Which Schools Hold the Positional U Titles?

I love the idea of college football programs staking their claim for positional dominance. During the 2019 season, LSU and Texas had an online battle for who is DBU. I am here to end such debates as I provide my picks for each position with who dominates the landscape.

Before beginning, time to set some ground rules.

I am operating from the typical cliche’ of not what schools have done, but more what schools have done lately. I am pushing close to 30, so I am officially in the midst of watching childhood athletes become obsolete to their respective sports. I am only taking the last 20 years into consideration. That doesn’t mean players have to get drafted 2000 or later. They just had to have been a mainstay in the league for a somewhat extended period of time after 2000.

An example would be Brett Favre whose NFL career began in 1991. However, he didn’t retire 2010.

The other standard I am setting is that whichever school the player finished with is who he gets billed toward. Russell Wilson played 3/4 college starts with NC State. However, he played his final season with Wisconsin.

The last stipulation is NFL success. I am weighing the success of the players more heavily than just being drafted by them because that means the school is in fact a factory for next level talent. If you have a first round talent that busts like Vernon Gholston, meh. I want quality NFL years. I couldn’t give a shit less about first round status.

To Recap the Rules:

  • Substantial NFL Success between 2000-2019
  • The School Where the Player was Drafted Gets Credit
  • Drafted Doesn’t Equate to NFL Factory, Quality over Quantity

Who is Quarterback U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: USC 

The QB position is difficult because unlike other positions, there are not many schools with multiple successful QBs. It is one, maybe two if you’re lucky, and then there is nothing but back ups and cast offs. The three that headline the title of QBU for the Trojans is Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez. Palmer had a long a healthy career filled with plenty ups and downs. Cassel primarily served as a backup most of his career. He did have two 10 win seasons to his name with solid numbers. Meanwhile, Sanchez did not have a lengthy career as a starter. It doesn’t change the fact his playoff numbers were damn good and he made it to two AFC Championships thanks to a great Rob Ryan defense. Among some of the other names are Matt Leinart, Cody Kessler and Matt Barkley.

Others Considered:

  • Oklahoma – Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield, Landry Jones, Kyler Murray
  • Boston College – Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Ryan

Why not the others?

Ultimately, I think the overall quality of Boston College is there, but that is the only two QBs that can even be mentioned. Oklahoma’s best is Sam Bradford while the jury is still out on Mayfield and Murray. USC has quality starters as well as some playoff success to their credit so they get the nod for now.

Who is Running Back U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: Alabama

This is the pick and it’s not close. Shaun Alexander was a top 5 RB in the league during the early to mid 2000s. Alabama also produced one of the NFL’s better fullbacks, Le’Ron McClain. Since Nick Saban has taken over with the Crimson Tide, the list speaks for itself. I think that is why they get the nod here over another school who produced RBs galore in the early 2000s.

  • Mark Ingram
  • Derrick Henry
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Kenyan Drake
  • TJ Yeldon
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Trent Richardson

All of which have had success at the next level. Lacy was a monster for Green Bay until his weight became a problem. Richardson had a great rookie season with the Browns until the NFL realized his vision was that of a toddler. He just ran into things and fell over.

Others Considered:

  • Miami (Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson)
  • Georgia (Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Knowshon Moreno, Garrison Hearst)

Why not the others?

Georgia simply doesn’t have the same quality as the others listed. Miami could be it, but I can’t look past the fact the tail end of the Miami backs is Lamar Miller and Duke Johnson. Meanwhile, Bama is sitting pretty with arguably the best back in the league (Henry) followed by arguably two top 10 backs (Ingram and Jacobs). When Lacy was good, he was in the top 10 as well.

Who is Receiver U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: LSU

I am giving LSU the nod because they have had a healthy core group of guys who had healthy careers from 2000 and beyond.

