Commentary

Tebow leads list of decade's best

Originally Published: January 16, 2010
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

They were the college football players who won the hardware and the championships during the last decade.

Together, college football's players of the decade combined to win nine national championships and took home the Heisman Trophy three times.

The all-decade team includes four quarterbacks, two running backs, one receiver, two defensive linemen and an offensive tackle.

Voting was tight. Among those players just missing the list are: former Miami safeties Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, Georgia defensive end David Pollack, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, West Virginia quarterback Pat White, Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery, Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, and North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers.

Here are ESPN.com's players of the decade:

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTim Tebow won two championships and a Heisman during his college career.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida
In three seasons as a starting quarterback, Tebow became the face of the Gators and perhaps the face of the sport. With his arms and legs, Tebow helped lead Florida to BCS national championships in 2006 and '08. In 2007, he became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and the first player in major college football history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season. In his four-year career, Tebow passed for more than 9,000 yards with 88 touchdowns and ran for nearly 3,000 yards with 57 scores.

2. Vince Young, Texas
As a junior, VY produced one of the greatest seasons and one of the greatest single-game performances in the sport's history. In the 2006 Rose Bowl, Young ran for 200 yards with three touchdowns and passed for 267 yards in the Longhorns' stunning 41-38 victory over Southern California. His 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left was one of the most memorable plays in history. Young had a 30-2 record as a starter and was twice named Rose Bowl MVP. As a junior, he had 3,036 passing yards and 1,050 rushing yards.

3. Matt Leinart, USC
After replacing Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, Leinart led the Trojans to a share of the national title in 2003 (USC was No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll; LSU was No. 1 in the coaches' poll) and a BCS championship in '04. He won the hearts of USC fans when he returned to school for his senior season in 2005. The Trojans went undefeated during the 2005 regular season but lost to Young and Texas in the Rose Bowl, which ended USC's 34-game winning streak. Leinart won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 2004 and was named MVP of the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl. He had a 37-2 record as a starter and passed for more than 10,000 yards with 99 touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Michael Cohen/Getty ImagesReggie Bush is one of the most explosive players to play the game.

4. Reggie Bush, USC
There probably wasn't a more explosive player in college football during the last decade than Bush. He was always dangerous with his hands on the football, whether it was as a running back, receiver or kick returner. He was named a freshman All-American in 2003 after finishing with 1,331 all-purpose yards. Bush led the Pac-10 with 2,330 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, and he won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. As a junior, he averaged 222.3 all-purpose yards and 133.9 rushing yards a game. Bush played on teams that won at least a share of two national championships and three straight BCS bowl games.

5. Colt McCoy, Texas
Few quarterbacks have been as consistent or won as much as McCoy during a four-year career. He left Texas with a 45-7 record as a starter, breaking the NCAA record for victories by a quarterback. McCoy set Texas records with 13,244 passing yards and 112 touchdowns and completed 70.3 percent of his passes. McCoy guided Texas to three bowl victories and had the Horns in position to win a BCS national championship this past season. But McCoy suffered a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder in the early moments of Texas' 37-21 loss to Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game. McCoy finished in the top 3 in voting for the Heisman Trophy as a junior and senior. His senior year, he won the Maxwell Award as the country's top player and the Davey O'Brien Award, Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the best quarterback.

6. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Only injuries slowed down "A.D." during his three seasons with the Sooners. As a freshman in 2003, Peterson broke an NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards. He finished second to Leinart in Heisman Trophy voting, the highest-ever finish by a freshman. The next season, Peterson rushed for 1,208 yards with 14 touchdowns, despite being hobbled by a high ankle sprain. Peterson's junior season was undone by a broken collarbone, but he still finished with 1,112 yards. Peterson rushed for 4,045 yards in parts of three seasons, finishing 73 yards behind Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims as Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher.

[+] EnlargeBryant McKinnie
Craig Ambrosio/Icon SMIBryant McKinnie didn't allow a sack during his time at Miami.

7. Bryant McKinnie, Miami
McKinnie played only two seasons at Miami (Fla.) after transferring from a junior college. But McKinnie made a lasting impression at one of the sport's most underrated positions. The 6-foot-9, 330-pound left tackle never allowed a sack during his two-year college career. As a senior, he helped the Hurricanes win the 2001 national championship, beating Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl. McKinnie won the 2001 Outland Trophy as the country's best interior lineman and finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting. (He even received 26 first-place votes.)

8. Glenn Dorsey, LSU
There was not a more dominant interior lineman during the past decade. As a senior in 2007, Dorsey helped lead the Tigers to a BCS national championship. He had five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble in LSU's 38-24 victory over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. Dorsey is one of the most decorated players in college football history, winning the Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, the Outland Trophy, the Lott Award and the Bednarik Award during his senior season. He was a two-time All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Despite being double- and triple-teamed throughout his college career, Dorsey finished with 179 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fitzgerald
Tomasso DeRosa/Getty ImagesLarry Fitzgerald was the first sophomore to win the Walter Camp Award.

9. Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh
Fitzgerald's college career seemed almost like a blur, just like what defensive backs must have felt while trying to cover the prolific receiver. In only two seasons at Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald set numerous NCAA and Big East records. He set NCAA marks with touchdown catches in 18 consecutive games, 34 touchdown receptions over his freshman and sophomore years, and 1,672 receiving yards as a sophomore. After becoming the first sophomore to win the Walter Camp Award in 2003, Fitzgerald entered the NFL draft after only two college seasons. (He was eligible to turn pro because he'd attended an extra year of prep school.) Fitzgerald also won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.

10. Terrell Suggs, Arizona State
No pass-rusher was more feared during the decade than Suggs, who set an NCAA single-season record with 24 sacks as a junior in 2002. In three seasons with the Sun Devils, Suggs had 163 tackles, 65½ tackles for loss, 44 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Opponents tried to chip Suggs with tight ends and fullbacks but had very little success. Suggs won the Ted Hendricks Award, the Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy during his junior season before entering the NFL draft the next spring.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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