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2000s: The Decade in Sports
Posted: Thursday December 17, 2009 11:33AM; Updated: Monday December 21, 2009 8:45PM
All-Decade Team: College Football
By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
Offense
 
QB
Tim Tebow
School: Florida
Seasons: 2006-09
A star from the day he set foot on campus, Tebow will graduate with two SEC championships, two BCS titles and a Heisman Trophy. He is 34-6 as a starter and set SEC career records for total yards (11,699), rushing touchdowns (56), total touchdowns (141) and rushing yards by a quarterback (2,899). His impact, though, extended beyond the box score. "I don't think I have ever seen a better leader," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
 
RB
Adrian Peterson
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2004-06
In 2004, Peterson set the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards and became the first freshman to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Injuries cost him most or all of 11 games his sophomore and junior seasons, but he still finished his career with 4,045 yards and 41 touchdowns.
 
RB
Darren McFadden
School: Arkansas
Seasons: 2005-07
The two-time Heisman runner-up amassed 4,590 rushing yards in three seasons, second only to Herschel Walker on the all-time SEC rushing list. He also scored 41 touchdowns. McFadden made his mark in the "Wildcat" formation that Arkansas introduced in 2006, throwing for seven touchdowns on 20 pass attempts.
 
WR
Larry Fitzgerald
School: Pittsburgh
Seasons: 2002-03
Though he played just two seasons, Fitzgerald was one of the most dominant receivers in college history. He caught 161 passes for 2,677 yards and 34 touchdowns. His staggering 2003 season (92 catches, 1,672 yards, 22 TDs) earned him the highest Heisman finish (second) for a receiver in 12 years.
 
WR
Michael Crabtree
School: Texas Tech
Seasons: 2007-08
Another two-year standout, Crabtree shattered the NCAA freshman records for receptions (134), receiving yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22). As a sophomore, he produced the most memorable moment of the 2008 season with his last-second 28-yard touchdown catch from Graham Harrell to knock off No. 1 Texas.
 
TE
Kellen Winslow
School: Miami (Fla.)
Seasons: 2001-03
Winslow was both a gifted receiver and dominant blocker. As a sophomore in 2002, Winslow set Miami records for a tight end with 57 receptions for 726 yards, including 11 catches for 122 yards in that year's national championship game against Ohio State. As a junior, he won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
 
OT
Ryan Clady
School: Boise State
Seasons: 2005-07
A three-year starter at left tackle for the Broncos, Clady was a freshman All-America in 2005 and first team AFCA All-America in '07. As a sophomore, Clady was the key run blocker on Boise State's 2006 team that went 13-0, beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and produced the nation's No. 2 rusher, Ian Johnson.
 
OG
Steve Hutchinson
School: Michigan
Seasons: 1997-2000
A four-year starter and eventual first-round draft pick for the Seattle Seahawks, Hutchinson was a consensus All-America and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2000 after earning first-team All-America honors the year before. Remarkably, he did not allow a sack in either of his last two seasons.
 
C
Greg Eslinger
School: Minnesota
Seasons: 2002-05
Eslinger started all four years for the Gophers during a period when they churned out some of the nation's most productive rushing attacks, led by stars Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber . Eslinger earned AP All-America honors twice, All-Big Ten three times and won the Outland and Rimington trophies as a senior.
 
OG
Duke Robinson
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2005-08
A three-year starter and two-time first-team All-America (2007 and '08), Robinson played a key role for three straight Sooners Big 12 title teams, including the 2008 squad that advanced to the BCS Championship Game and shattered numerous offensive school records, scoring 51.1 points per game.
 
OT
Jake Long
School: Michigan
Seasons: 2004-07
Long started 40 games, earned first team All-America honors his junior and senior seasons and became the first player in Michigan history to win consecutive Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year awards. In 2008, the Miami Dolphins made him the No. 1 overall draft pick.
 
 
Defense
 
DE
David Pollack
School: Georgia
Seasons: 2001-04
Only the second three-time All-America in Georgia history (the other: Herschel Walker), Pollack notched 34 sacks during the 2002-04 seasons. He won the 2002 SEC Player of the Year, 2004 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2003 and '04 Hendricks Awards and the 2004 Lombardi, Bednarik and Lott trophies.
 
DE
Terrell Suggs
School: Arizona State
Seasons: 2000-02
In 2002, Suggs set an NCAA single-season record with 24 sacks. He was a consensus All-America and won the Nagurski, Lombardi and Hendricks awards. He finished his career with an NCAA-record 44 sacks, 163 tackles, 65.5 tackles for loss (an Arizona State record) and 14 forced fumbles.
 
DT
Tommie Harris
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2001-03
A starter from his true freshman season, Harris was named to three All-America teams as a sophomore and became a consensus pick as a junior. He also won the Lombardi Award. He played on consecutive top-10 defenses and reached two straight BCS title games.
 
DT
Ndamukong Suh
School: Nebraska
Seasons: 2006-09
In 2008, Suh became the rare interior lineman to lead his team in tackles (82). With a bowl game still to play, Suh has notched 212 tackles, 56 tackles for loss and 23 sacks for his career. As a senior in 2009, he became a first-team All-America and captured the Bednarik, Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski trophies.
 