  • Eddie Kennison
  • Josh Reed
  • Michael Clayton
  • Devery Henderson
  • Dwayne Bowe
  • Brandon Lafell
  • Rueben Randle
  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Jarvis Landry
  • DJ Chark

That is a healthy group of guys. Kennison was not drafted after 2000 but fits the bill because of his success with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2002-2006. That was the best run of his lengthy career. That group has more than 15 1,000 yard seasons among them. At the worst, all of them with the exception of Michael Clayton’s odd career saw them as quality number 2 or 3 receivers.

Other Considered:

  • Oregon State (Chad Johnson, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Brandin Cooks)
  • Alabama (Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley)
  • Clemson (DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Hunter Renfrow, Mike Williams)

Why not the others?

Neither school have the number of high quality receivers. I love the three headed monster of Bama right now. But that is no match for 20 years of solid receivers.

Who is Tight End U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: Miami

The U has produced three high elite level tight ends since 2000 with Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. Then you throw in the two guys that are quality mid tier with Bubba Franks and David NJoku. Miami gets the nod…for now.

Others Considered: Iowa (Dallas Clark, George Kittle, TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant among a few others)

Why not Iowa?

In 2 years, I don’t think this is a discussion and I think Iowa obliterates what Miami has/had. George Kittle looks like he could end up being one of the five best tight ends of all time at his current pace. Clark had a fantastic career with the Colts and was one of the top guys of the mid 2000s. Hockenson and Fant can both be upper tier tight ends in short order.

Who is Offensive Line U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: LSU

Full disclosure, I had Notre Dame here until realizing I forgot about Ryan Ramczyk. Then, I put LSU after that realizing the amount of guys they have had. In all honesty, I would like to just call it a crap shoot and say it’s a tie between those 3. I went with LSU because they have Kevin Mawae, Alan Faneca, Andrew Whitworth, Trai Turner and La’El Collins. Ironically, two of Collins’ teammates Zack Martin and Travis Fredrick are products of the other two schools I mentioned. Mawae is in the Hall of Fame. Faneca will eventually get in. Whitworth will have to wait but should eventually get there. Trai Turner is a quality starter while Collins is one of the top 25 lineman in the league based on last year’s grades.

Others Considered:

  • Notre Dame (Quenton Nelson, Luke Petitgout, Jeff Faine, Zack Martin)
  • USC (Tyron Smith, Matt Kalil, Ryan Kalil)
  • Wisconsin (Joe Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, Kevin Zeitler, Travis Fredrick)

Why not the others?

Honestly, I am not convinced of my choice here. The Irish’s Nelson and Martin are both top 10 lineman at the absolute worst currently. The Badgers’ Thomas is one of the league’s best tackles of all-time who is likely to get in the HOF quickly, potentially first ballot. Ramczyk and Fredrick, much like the Irish’s are two top 10 lineman in the league right now.

Who is Defensive Line U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: Ohio State

This is the classic case of quality over quantity. While several SEC schools like Alabama, LSU and Florida have their share of quality talent, I can’t look past Ohio State for this. Mike Vrabel, Ryan Pickett and the late Will Smith all had long quality careers. Longtime Pittsburgh defensive lineman Cam Heyward just etched his second 1st Team All Pro honors. Then you have quality two year starter Sam Hubbard with 14.5 career sacks. Then of course rounding off the Buckeyes is young pedigree studs Joey and Nick Bosa.

Others Considered: No One

Others have the quantity, but not the same quality.

Who is Linebacker U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: Michigan

While this title historically goes to Penn State, the Nittany Lions haven’t produced many good NFL linebackers as of late opening the door for other programs to take over. I only considered three programs for consideration here. Since 2000, the Wolverines have produced high quality talent at linebacker.

