January 15, 2010

Rivals.com Team of the Decade

After a few fistfights and some shouting matches - well, shouting matches, anyway - Rivals.com is ready to unveil its All-Decade team for the 2000s.

Players were chosen for their on-field accomplishments during their college days during the decade; any performances before 2000 or in the pros didn't figure into the discussion.

The team was compiled by staff writers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.

The "seasons" designation with each player is the seasons in which he played in the 2000s; years played in the 1990s are not designated.

School: Florida
Seasons: 2006-09
The buzz: Tebow played on two national championship teams, won one Heisman and was a Heisman finalist two other times. Tebow was the first sophomore to win the Heisman when he received the award in 2007, when he became the first player in NCAA history to rush and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in one season. He also won two Maxwell Awards, given annually to the nation's top player. He ended his career with five NCAA, 14 SEC and 28 school records.
RB Darren McFadden
School: Arkansas
Seasons: 2005-07
The buzz: This two-time Heisman runner-up also was a two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top college running back. He had 785 career carries for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns. McFadden and former Georgia star Herschel Walker are the only players in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards as freshmen, sophomores and juniors. He rushed for 120.79 yards per game, which ranks third in SEC history, behind only Walker and former Florida star Emmitt Smith.
RB Adrian Peterson
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2004-06
The buzz: The 2004 Heisman runner-up rushed for 1,925 yards in 2004 to break Ron Dayne's NCAA freshman rushing record. He ranks third in Oklahoma history with 4,045 career rushing yards and is fourth in school history with 41 touchdown runs despite playing only 31 games in his college career. He finished his career with 22 100-yard games and six 200-yard performances.
WR Michael Crabtree
School: Texas Tech
Seasons: 2007-08
The buzz: Crabtree was the first player to win two Biletnikoff Awards, given annually to the nation's top college receiver. He set a school record with 3,127 career receiving yards despite playing just two seasons at Texas Tech. He recorded 231 receptions and scored 41 touchdowns to set NCAA records for catches and touchdown receptions in a two-year span. He caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2007 to set NCAA freshman records in all three categories.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
School: Pittsburgh
Seasons: 2002-03
The buzz: Fitzgerald was more about quality than quantity. He only played 26 games for Pittsburgh, yet he finished his college career with 161 catches for 2,677 yards. Fitzgerald set a school record with 34 career touchdown catches, and he caught at least one touchdown pass in 16 consecutive games. Fitzgerald compiled at least 100 receiving yards in 14 of his 26 games. He won the Biletnikoff Award and finished second in the Heisman balloting in 2003.
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2006-09
The buzz: How good was Gresham? Consider that he missed the 2009 season with a knee injury and still was the choice as the decade's top tight end. Gresham caught 37 passes for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007. He followed that up by collecting 66 receptions for 950 yards and 14 scores in 2008. Gresham finished his three-year career with 111 catches for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns.
T Jake Long
School: Michigan
Seasons: 2004-07
Buzz: He was a four-year starter for the Wolverines, and in his 26 starts at left tackle over his last two seasons, he was called for one penalty. He was a two-time Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft by Miami.
T Bryant McKinnie
School: Miami
Seasons: 2000-01
Buzz: McKinnie, a junior college transfer, made quite an impression in his two seasons at UM. He did not allow a sack with the Hurricanes and won the 2001 Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman. He was a first-round pick by Minnesota in the 2002 NFL draft.
G Andre Gurode
School: Colorado
Seasons: 2000-01
Buzz: He was a four-year starter for the Buffaloes - the first two at center, the final two at guard. He was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 honoree and a consensus All-America as a senior. He now is the starting center for the Dallas Cowboys.
G Steve Hutchinson
School: Michigan Season: 2000
