go on and on…

  • http://none Guerrero

    true that…i look like a horses patoot…j/k, but that is the reality.

  • http://none Guerrero

    wait..jr seau is already on there

  • Greg

    How can you put together an article and list PSU linebackers and not mention Jack Ham? Maybe the best Pro LB of all time.

  • The Quiet Man

    Who is Linebacker “U”?

    USC has a first ballot HOF’er in Seau and Tatupu is halfway to the HOF after only three years on the job.

    USC has 13 Pro Bowl Linebackers:

    Seau: 12 consecutive Pro Bowls
    Chip Banks: four Pro Bowls NFL ROY
    Clay Matthews: four pro bowls
    Lofa Tatupu: three consecutive Pro bowls; NFL Defensive ROY
    Frank Buncom: three Pro Bowls; Pro Bowl MVP
    Jerry Shipkey: three consecutive Pro Bowls, two as linebacker
    Rod Martin: two consecutive Pro Bowls
    Willie McGinest: two Pro Bowls
    Duane Bickett: one Pro Bowl; NFL Rookie of the Year; AP Defensive ROY
    Jack Del Rio LB: one Pro Bowl; Saints ROY
    David Lewis: one Pro Bowl
    Tim Rossovich: one Pro Bowl
    Charlie Weaver: one Pro Bowl

    USC has eight linebackers drafted first round:

    Chris Claiborne
    Willie McGinest
    Junior Seau
    Duane Bickett: NFL Rookie of the Year; AP Defensive ROY
    Chip Banks: AP Defensive ROY
    Clay Matthews
    Tim Rossovich
    Marlin McKeever

    This Rivers will probably be the next one; followed by Cushing and Maualuga next year.

    USC has had 63 linebackers drafted: more than any other school. As noted above, Rivers will be drafted this year, as will Williams; so add two more to the total. For 2009, Maualuga, Cushing, Maiava, and Matthews will all be drafted.

    USC has 22 linebackers that achieves first team AA honors. This total will move up considerably after the next two years.

    If it isn’t clear to you now; it never will be.

  • The Quiet Man

    Who is Linebacker “U”?

    USC has a first ballot HOF’er in Seau and Tatupu is halfway to the HOF after only three years on the job.

    USC has 13 Pro Bowl Linebackers:

    Seau: 12 consecutive Pro Bowls
    Chip Banks: four Pro Bowls NFL ROY
    Clay Matthews: four pro bowls
    Lofa Tatupu: three consecutive Pro bowls; NFL Defensive ROY
    Frank Buncom: three Pro Bowls; Pro Bowl MVP
    Jerry Shipkey: three consecutive Pro Bowls, two as linebacker
    Rod Martin: two consecutive Pro Bowls
    Willie McGinest: two Pro Bowls
    Duane Bickett: one Pro Bowl; NFL Rookie of the Year; AP Defensive ROY
    Jack Del Rio LB: one Pro Bowl; Saints ROY
    David Lewis: one Pro Bowl
    Tim Rossovich: one Pro Bowl
    Charlie Weaver: one Pro Bowl

    USC has eight linebackers drafted first round:

    Chris Claiborne
    Willie McGinest
    Junior Seau
    Duane Bickett: NFL Rookie of the Year; AP Defensive ROY
    Chip Banks: AP Defensive ROY
    Clay Matthews
    Tim Rossovich
    Marlin McKeever

    This Rivers will probably be the next one; followed by Cushing and Maualuga next year.

    USC has had 63 linebackers drafted: more than any other school. As noted above, Rivers will be drafted this year, as will Williams; so add two more to the total. For 2009, Maualuga, Cushing, Maiava, and Matthews will all be drafted.

    USC has 22 linebackers that achieved first team AA honors. This total will move up considerably after the next two years.

    If it isn’t clear to you now; it never will be.

  • FMertz

    It isn’t up for debate.

  • CH

    Penn State was named Linebacker U by the National media due to having a large number of linebackers drafted. That was in the mid 70s. It had been going on since 1962. The 70s sealed the deal, 21 were drafted from the 1970 through the 1979 drafts. That doesn’t count the ones prior to 1970 or in the drafts after.

    In total there have been 55 linebacker drafted. And they have been honored with a great many being All Americans, and Academic AA.

    Either USC or Ohio State are #2 in number drafted. The reporter that started it all was amazed 1970 there were four (PSU played 4 LBers then) The next year they were followed by one LBer Jack Ham. I think most have heard of him, NFL
    Hof.

