Before LSU laid claim to DBU, it was Defensive Line U. A real point of pride for the national championship teams were their dominant front fours, who could wreak havoc in the backfield. The interesting thing is that this is an entirely new development, as LSU only had one All-American defensive linemen on the Golden Century Team. Mystifyingly, three All-Americans were left off.
What we're saying is, it's gonna be a rough week for the old timers. Feel free to let the recency bias wash over you because in this case, you're probably right.
Defensive Line All-Century Team
DT AJ Duhe (1976 All-SEC). He averaged 72 tackles a year which is ridiculous for a defensive tackle. He was a 1st team All-SEC playe and a first round draft pick. Really, he's the ultimate Cholly Mack player: quietly effective without anything flashy. He probably made the All-Century team due to his great NFL career with the Dolphins and starring in Everybody's All-American. A sentimental choice, but he's been surpassed by the new generation of defensive tackles.
DT Ronnie Estay (1971 All-American, ABC-TV Lineman of the Year). Clearly, the greatest lineman in LSU history prior to the current Golden Age. He was the middle cog in one of LSU's finest defenses ever, the 1971 unit which led the nation in fewest yards allowed and boasted three All-Americans (Mike Anderson and Tommy Casanova were the others). He also has two safeties to his name, tackling both Archie Manning and Pat Sullivan in the end zone. Not many players in history have recorded a safety against two different Heisman winners. And yes, ABC television named him the collegiate lineman of the year.
NG Henry Thomas (1986 All-SEC). Thomas gets special teams points, particularly for the game in which he blocked two Notre Dame kicks, securing a 10-7 win. He also blocked a field goal in the 1986 Sugar Bowl, en route to winning Defensive MVP honors despite LSU losing the game. He's easily the best nose guard in LSU history.
DT Fred Miller (1962 All-SEC). He played on the defensive line in 1961 and then was the lead blocker for Jerry Stovall in 1962. Members of the media at the time and his own teammates clearly thought Moonie Winston was the better player, noted by his captaincy and near unanimous election to the All-American teams, so I'm not sure how Miller ended up on the golden Century Team. He was a fine player, and an All-American (though not consensus), but Winston was better.
Candidate: Ramsey Dardar (1982 SEC Lineman of the Year). Dardar's been largely purged from the memory banks due to his post-LSU career of committing felonies. Which is a tragic end to the story of a guy who really was a gifted football player. He just couldn't keep his life from careening out of control. For one brief moment, it all came together in 1982. He won't make the team, but I thought it would be nice to remember him positively for a second.
Candidate: Gus Tinsley (1935, 1936 All-American, Charter Member of the LSU Hall of Fame). Tinsley was a two-way player, back when men were men, by God. He's the first unanimous All-American in LSU history and he guided LSU to its first Sugar Bowl. I know nothing else about him, but he does seem like the best LSU player prior to WWII.
Candidate: Moonie Winston (1961 All-American). He was the team captain of the 1961 team, and was athletic enough to also play on the baseball team. He was known more for his speed than for his brute strength, showing how much the game has changed. I mentioned him in the Fred Miller slot, and I'm completely mystified how Winston did not make the All-Century Team the first go around. He was the best lineman on some of LSU's best teams ever, and he went on to a long Pro Bowl caliber career for the Vikings. I know historical linemen are hard to evaluate given the lack of statistics, but his omission was a clear oversight in 1993.
Candidate: John Garlington (1967 All-American, 1966 &1967 All-SEC). He once had an interception return for a touchdown, and that's pretty cool for a defensive lineman. We're short on defensive ends in the historical pool, so Garlington gets a courtesy mention as one of our best ends prior to the Golden Age.
Candidate: Gabe Northern (3rd all-time in career sacks, 3rd in career TFL, 2nd in sacks in a season, 1st in TFL in a season). Northern is the victim of bad timing. He missed out on the All-Century team because he was still a sophomore, and he didn't make any All-American teams despite being, well, friggin' awesome because LSU was in its Dark Ages. His 1994 season is literally unmatched statistically. He recorded 23 TFL and 11 sacks. Only one other LSU player has ever made 20 TFL in a season, and the most anyone has this century is 17 (Marcus Spears in 2004). Only three LSU players have ever had 10+ sacks in a season, and no one has done it since Northern did (Sam Montgomery had 9 in 2011). He was a team leader, ridiculous talent, and campus activist. He also hit Stephen Davis so hard that Davis' helmet popped off. He is unmatched among defensive ends in the annals of LSU. He was robbed of All-American status in 1994, but we can partially right that wrong and make him one of the ATVS All-Time Linemen.
If I'm putting together a ballot for the old-timers to at least consider for the team, I submit three guys who weren't on the All-Century Team, so I know I'm climbing uphill:
DE Gabe Northern
DT Ronnie Estay
DT Moonie Winston
E Gus Tinsley
As you mentioned in your intro, there's just so MANY candidates. Honestly, it's an abundance of riches since 1993. Jarvis Green, Marquise Hill, Melvin Oliver, Barkevious Mingo, Drake Nevis, Claude Wroten, and Kyle Williams. And these are just guys that I am NOT formally nominating.
Candidate: Glenn Dorsey (2007 Nagurski Award Winner, Outland Trophy Award Winner, Lombardi Award Winner, Lott Trophy Winner, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2x First Team All-SEC, 2x First Team All-American)
Look, I don't even need to stump here. There's not even a case to be made AGAINST Dorsey being the best LSU DL of all-time, much less his inclusion on this list. Dorsey was an absolute game changer. We already ranked him the 2nd best player in the Miles era.
