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Tennessee Football: 10 greatest seasons by Vols DTs of all time

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With two Outland Trophy winners and arguably the two greatest defensive linemen of all time, Tennessee Football has a long history of elite talent in the trenches that matches its play anywhere else. These are the 10 greatest seasons ever by Vols defensive tackles.

10. Malik Jackson – 2011

He labored through a bad two years under Derek Dooley in terms of team success, but Malik Jackson was one bright spot for the Vols. Transferring from the USC Trojans, Jackson had 56 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two and a half sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble in 2011.

9. Albert Haynesworth – 2001

John Henderson had a second straight All-American campaign this year, but Albert Haynesworth was the better player. With Henderson battling injuries, Haynesworth had 13 tackles for a loss and seven pass deflections, helping to anchor arguably the greatest rush defense in college football history.

8. Dan Williams – 2009

In Lane Kiffin’s one year, Dan Williams became a star anchoring Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 Defense. Williams had 70 tackles, 36 of which were solo, to go along with nine tackles for a loss and two and a half sacks. That season propelled him to a high NFL Draft pick.

7. Darris McCord – 1954

Robert Neyland’s single wing produced plenty of elite tackles, most notably Abe Shires in 1938 and Dick Huffman in 1946. However, Darris McCord, under Harvey Robinson, was the best of those three despite a bad season in 1954. McCord was an All-American and turned that into a Pro Bowl NFL career.

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6. Darwin Walker – 1999

He was instrumental in helping Tennessee Football to the 1998 national title, but Darwin Walker’s finest season came in 1999. That year, Walker had nine and a half tackles for a loss, five and a half sacks and 39 tackles, 23 of which were solo.

5. Doug Atkins – 1952

The best of the tackles who played for Neyland himself and one of the best Vols players of all time, Doug Atkins was a two-time All-American who helped UT win back to back national titles in 1950 and 1951. Bill Pearman was also an All-American in 1951, but it was because of Atkins. Still, Atkins’ best year was 1952.

4. Jesse Mahelona – 2004

A junior college transfer who came out of nowhere, Jesse Mahelona was a shocking All-American for the Vols in 2004, helping them win the SEC East. Mahelona was undersized but always wrapped up his tackles, finishing with an amazing 18.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and 42 total tackles, 28 of which were solo.

3. Steve DeLong – 1964

Laboring through a transition year, the year Tennessee Football brought in Doug Dickey and finally retired the single wing, Steve DeLong was a major bright spot. At middle guard, which was nose tackle back then, DeLong won the Outland Trophy and was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Year for the third straight season.

2. John Henderson – 2000

Just under four decades after Steve DeLong won it, John Henderson became the second Tennessee Football defensive tackle ever to win the Outland Trophy. Henderson finished the year with an incredible 10 sacks and 12 tackles for a loss, knocking down three passes, forcing and recovering three fumbles and even blocking and field goal.

1. Reggie White – 1983

The gold standard of Tennessee Football NFL talent, the heir apparent to Doug Atkins in Vol lore, Reggie White’s senior season was unprecedented. White set a school-record 15 sacks this year and had an additional nine tackles for a loss and an interception en route to an All-American campaign.

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