Buzz: He was a consensus All-America as a senior in 2000 after also being a consensus All-America as a junior. Hutchinson was a two-year captain and four-year starter for the Wolverines, and was an all-conference selection in each of his four seasons. He was a first-round pick in the 2001 NFL draft by Seattle and currently starts for Minnesota.
C LeCharles Bentley
School: Ohio State
Seasons: 2000-01
Buzz: He was a consensus All-America as a senior and was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes. He won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center as a senior. Bentley played four seasons in the NFL before suffering a serious knee injury in 2006 that caused him to eventually retire in 2008.
E David Pollack
School: Georgia
Seasons: 2001-04
Buzz: Pollack was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs and a three-time All-America selection. He won the Bednarik (top defender), Hendricks (top defensive end) and Lombardi (top lineman/linebacker) awards in 2004, and also won the Hendricks in 2003. He was named the SEC's player of the year in 2002 and the league's defensive player of the year in 2004. He had 36 career sacks, which is a school record. He suffered a broken vertebrae early in his second NFL season and subsequently retired.
T Tommie Harris
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2001-03
Buzz: Harris started as a true freshman at OU and was an impact player as a three-year starter. He was a consensus All-America as a sophomore and junior and won the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top lineman/linebacker, in 2003. He was the 14th pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft by Chicago and currently is a starter for the Bears.
School: Nebraska
Seasons: 2006-09
Buzz: Suh was a three-year starter for the Huskers and finished fourth in the Heisman voting as a senior. He also was named The Associated Press' player of the year, the first defender to win the honor since its inception in 1998. Suh won the Lombardi, Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik (top defender) awards in '09. Suh led the Huskers in tackles as a junior and as a senior. He finished his career as the school's No. 2 man in career tackles for loss and career sacks.
E Terrell Suggs
School: Arizona State
Seasons: 2000-02
Buzz: Suggs was a consensus All-America as a senior in 2002, when he set the NCAA single-season sacks record with 24. He finished his career with an NCAA-record 44 sacks. He won the Hendricks, Lombardi and Nagurski awards in '02. He was a first-round pick by Baltimore in the 2003 NFL draft and was the NFL's defensive rookie of the year.
LB A.J. Hawk
School: Ohio State
Seasons: 2002-05
Buzz: Several defensive stars have made their way through Columbus this decade, but Hawk may have been the best - although others were more decorated. Hawk was a two-time All-America selection and the '05 Nagurski Award winner. He went on to be the No. 5 overall pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2006 draft.
LB Derrick Johnson
School: Texas
Seasons: 2001-04
Buzz: Perhaps the best Texas linebacker since Tommy Nobis (1963-65), Johnson capped his career by winning the Nagurski and the Butkus awards in 2004. He was only the second player to win both awards in the same season. He finished his career with nine interceptions and 458 tackles, the third-highest total in Texas history.
LB Patrick Willis
School: Ole Miss
Seasons: 2003-06
Buzz: Willis played on some lean Ole Miss teams, but he was the best linebacker in the SEC for a couple of years. He won the Butkus Award and AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. He went on to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft by San Francisco and hasn't disappointed as a Pro Bowl linebacker.
CB Antoine Cason
School: Arizona
Seasons: 2004-07
Buzz: One of the building blocks of Arizona's return to respectability under Mike Stoops, Thorpe won the 2007 Thorpe Award before becoming a first-round NFL draft pick. Cason had four non-offensive touchdowns in '07, including a punt return and an interception return in the upset of Oregon. He finished with 15 career interceptions.
CB Carlos Rogers
School: Auburn
Seasons: 2001-04
Buzz: Rogers was a four-year starter for Auburn. He capped his career by winning the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, in '04 as the Tigers went undefeated. He was a top-10 NFL pick of the Washington Redskins in 2005.
FS Ed Reed
School: Miami
Seasons: 2000-01
Buzz: Miami could stake a claim to being "Defensive Back U" for the decade, with Reed atop the list of notable safeties. He was a ballhawk in the secondary with 21 career interceptions, including 17 in his final two years. He was an All-America in '00 and '01 on one of college football's greatest teams.