Candidate: Chuck Wiley (2x First Team All-SEC, 6th in Career Sacks, 2nd in Career TFL, 2nd in Single game Tackles)
This is a name you never hear mentioned and I think it's because Wiley's greatness was utterly overshadowed by Booger McFarland. Look, Wiley deserves to be on this list solely for the fact that he once record 20 tackles in a game. He played defensive tackle. In many ways, he's the anti-thesis of Dorsey. Dorsey received exceptional plaudits and was undoubtedly dominant, though he didn't register eye-popping statistics. For example, Wiley's 43 TFL are 16 more than Dorsey's 27. He also registered more sacks. But Wiley was never an All-America and never won any national awards.
Wiley was a monster.
Candidate: Booger McFarland (1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC, 1st at LSU All Time in TFL)
DLU probably properly started under Curley Hallman of all people. Gabe Northern to Chuck Wiley to Booger McFarland. But in many ways, Booger is the guy that proved staying home could lead to great things. Sure, Kevin Faulk gets the credit for starting that trend, but Booger was around then too, and I feel pretty confident there is Marcus Spears, there is no Chad Lavalais, there is no Marquise Hill without Booger McFarland. Booger was just so damned great in a time when LSU still wasn't.
Candidate: Marcus Spears (1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC (2x), 7th at LSU All Time in TFL [34.5], 4th in Single Season Sacks , 6th at LSU All Time in Career Sacks ).
Spears was a cornerstone in one of the best defenses in school history. Sure, he wasn't the heart and soul (we'll touch on that in a minute), but Spears had a case for being the actual best player on that defense. His athletic INT in the National Title is a prime example of that. Oh and he gets bonus points for being a lifer.
Candidate: Chad Lavalais (1st Team All American, 1st Team All SEC, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 6th All-Time at LSU Single Season TFL , 8th All-Time at LSU Career TFL [32.5])
Lavalais wasn't the best player on the 2003 Defense, even if he won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, but he may have been the most important. He was really the heart and soul of the unit. He set the emotional tempo. He's the guy that let everyone know it was cool to smack people in the mouth and play with attitude. Also, he has one of the cooler stories you'll ever hear, as he nearly didn't make at LSU and worked as a prison guard and so forth.
Candidate: Sam Montgomery (1st Team All-SEC [2x], 6th at LSU All-Time Career Sacks , 8th at LSU All-Time Career TFL [32.5]).
Sam is an interesting player. He was already emerging as a RS Fr. when he suffered an unfortunate knee injury. Barring that, his numbers would be even better. He was, at times, a dominant edge rusher, practically sealing the South Carolina victory in 2012 by himself. He's often grouped with Barkevious Mingo. While I think Mingo offered more versatility and creativity, Montgomery's production was simply better.
We're trying to keep this as close to the Golden Century Team template as possible, and while there are four slots for "Defensive Line," regardless of position, I am biased in favor of two tackles and two ends. We don't have to follow this, but tie goes to this makeup, which will help us weed through the absolutely loaded tackle position.
First things first, Dorsey is a no-brainer. He's the best defensive player in school history, and he would have won the Heisman if that award went to anyone other than quarterbacks and running backs. There's some stiff competition for best defensive player, particularly among the DB's, but Dorsey has my vote. He was absolutely dominant and he's a slam dunk, shoo in selection.
Secondly, the best defensive end in school history is Gabe Northern. He stands head and shoulders above the competition, and I don't think I'm going to get serious opposition from you on this one. If we're including just one end, Gabe is the guy.
Which then narrows the pool to the final two slots. Estay is the only old-timer with a serious case, and he runs head long into Booger and Lavalais. You make a fantastic case for Wiley, who really is a forgotten great player, but frankly, he wasn't as good as Booger. I think Wiley is the modern Moonie Winston, a guy who gets lost in the shuffle.
Then, the only end who really merits discussion is Marcus Spears. The old timers don't have the numbers or the accolades to match up. Sonic Sam had some nice numbers, but he did leave a sour taste by leaving early and then bombing out of the NFL. The label of lazy, fair or unfair, has been attached to his legacy. It seems silly to say given his numbers, but it seems he should have been better. Spears gets the bonus for being a massive recruit, the best player on the 2003 defense, and staying four years. Lethal combo. That's four guys for two slots, unless you want different candidates.
I think we're of the same mindset here. Dorsey is as easy of a choice as we will have in this entire team. He was simply a tour de force of a football player, even if his name doesn't dot every record book (let us again join hands and unite in reciting the ancient hymn, "Fuck Chaz Ramsey.")
I'm not going to dispute you on Northern being the best DE in school history. Spears has a claim to that title, but if you're looking at pure numbers, Northern is clearly the guy and obviously well deserving of a spot on the all-time team.
So then you're really left with 3 guys for 2 spots: Lavalais, Spears, Booger. Lavalais I can easily eliminate, because Booger and Dorsey are simply plainly better than him. He had neither the longevity nor the overall production those two offered.
That gives us a final four of Dorsey, Northern, Booger, Spears. Pretty menacing bunch, if I do say so myself.
One final tip of the hat to Estay, who was one of three LSU legends at each level in the early 70s. Estay doesn't quite have the numbers, and there's an open question if he was made to look good by playing in front of Mike Anderson and Tommy Casanova. Estay is a legend, but he seems to me to be pretty clearly the third best player on those defenses. He'd probably make the team if we weren't so absolutely stacked in the last decade with defensive tackle talent.
I mean I feel bad we're leaving off Estay, but it's an easier pill to swallow than leaving off Chad f'n Lavalais. But I think Lavalias being more of a one season wonder makes it fair to push him off the team, given how stacked the competition is. Hell, we didn't even give a full hearing to James Gillyard or Kyle Williams.
I agree on the final four, giving us a team so far of:
QB Bert Jones
DE Gabe Northern
DT Glenn Dorsey
DT Booger McFarland
DE Marcus Spears
Next up: Offensive line.