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All-Decade: Best 1-2 punches on defense

The decade is coming to an end so we continue to look at rankings and commitments from 2010-2019. Today we look at the teams with the best 1-2 punches at each defensive position over the last decade.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

MORE ALL-DECADE: The most polarizing prospects | Biggest flips | Programs trending up, down | Biggest busts | Ranking the No. 1s | Crazy recruiting storylines

Top QB | Top RB | Top WR/TE | Top OL | Top DT | Top DE | Top LB | Top DB |

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State



1. Ohio State

The skinny: OK, we had to combine Bosa brothers for this one. Joey trimmed his list of schools down to Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State and Alabama before committing to the Buckeyes, while Nick pulled no surprises and followed his brother to Columbus after taking a quick look at Florida and Florida State. During their time on the field, both brothers dominated for the Buckeyes and then were top three picks in their respective NFL Drafts. Young will also be a top three pick and could win the Heisman Trophy. This is the easiest of the positions to determine who is on top.


2. Clemson

The skinny: Lawson committed to the Tigers over Tennessee and Maryland during the spring after his junior season. After a pit stop at Hargrave for a prep year, he put together a huge three-year career in Death Valley, highlighted by his All-American 2015 season. He was then selected with the 19th overall pick by Buffalo where he is currently in his fourth season with the Bills and has become a reliable contributor on the defensive line. Considered the heavy favorite from the start, Clemson held off South Carolina and Virginia Tech to gain Ferrell’s commitment during the summer leading up to this senior season. An All-American in both 2017 and 2018, Ferrell was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft by Oakland, where he has started every game this season.


3. Michigan

The skinny: Gary was a defensive tackle coming out of high school who played defensive end at Michigan and became a first-rounder as a linebacker prospect for Green Bay. Charlton played defensive end as well and was a first rounder for the Dallas Cowboys. Time will tell how each pans out but this is a nice combination when you consider their draft status.


Other notables: Alabama with Jonathan Allen and Isaiah Buggs, Florida State with Brian Burns and Mario Edwards.


1. Clemson

The skinny: Wilkins took official visits to Clemson, Stanford, Penn State, Ohio State and Boston College before to committing to the Tigers at the Under Armour All-America Game, while Lawrence committed to Clemson over Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, NC State and North Carolina during his senior season. Playing next to one another during their collegiate careers, both players helped the Tigers become one of the more dominant defenses in the country. Not surprisingly both were first round selections in 2019, Wilkins at No. 13 to Miami and Lawrence at No. 17 to the New York Giants. Neither player has disappointed as a rookie, with both already being major contributors to their teams defensive units.

2. Florida State

The skinny: Goldman took official visits to Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and Miami before committing to Florida State on National Signing Day. After an All-American junior season, Goldman decided to declare for the draft, where he was selected in the second round by Chicago in 2015. With the Bears he has become a steady force in the middle and signed a four-year contract extension in 2018. As with Goldman, Jernigan let his recruiting process play out, taking official visits to Michigan, LSU, Tennessee and Florida State before committing to the Seminoles on National Signing Day. Jernigan had three very productive seasons in Tallahassee before being selected in the second round by Baltimore in 2014. Being traded to Philadelphia along the way, he has totaled 125 tackles and 16.5 sacks during his career, which has been hampered with injuries during the last two seasons.


3. Alabama

The skinny: Payne committed to Alabama over Auburn and Mississippi State at the Under Armour All-America Game and became an immediate contributor for the Tide as a true freshman. Drafted by Washington with the 13th overall pick in 2018 after two more seasons of impressive play in Tuscaloosa, Payne has become one of the top young defensive tackles in the league during his first two seasons. Robinson was a huge get for ‘Bama out of Texas and went on to become a star in Tuscaloosa and a second round pick of the Detroit Lions. He is currently a starter.




The skinny: Barr trimmed his list down to UCLA and Notre Dame before committing to the Bruins in late January. His final two seasons in Los Angeles were memorable, totaling 149 tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 23.5 sacks. Selected with the ninth overall pick by Minnesota in 2014, Barr has taken trips to the last four Pro Bowls. As for Kendricks, with his father having played for the Bruins, he decided to commit to UCLA during his senior season. Kendricks was a tackling machine at UCLA, finishing with 476, including 26 for a loss. Also selected by the Vikings, in the second round of the 2015 Draft, he has continued his tackling ways with 508 coming in his four-plus seasons.


2. Alabama

The skinny: Mosley committed to Alabama, his long-time favorite, during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. An All-American in both 2012 and 2013, plus the winner of the Butkus Award in 2013, Mosley had a storied collegiate career at Alabama. Selected with the 17th overall pick in 2014 by Baltimore, he went to four Pro Bowls during his time with the Ravens before signing with the New York Jets as a free agent earlier this year. Foster’s process was much more chaotic, with him flipping between Alabama and Auburn several times before finally signing with the Tide. Being named an All-American in 2016 while also winning the Butkus Award, Foster selected with the 31st overall pick in 2017 by San Francisco. He had a successful rookie season, but off-the-field issues led to his release. Finding a new home at Washington, he suffered a torn ACL and UCL which led him to miss the entire 2019 season.

