Top Defenders

Los Angeles, CA - They get no Heisman hype. Compared to the running backs, receivers and quarterbacks who score most of the touchdowns, they have a hard time making the highlights.

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But if the old saying that defense wins championships is true, these six players are as valuable as any in the country.
Eric Berry, s, Tennessee - Entering his junior season, the Volunteers' superb playmaker is 15 yards shy of breaking the major college record for career interception return yards of 501, set by former Florida State star Terrell Buckley.
Carlos Dunlap, de, Florida - The type of player who tends to have a very short wait in the green room on NFL draft day. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior has yet to develop into a consistently dominant player, but he had 9.5 sacks last season and was defensive MVP of the BCS championship game.
Jerry Hughes, de, TCU - The former high school running back led the nation in sacks last season with 15. The Horned Frogs are retooling their defense with seven new starters, so Hughes will get plenty of attention from the opposition.
heir apparent to the title of top linebacker at Linebacker U. before he tore up his knee in the 2008 preseason. Now he's healthy and ready to lead the Nittany Lions again.
Taylor Mays, s, Southern California - That the hard-hitting and freakishly athletic senior even decided to return for his senior season was surprising - and highly disappointing to Pac-10 receivers who will have to be on the lookout for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound missile again.
Gerald McCoy, dt, Oklahoma - At 295 pounds, can stuff the run and rush the passer. Had 6.5 sacks as a sophomore last season and should be the centerpiece of the Sooners defense in '09.

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Posted: 8/21/09 9:20PM ET

 

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