    As for Miami sorry they have half as many as PSU.

    List:
    Bill Saul
    Dave Robinson
    Ralph Baker
    John Runnels
    Dennis Onkotz
    John Ebersole
    Don Abbey
    James Kates
    Jack Ham
    Charles Zapiel
    Jim Laslavic
    Bruce Bannon
    John Skorupan
    Ed O¹Neil
    Doug Allen
    Tom Hull
    Chris Devlin
    Dave Graf
    Greg Buttle
    Kurt Allerman
    Ron Crosby
    Randy Sidler
    Tom DePaso
    Ron Hostetler
    Rich Milot
    Matt Millen
    Lance Mehl
    Larry Kubin
    Gene Gladys
    Chet Parlavecchio
    Rich D’Amico
    Walker Lee Ashley
    Scott Radecic
    Rogers Alexander
    Shane Conlan
    Don Graham
    Bob White
    Bob Ontko
    Quintus McDonald
    Keith Karpinski
    Andre Collins
    Mark D’Onofrio
    Keith Goganious
    Andre Powell
    Rich McKenzie
    Eric Ravotti
    Rob Holmberg
    Phil Yeboah-Kodie
    Brian Gelzheiser
    Terry Killens
    LaVar Arrington
    Brandon Short
    Paul Posluszny
    Tim Shaw

  • Danny Enriquez

    In the current game, UM is clearly tops. Two of the top three tacklers in the NFL this year were Canes (Jon Beason and DJ Williams). Another is a future HOFer (Ray Lewis). Two more are recent Pro Bowlers (Jon Vilma and Dan Morgan), and another two are starters (Nate Webster and the rising Roger McIntosh).

    Historically, people seem to forgetting that one of the greatest LBs in NFL history hailed from the U: Ted Hendricks.

    Instead of trying to decide whether UM is QB U, RB U, WR U, TE U, DT U, LB U, or S U, it is easier to just call them NFLU.

  • Brian

    Great arguments, all of you. And this is one of my points of the article. Many schools have arguments for their particular “postitions.” The Quiet Man has made a great argument for USC, CH for Penn State. I’m claiming recent Miami history has a stake in the argument, as does Florida St.

    For those who are interested in great college linebackers and one of the All-Time greatest hits, do a video search (either You Tube or Google) on Quentin Coryatt and “The Hit.” It occured in about 1989 on a Thursday night game against TCU. The hit broke the receiver’s jaw and, if I remember correctly, ended his playing days. Sports Illustrated called it the Hit of the Year. It’s a little old and the video is grainy, but well worth the look.

  • The Quiet Man

    USC has had 63 Linebackers Drafted, count them:

    Dallas Sartz
    Oscar Lua
    Darnell Bing
    Lofa Tatupu
    Marcus Steele
    Zeke Moreno
    Chris Claiborne: first round
    Brian Williams
    Jeff Kopp
    Willie McGinest: first round
    Lamont Hollinquest
    Kurt Barber
    Scott Ross
    Junior Seau: first round
    Marcus Cotton
    Ron Brown
    Joe Cormier
    Garrett Breeland
    Duane Bickett: first round
    Jack Del Rio
    Keith Browner
    August Curley
    Riki Ellison
    Chip Banks: first round
    Steve Busick
    Eric Scoggins
    Larry McGrew
    Dennis Johnson
    Garry Cobb
    Clay Matthews first round
    Mario Celotto
    Dave Lewis
    Eric Williams
    Rod Martin
    Richard Wood
    Dale Mitchell
    Monte Doris
    Jimmy Sims
    Charles Anthony
    Willie Hall
    Kent Carter
    Charlie Weaver
    Greg Slough
    Jimmy Gunn
    Tim Rossovich first round
    Adrian Young
    Chip Oliver
    Jim Ferguson
    Ray May
    Jeff Smith
    Ed King
    Frank Buncom
    Marlin McKeever first round
    Al Bansavage
    Mike Henry
    Karl Rubke
    George Timberlake
    Bob Peviani
    Pat Cannamela
    Don Burke
    Walter McCormick
    Bob Hoffman

    The last time I checked 63 > 55.

  • mike h

    How can we forget Kent State and its quality over quantity approach, not many pros, but two – James Harrison and Jack Lambert – have won NFL defensive player of the year honors.

  • Poster

    To Poster #5
    The author uses this phrase: “and of course, Jack Ham.”
    Read it again!!