Thursday, April 09, 2009

Best 11

I received the "ESPN College Football Encyclopedia" as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. I never got around to reading it as I've been on the move quite a bit since fall 2006. This past week I opened it up and was drawn to a section titled BEST 11. ESPN asked several prominent college football commentators for their "BEST 11" in various categories. Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Keith Jackson and Beano Cooke were just a few of the participants. I decided to put together a couple of BEST 11 lists of my own.

MY BEST 11 OVERALL PLAYERS (ONE FOR EACH POSITION). In this category I picked any player I had seen play a college football game live or on television since 1985. '85 is the year I first remember really paying attention to college football. Prior to that I'd been devoted to the NFL (the first NFL games I can remember were from the 1978 season). The quarterback position came down to four candidates: Peyton Manning (best passing QB), Michael Vick (best running QB), Tim Tebow (the best combination of passing and running and quite possibly the best leader I've seen in college football) and Matt Leinart (best under pressure). I ultimately selected Tebow for his leadership qualities. I picked Calvin Johnson as the WR by a very slim margin over Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss (all three are amazing athletes). Picking Marvin Jones as the best LB was also a tough choice. There were several great LBs since '85, but I remember Jones as being the one I would have been most intimidated by on the gridiron. I selected Charles Woodson at CB over Deion Sanders by a slight margin too. I will never forget how dazzling Woodson was during the 1997 season. And finally, I couldn't decide between Rocket Ismail and Desmond Howard as my all-purpose player (Reggie Bush was my third place AP player).

QB - Tim Tebow (Florida)
RB – Marshall Faulk (San Diego State)
WR – Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech)
TE – Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
OL – Orlando Pace (Ohio State)
DT – Warren Sapp (Miami)
DE – Julius Peppers (North Carolina)
LB – Marvin Jones (Florida State)
CB - Charles Woodson (Michigan)
S – Sean Taylor (Miami)
AP – Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame)
AP - Desmond Howard (Michigan)

MY BEST 11 NON-USC PLAYERS THAT I'VE SEEN PLAY LIVE SINCE 1991. This category was heavily biased to Pac-10 players since that's what I see the most in live games. Drew Bledsoe's arm strength and touch passes against USC in 1992 was amazing. Bledsoe threw for 358 yards and 2 TDs in a losing effort (he also rushed for a TD). Marshall Faulk lit up USC's defense for 220 yards and 3 TDs in 1992 resulting in a 31-31 tie. Peter Warrick had 6 receptions for 112 yards and a TD to lead FSU to a 30-10 win over the Trojans in Tallahassee in 1998. Marcedes Lewis went 0-4 against his USC brethren from Long Beach Poly (Darnell Bing, Herschel Dennis, Winston Justice and Manuel Wright). Tedy Bruschi was the heart and soul of Arizona's "Desert Swarm" defense. Zach Thomas played his heart out only to watch Keyshawn Johnson run wild through the secondary against Texas Tech in the 1995 Cotton Bowl. Lawyer Milloy was as hard a hitter as there's been in the Pac-10. Maurice Drew would have been a superstar if he could have gotten out of the shadow of crosstown rival Reggie Bush.

QB – Drew Bledsoe (Washington State)
RB – Marshall Faulk (San Diego State)
WR – Peter Warrick (Florida State)
TE – Marcedes Lewis (UCLA)
OL – Jonathan Odgen (UCLA)
DT – Tedy Bruschi (Arizona)
DE – Terrell Suggs (Arizona State)
LB – Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
CB – Antoine Cason (Arizona)
S – Lawyer Milloy (Washington)
AP – Maurice Drew (UCLA)

MY BEST 11 USC TROJANS SINCE MY FRESHMAN SEASON IN FALL 1991. Leinart beats out Carson Palmer because Palmer had one great season while Leinart had three great seasons. Mark Sanchez might have challenged Leinart if he would have stuck around for the 2009 season. Reggie Bush and LenDale White are the second best tandem of USC RBs to share a backfield behind Charles White and Marcus Allen. Keyshaun Johnson edges out the sensational Johnnie Morton, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Fred Davis climbed out of Coach Carroll's doghouse all the way to winning the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. Tony Boselli edges out Sam Baker by the slightest of margins. Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Sedrick Ellis all deserve praise for their outstanding play, but it was Cody that is credited with being the key recruit in returning Troy to glory on the gridiron. Willie McGinest is slightly ahead of Keneche Udeze and Lawrence Jackson at the DE position. LB was another tough call as I loved Chris Claiborne, Zeke Moreno, Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. But Claiborne's play was the only real positive spot of the late 90's for the Trojans. While Daylon McCutcheon was probably the most talented USC CB since 1991, Brian Kelly was the biggest playmaker from the CB position. I don't think the Trojans have had a truly great CB in the 18 seasons I've been a Trojan. Maybe T.J. Bryant will change all that? Troy Polamalu wins the S spot, but I also loved Sammy Knight and Taylor Mays could be closing fast! Since Reggie already made the team as my RB, I selected Curtis Conway as my return specialist.

QB – Matt Leinart (USC)
RB – Reggie Bush (USC)
WR – Keyshawn Johnson (USC)
TE – Fred Davis (USC)
OL – Tony Boselli (USC)
DT – Shaun Cody (USC)
DE – Willie McGinest (USC)
LB – Chris Claiborne (USC)
CB – Brian Kelly (USC)
S – Troy Polamalu (USC)
AP – Curtis Conway (USC)

11 BEST FILL IN THE BLANKS ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SINCE 1985. The 1995 Cornhuskers absolutely destroyed every team on their schedule. The only team that could stand a chance against them would have been the all-star Hurricanes of 2001. The USC Trojans of 2004 didn't qualify because they survived several close games. 2008 has to be the wildest season of college football I can remember as Georgia, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and Florida all spent time at #1. Four teams ended the 2008 season with a legitimate argument that they were the best team in the country (Florida, Texas, USC, and Utah). The 2005 USC victory over Notre Dame was the best game I've ever seen. Every star on both teams came up huge in that game! Why would I pick a game USC lost for the best bowl game? Because it was a back-and-forth duel between two offenses that just wouldn't quit. Some fans might point to the Oklahoma/Boise State Fiesta Bowl or the Miami/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl. Both games went into overtime and had spectacular finishes. But I think the Texas/USC slug fest was dramatic from start to finish while the other two contests just had fantastic finishes. I've been to many great college football venues over the years (the Big House, the House that Rockne Built, the Swamp, Between the Hedges, the Rose Bowl) but I can't ever get over the feeling of a sold out L.A. Coliseum when the Olympic torch is lit over the Peristyle at the start of the 4th quarter. The Michigan Wolverines uniform is a symbol of college football in itself. I also love Florida State and USC's uniforms. My favorite college football books are "Meat Market" by Bruce Feldman and "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. I'd also recommend "Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls" by Stewart Mandel and "The Trojan Ten" by Barry LeBrock.

BEST TEAM = Nebraska (1995)
BEST GAME = USC–34, Notre Dame–31 (2005)
BIGGEST UPSET = Stanford–24, USC–23 (2007)
BEST BOWL GAME = 2006 Rose Bowl (Texas–41, USC–38)
BEST FANS = Nebraska Cornhuskers
BEST UNIFORMS = Michigan Wolverines
BEST BOOK = “Meat Market” by Bruce Feldman
FAVORITE PLAYER = Marshall Faulk, San Diego State


At 3:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

chris claiborne late 90s get you facts str8..he just went in the draft this have your years wrong about alot of players..even though i like your usc posts

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