LINES OF CHANGE - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
Publish date:

LINES OF CHANGE

A look at how defensive units have evolved over the last five decades
Author:

MICHIGAN STATE

1965--66

The Gang Green D allowed just 49.2 rushing yards and 7.6 points per game as the team went 19-1-1 over two seasons. The leader was 6'7", 265-pound defensive end Bubba Smith, who faced triple teams but could not be stopped.

1960s

OKLAHOMA

1973--75

Offenses in the 1970s relied on the ground game, and no defense did a better job of stopping the run than the Sooners' unit starring the All-America Selmon brothers: Dewey, Lee Roy and Lucious (above).

1970s

MIAMI

1989--90

By the late 1980s offenses were opening up, and the need for a run-stopping defensive tackle who could also rush the passer was at a premium. The Hurricanes had two: 300-pounders Cortez Kennedy and Russell Maryland (right), who could jump off the ball and had receivers' speed.

1980s

FLORIDA STATE

1996--97

The rise of the spread offense sparked an increase in 4--3 defenses that relied on skilled linemen. There was an emphasis on the pass rush and moving upfield to the quarterback. The Seminoles had three standouts: freakishly fast Peter Boulware (right) and Reinard Wilson, and hybrid end-tackle Andre Wadsworth.

1990s

NEBRASKA

2009--10

The 2000s saw the ascendancy of a number of dominant defensive lines, but none were more intimidating than the Cornhuskers' unit led by Ndamukong Suh and fellow All-America Jared Crick. The Nebraska D rarely blitzed, but instead stayed in a dime package and launched a furious pass rush. This way they were able to keep six DBs in the game to stifle the Air Raid offenses proliferating in the Big 12.

2000s

ALABAMA

2015--16

Led by 6'4", 322-pound tackle A'Shawn Robinson and 6'3", 294-pound defensive end Jonathan Allen, the Tide boasted a versatile combination of run stoppers and pass rushers who punished opponents during a 14--1 season that ended with a national championship in 2015.

2010s