  • Ian Gold
  • Dhani Jones
  • Larry Foote
  • Cato June
  • Lamar Woodley
  • Brandon Graham
  • Devin Bush

Although they have only have two guys in 2010 and beyond, Brandon Graham has been a quality pass rusher since he was drafted racking up 51 career sacks. Devin Bush was a key piece on a good Steelers defense in 2019. He looks to build on that resume’ going forward. Woodley, June, Foote, Jones and Gold all had many good years as starters. I wouldn’t say elite level, but comfortable starters above the fold.

Others Considered:

  • Alabama (Demeco Ryans, Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson, CJ Mosley, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster, Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson)
  • Georgia (Randall Godfrey, Kendrell Bell, Boss Bailey, Alec Ogletree, Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith)

Why not the others?

Bama certainly is clicking at the heels with the current crop with Mosely, Hightoward and Evans. I gave the nod to Michigan because of the success from 2000-2010. Although Brandon Graham is the lone Wolverine, he is a high end pass rusher. Now that Devin Bush is in the mix, he looks like a stud. The simplest answer is the longevity. Georgia certainly has the longevity and newer linebackers, but I think the star power is slightly below Michigan.

Who is Defensive Back U?

Hotard Huddle Pick: LSU

  • Corey Webster
  • LaRon Landry
  • Patrick Peterson
  • Morris Claiborne
  • Eric Reid
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Tharold Simon
  • Jalen Mills
  • Jamal Adams
  • Tre’Davious White
  • Donte Jackson
  • Greedy Williams

I didn’t include guys like Craig Steltz, Travis Daniels or Chevis Jackson who didn’t have long careers nor major impacts on their team. That crop is ridiculous. White is arguably the best corner in the NFL right now. This past season he was 2nd in passer rating allowed. He has 12 interceptions with 43 pass breakups in 3 years. To follow that with Peterson is solid to say the least. The top 3 safeties LSU has produced is Adams, arguably the best safety in the league. Meanwhile Mathieu is every bit the playmaker and chess piece he was is college. Landry was one of the most feared hitters and an upper tier safety in the NFL from 2007-2014.

Others considered: Alabama (Roman Harper, Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Landon Collins, Marlon Humphrey, Eddie Jackson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison)

Why not the others?

While the Tigers haven’t produced as many starting safeties, Adams and Mathieu are higher quality players in my opinion than any of the safeties to come from Bama. That is not a slight because all of those guys are sure starters. Minkah finally had his coming out party while Jackson took a step back in 2019. Where the Tigers really win is corner. Aside from Humphrey and Jackson, there is much to be desired for Bama. The Tigers have three high end to elite level corners with Peterson, White and Williams. The others like Simon, Mills and Webster have all had their share of team and individual success.

Final Thoughts

I hate giving LSU this much credit in any capacity, but their talent pool in the NFL speaks for itself. I am honestly surprised by the amount of quality talent they have produced taking home three of my positions for NFL U.

The Offensive Line was far and away the toughest debate I had with myself.

Michigan’s linebackers suprised the hell out of me. I thought for sure that was going to be a runaway for Bama.

The schools that are most likely to lose their titles in the next 2-3 years are the following…

  • QBU – USC

Oklahoma, depending on the careers of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts (if he plays QB), could derail USC very easily. I don’t think Baker is nearly as bad last season shows. His receivers had one of the worst drop rates in the league, he was great against the blitz, he had the 7th best release time in the league and his target rate was relatively high given the low completion percentage. Murray was only a rookie, but now he has Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins to throw the rock to. Good God.

  • WR – LSU

LSU has Justin Jefferson entering this year with Ja’Marr Chase draft eligible next season so they could be safe. Alabama’s recent success with receiver is impressive and now they have Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs enterting the mix. Meanwhile, Clemson already has an impressive crop as well. Now they have Tee Higgins set to be drafted and Justyn Ross on the horizon. Between LSU, Bama and Clemson, it’s going to be tough competition.

  • Tight End – Miami

I already alluded to why above.

  • Offensive Line – LSU

Much like receivers, it is a crowded crop between Wisconsin and Notre Dame who have much more success with their line as of late.

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