LB
A.J. Hawk
School: Ohio State
Seasons: 2002-05
A two-time All-America (2004 and '05), Hawk posted 100 or more tackles in each of his three seasons as a starter, leading the Buckeyes each year. For his career, he compiled 394 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and seven interceptions. He was the 2005 Lombardi Award winner and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
 
LB
Derrick Johnson
School: Texas
Seasons: 2001-04
A two-time consensus All-American (2003 and '04) and 2004 Butkus and Nagurski Award winner, Johnson started all four years at Texas. He finished his career with a staggering 458 tackles (No. 3 in school history), including 65 tackles for loss (a school record), and 10.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and nine interceptions.
 
LB
Patrick Willis
School: Mississippi
Seasons: 2003-06
A consensus All-America and Butkus Award winner as a senior in 2006, a second-team All-America in '05 and three-time All-SEC honoree, Willis led the SEC in tackles as a junior (128) and senior (137). Despite only 22 starts, he finished his career with 355 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
 
CB
Antoine Cason
School: Arizona
Seasons: 2004-07
A four-year starter, Cason became the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year in 2004, earned All-Pac-10 honors his last three seasons and was named a first-team All-America and the Jim Thorpe Award winner in '07. He notched 183 tackles and 15 interceptions during his career.
 
CB
Derrick Strait
School: Oklahoma
Seasons: 2000-03
As a freshman starter for the Sooners' 2000 national title team, Strait earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors. He went on to become a three-time All-Big 12 selection, two-time All-America and winner of the 2003 Nagurski and Thorpe awards. He set the school record for career interception return yards (397).
 
S
Ed Reed
School: Miami (Fla.)
Season: 1998-2001
The unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes' 2001 national title team, Reed sealed his place in Miami lore with a season-saving 80-yard touchdown return against Boston College. A consensus All-America in 2000 and '01, he set school records for interceptions (21), return yards (389) and interceptions for touchdowns (five).
 
S
Eric Berry
School: Tennessee
Seasons: 2007-present
Berry burst onto the scene in 2007 as a freshman All-America. In his first two seasons alone, he notched 12 interceptions and gained 487 return yards, 15 shy of the NCAA record. Berry became the first Tennessee player to earn consensus All-America honors (2008 and '09) since Chip Kell in 1969 and '70.
 
Kicker
 
Mike Nugent
School: Ohio State
Seasons: 2001-04
An invaluable weapon for the Buckeyes' 2002 BCS championship team, Nugent made 25-of-28 field-goal attempts as a sophomore that year, including 10-of-12 from 40 yards and beyond. Nugent went on to set school records for points (356), field goals (72) and consecutive field goals made (24). He won the 2004 Lou Groza Award.
 
Punter
 
Daniel Sepulveda
School: Baylor
Seasons: 2003-06
Originally a walk-on linebacker, Sepulveda joined Mike Singletary as Baylor's only three-time All-America and won the Ray Guy Award in 2004 and '06. He finished No. 1 nationally in yards per kick as a senior (46.5) and No. 3 as a sophomore (46.0) and junior (46.2).
 
Punt Returner
 
Wes Welker
School: Texas Tech
Seasons: 2000-03
The 5-foot-9 lightning bug torched opponents for eight punt-return touchdowns, tying him for the NCAA record. He also set an NCAA record for career punt-return yardage (1,761) and season records for returns (57) and yards (752) in 2002. As a senior in 2003, he won the Mosi Tatupu Award for the nation's top special-teams player.
 
Kick Returner
 
Felix Jones
School: Arkansas
Seasons: 2005-07
In addition to rushing for 2,594 yards in three seasons as McFadden's sidekick, Jones set an Arkansas career record with 1,744 kick-return yards. He ranked second nationally in yards per kick return (32.0) as a freshman in 2005 and No. 4 (29.6) in '07. He returned four kickoffs for touchdowns.
 
All-Purpose
 
Reggie Bush
School: USC
Seasons: 2003-05
The 2005 Heisman winner finished fourth nationally in rushing that season (133.9 yards per game) while also ranking No. 1 in all-purpose yards (222.3), the highest season average for any BCS-conference player this decade. A two-time Heisman finalist, Bush scored 42 career touchdowns for three USC teams that went a combined 37-2.
 
Head Coach
 
Urban Meyer
Schools in 2000s: Bowling Green, Utah, Florida
Seasons as head coach in 2000s: 9
Meyer, who became a head coach in 2001, turned around three programs this decade thanks to a hypercompetitive personality and relentless zeal for recruiting. He leads all active coaches with an .841 winning percentage (minimum five years) and is the only coach to win two BCS championships. Bowling Green, 2-9 the year before his arrival, went 17-6 in Meyer's two seasons. Utah went 22-2 under his watch. Florida has gone 56-10 in his five seasons.
 

2000s: The Decade in College Football
ARTICLES GALLERIES
Mandel: Highlights and lowlights
Mandel: All-Decade team
Staples: 10 signature moments
POLL: Share your thoughts on the decade in college football
 

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