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Tennessee Football: 10 greatest single seasons in history by Vols edge rushers

Despite the award winners and hall of famers on the middle of the Tennessee Football defensive line, the Vols have had great rushers off the edge too. Here are the 10 greatest single seasons by UT defensive ends of all time.

10. Shaun Ellis – 1999

Similar to Darwin Walker on our list of defensive tackles, you could make a strong case for Shaun Ellis in 1998, as his exploits helped UT win the national title. However, Ellis took it to another level in 1999, registering 15 tackles for a loss and seven and a half sacks. He just edged out Robert Ayers Jr. for this spot.

9. Parys Haralson – 2005

Parys Haralson anchored an elite defense in 2005, registering 45 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and eight and a half sacks. He turned that into a very successful NFL career. Unfortunately for Tennessee Football, the Vols couldn’t cash in, as they went 5-6 this year due to a historically bad offense.

8. Ronnie McCartney – 1975

College football didn’t start registering sacks until the 1970s, and Ronnie McCartney was the first Vol to record double digit sacks in that era. McCartney came away with 10 sacks in 1975. True, Reggie White shattered that in 1983, but that record held for edge rushers all the way until the mid-1990s.

7. Curt Maggitt – 2014

If he hadn’t gotten hurt in 2015, he probably had an elite NFL future ahead of him. Curt Maggitt was really one of the first hybrid outside linebackers/defensive ends in UT history, what is now considered an edge rusher. In 2014, he had 48 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks.

6. Bud Sherrod – 1950

Sure, he had help with Doug Atkins and Bill Pearman in the middle, but Bud Sherrod was an All-American end who helped Tennessee Football win the first national championship of Robert Neyland’s third era. He was the Cotton Bowl MVP in the Vols’ win over the Texas Longhorns, which allowed them to be declared national champions.

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5. Jonathan Brown – 1997

With Leonard Little moving between middle linebacker and defensive end, Jonathan Brown was the star of the defensive line in 1997. Brown registered 13.5 sacks this year, which is still second all time in school history only to what White was able to do back in 1983.

4. Todd Kelly – 1992

He was a backup for three years and waited his turn to start. When he did, Todd Kelly exploded onto the scene. Kelly came away with 11 sacks and another 10 tackles for a loss, earning All-SEC honors and All-American honors by certain outlets.

3. Derek Barnett – 2016

Nobody else on this list had a three-year resume like Derek Barnett, as he had double digit sacks all three years with Tennessee Football. However, his best year was his senior year, when he had 13 sacks, breaking White’s career school record, along with 19 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and even an interception.

2. Bowden Wyatt – 1938

The Neyland era of elite defense hit its Golden Age with Bowden Wyatt in the late 1930s. Wyatt’s defensive presence was the catalyst for the Vols’ second undefeated season, first SEC Championship, first bowl appearance and win and first national championship, all in 1938.

1. Leonard Little – 1995

His All-American campaign came in 1997, but that was a lifetime achievement recognition after he was injured in 1996. Leonard Little’s best year with Tennessee Football came in 1995, and it’s the greatest season an end ever had. Little had 11 sacks that year and a school-record 25 tackles for a loss, one that still stands.

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