SS Roy Williams
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2000-01
Buzz: The decade produced a long line of dominant strong safeties, but Williams was the best. A ferocious hitter, he won the Nagurski and the Thorpe awards in 2001. He had nine interceptions and 287 tackles in three seasons while helping the Sooners to the 2000 national title.
K Billy Bennett
School: Georgia
Seasons: 2000-03
The buzz: Bennett went 87-of-110 in field-goal attempts over the course of his career, including 31-of-43 from at least 40 yards. At the end of his career, he owned NCAA records for field goals in a season (31 in 2003), field goals in a career (87), field goals in a two-year period (57), consecutive games with a field goal (24), highest percentage of field goals made from at least 40 yards out (.721) and most career games with at least two field goals (27).
P Daniel Sepulveda
School: Baylor
Seasons: 2003-06
The buzz: Sepulveda was the first two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation's top college punter. He left Baylor with the highest career punting average (45.2) in Division I history for anyone with at least 250 attempts. Sepulveda set an NCAA record with 94 career punts of at least 50 yards.
School: Clemson
Seasons: 2006-09
The buzz: Spiller set an NCAA record by returning seven kickoffs for touchdowns in his career. He set an ACC record by returning four kickoffs for touchdowns in his senior season. He closed his career with 7,588 all-purpose yards, which represented the second-highest total in NCAA history.
PR Wes Welker
School: Texas Tech
Seasons: 2000-03
The buzz: Welker departed from Texas Tech as the NCAA career record holder for punt-return yards (1,761) and punt-return touchdowns (eight). He returned 152 punts and averaged 11.6 yards per attempt over the course of his career. Welker also caught 259 passes for 3,069 yards and 21 touchdowns at Texas Tech.
School: USC
Seasons: 2003-05
The buzz: Bush made only 15 starts in his three-year career, yet he ended it ranked 10th in NCAA FBS history with 6,551 all-purpose yards. He set a Pac-10 record with 2,890 all-purpose yards on his way to winning the Heisman in 2005. Bush also gained 2,330 all-purpose yards and finished fifth in the '04 Heisman balloting while helping USC win the national title. He rushed for 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career while also catching 95 passes for 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also scored on three career punt returns.
USC. The Trojans scuffled through the 1990s, compiling a 68-49-4 mark that included just one Pac-10 title - and it was shared, at that. After a 5-7 season in 2000, coach Paul Hackett was fired. Enter Pete Carroll. After a 6-6 mark in 2001, the Trojans took off, going a combined 82-9 in the next seven seasons, with one outright national title, one shared national title and seven shared or outright Pac-10 titles. There also were seven BCS bids, including five Rose Bowl appearances. USC "slumped" to a 9-4 mark in 2009, which would up being Carroll's final season at the school. The Trojans also had three Heisman winners during the decade: QB Carson Palmer in 2002, QB Matt Leinart in 2004 and RB Reggie Bush in 2005.
Urban Meyer, Bowling Green-Utah-Florida. Meyer began the decade as the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame under Bob Davie; he ended it with two national titles. He was an assistant with the Irish in 2000, coach at Bowling Green in 2001-02, coach at Utah in 2003-04 (including an unbeaten season in '04, when the Utes became the first non-Big Six school to play in the BCS) and currently is coach at Florida. He guided the Gators to national titles in 2006 and '08, and his Gators teams in '08 and '09 are the first in NCAA history to go 13-1 in back-to-back seasons. He is 4-0 in BCS bowls, with three wins at Florida and one at Utah. His version of the spread option offense has been a huge hit and has helped change the way offense is played in college football. Meyer, 45, finished the decade with a 96-18 record overall and 56-15 in conference play (Mid-American, Mountain West and SEC).
Miami, 2001. The Hurricanes blasted Nebraska 37-14 in the national title game, toying with the Huskers as they toyed with most of their opponents that season. Miami finished 12-0 and won its games by an average margin of 28 points per game, with three shutouts. The season's high point may have been a 58-point demolition of 12th-ranked Washington in mid-November; there also was a 22-point win at No. 14 Florida State. Sixteen players on the roster eventually became NFL first-round picks.


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