3. Georgia

The skinny: Floyd committed to Georgia over Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. Three productive seasons in Athens led to him being selected with the ninth overall pick in 2016 by Chicago where he has totaled 142 tackles and 18.5 sacks since his arrival. Smith initially committed to UCLA on Signing Day but then took a step back and finally signed with the Bulldogs almost two weeks later. Smith’s huge 2017 season helped lead Georgia to the national title game, before he was selected with the No. 8 overall pick by Chicago in 2018. He enjoyed a memorable rookie season and is once again performing at an elite level in 2019. This is an impressive duo.


Other notables: LSU with Devin White and Kwon Alexander and Iowa with Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey.


1. Ohio State

The skinny: Lattimore trimmed his list down to Ohio State and Alabama before committing to the Buckeyes during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. At Ohio State, Lattimore struggled with injuries during the early portion of his career, but once healthy he dominated. This led him to be selected with the 11th overall pick of the 2017 Draft by New Orleans, where he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ward already held several offers, but when Ohio State offered at one of their summer camps, he committed a few minutes later. In Columbus he became a team leader and an All-American after the 2017 season. Some were surprised when he was selected with the fourth overall pick in 2018, but he responded by earning a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

2. LSU

The skinny: White was an early commitment to the Tigers and never waivered off his word. He earned All-American honors during his final season in Baton Rouge and then was selected with the 27th overall pick by Buffalo. With the Bills, he quickly established himself as one of the more productive cornerbacks in the league and continues to play at that high level today. Stingley Jr. committed to LSU twice but there was never really a doubt where he’d end up and he will be a top five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.


3. Florida State

The skinny: Ramsey flipped from USC to Florida State on National Signing Day after taking several official visits. He enjoyed three memorable seasons in Tallahassee which led to him being selected with the fifth overall pick by Jacksonville in 2016. He quickly established himself as an elite corner with the Jaguars, but a few disagreements led to his trade to the Los Angeles Rams earlier this season. Darby had a solid career at Florida State before landing in the second round of the NFL Draft. He is now a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles.


Other notables: Florida with Vernon Hargreaves and Quincy Wilson


1. LSU

The skinny: Adams took official visits to his three finalists, LSU, Florida and Ole Miss, before committing to the Tigers at the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. Earning All-American honors after the 2016 season, Adams was then selected with the sixth overall pick during the 2017 Draft by the New York Jets where he made his first Pro Bowl after the 2018 season. Mathieu’s time in Baton Rouge was memorable, especially the 2011 season when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Selected in the third round by Arizona in 2013, he has spent time with the Cardinals, Houston and now Kansas City, where he has started all 11 games this season.

2. Alabama

The skinny: Jackson committed to Alabama over Florida State and LSU soon before National Signing Day. He flourished in Tuscaloosa before being selected in the fourth round by Chicago in 2017. With the Bears he was named First-Team All-Pro after the 2018 season. Fitzpatrick committed to Alabama in the spring before his senior season. The Tide had to hold off Florida State, but gained his signature on National Signing Day. In three seasons at Alabama, Fitzpatrick finished with 171 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and nine interceptions, while winning two national titles. Selected with the 11th overall pick in 2018 by Miami, Fitzpatrick continued his high level of play with the Dolphins before getting traded to Pittsburgh earlier this season.

3. Florida State

The skinny: James committed to Florida State as a freshman and despite serious pursuit from many top programs over the next three years, James stayed firm and signed with the Seminoles. Having established himself as an elite safety during his time at Florida State, James was drafted with the 17th overall pick by San Diego in 2018. He had highly productive rookie season before seeing his 2019 campaign cut short due to injury. Joyner's trimmed his list down to Florida State, Notre Dame and Ohio State before committing to the Seminoles. He played a key role in Florida State's national championship season in 2012 and finished his career with 197 total tackles and eight interceptions. He was selected by the Rams in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, where he spent five seasons. Making the move to Oakland in the off-season, he continues to be a productive player with the Raiders this fall.

Other notables: Florida with Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye.

RIVALS ALL-DECADE FOOTBALL: The All-Decade Team | Best 1-2 punches on offense | Ranking every Power Five team in recruiting for entire 2010s | Top QBs | Top RBs | Top WRs/TEs | Top OL | Top DT | Top DE | Top LB | Top DB | Biggest flips | Programs trending up, down | Biggest busts | Ranking the No. 1s | Decade's most ploarizing prospects | Crazy recruiting storylines in 2010 | Ten coaches that will impact next 10 years | Comparing team rankings | Five programs set to emerge as recruiting powers in 2020s | What to expect in the next 10 years | The top two-team battles of the 2010s | The most captivating recruitments of the decade

RIVALS ALL-DECADE BASKETBALL: Best recruiters | Most exciting prospects | Dynamic duos | All-2010s team | The 10 biggest rankings misses | Coaches who will emerge in next decade | Best recruiters in 2020s | Ranking our No. 1 players from each year | Biggest headlines in recruiting 10 years ago | Most memorable recruiting battles | What to expect in the next 10 years