The All-323 Team: Defense  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, we're running a 4-3 defense this season, to take advantage of our considerable talent on the line. Once again, these are the rules: (1) you gotta play hard and get the job down, and (2) you can't be on anyone's all America team.

Defensive Line - Trevor Laws, Notre Dame

Walter - As easy as it is to pile on the Notre Dame team this year, it's that hard to criticize Laws. Undersized at only 6'1'' and 295 pounds, Laws proved to be virtually unblockable all year. Laws registered a ridiculous 112 tackles for a DT, and even chipped in 4 sacks. In a year when its easy to forget the Irish, it would be wrong to overlook this one.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Virginia

Frazier - Well, he played in a Long shadow this season (pardon the pun) but has proven himself to be an excellent player in his own right. Fitzgerald racked up six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss this season. At 6'3 and 280 lbs, this sophomore is no pushover against the run either. He is a star in the making, so this may be his last appearance on our All-323 team, he'll be too high profile next year.

Nick Reed, Oregon

Walter - Hard to imagine how Mr. Reed slipped through the cracks. Playing for one of the top teams in America, Reed absolutely dominated Pac-10 offensive lineman to the tune of 12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss. A bit undersized at only 255 pounds, Reed is deceptively strong and stout against the run. A major NFL sleeper who you’ll hear more from in 2008.

Bruce Davis, UCLA

Frazier - We're going out of our way to give love to individuals who had great seasons, despite the rest of their team falling apart. Bruce Davis was pretty hyped going into this season, then the Bruins fell off a cliff. However, Davis notched a dozen sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Those are gaudy numbers, so while the Bruins were simply collapsing, Davis continued to collapse the pocket.

Linebackers - J Leman, Illinois

Frazier - Frankly, J may have gotten too much press for this squad. I, for one, thought he was getting press due to his name, and his hair, heading into the USC game. Then I really watched him play. Wow. He was simply all over the field against an incredibly fast Trojan attack. It may not have been his finest hour, but he proved himself to be a gamer. 132 tackles? 10.5 tackles for loss? Yeah, J was everywhere, on seemingly every play.

Mark Herzlich, Boston College

Walter - Herzlich is a major sleeper and, admittedly, a 323 hometown pick. As a season ticket holder I couldn't help but fall in love with the quiet play of this linebacker. At 6'4'' and 240 lbs. Herzlich won't wow you with athleticism, but he will wow you with his smarts and physical play. Strong side linebacker is not a glory filled position. It entails taking on blocks and occupying blockers, and few do it better than Herzlich. Only a sophomore, Herzlich should be an all 323 staple for years to come.

Sean Lee, Penn State

Frazier - Speaking of overshadowed players... First it was Puz, then Connor, but Lee has been holding his own with those two for years now. 124 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 7 passes broken up, and was twice the Big Ten defensive player of the week (only matched by Laurinaitis and Connor). Yeah, Linebacker U is alive and well, and Lee may prove to be better than both his more ballyhooed counterparts with a monster '08.

Defensive Backs - William Moore, Mizzou

Walter - Heard of Chase Daniel but not Moore? You aren't alone.....and that's a shame. Moore's numbers tell it all: 115 tackles, 13 passes defended, and 8 interceptions. Those numbers are not only well rounded, but they are downright awesome. One of the best run/pass defenders in America, Moore keyed the Tigers' late season defensive turnaround. If he can keep it going in 2008, Mizzou may be gearing up for a title run....national title.

Jonathan Zenon, LSU

Frazier - First, he scores the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the SEC title game, on a ball he broke on perfectly. Then he played perfect defense in the National Title game. He may be the only overlooked player on the LSU defense, but his play was impeccable and like every great player Zenon was at his best when his team needed him most.

Jaime Silva, Boston College

Walter - Another hometown favorite, but another incredibly deserving player. Silva quietly put up a monster season in Chestnut Hill. His 8 picks are impressive, but then again so are his 125 tackles. Bottom line, Silva was the best Eagle defender all year, and BC was one of the best defenses in America. That counts for something.

Dwight Lowery, San Jose State

Frazier - Dwight may be the epitome of the 323 squad. Seriously, who IS this kid? Well, he had 4 picks, 7 passes defensed, and made huge plays for the Spartans all season. The highlight of his year had to be returning a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against Hawaii, then following it up with a 24 yard interception return for another score. He almost single-handedly brought Hawaii's dream season to a halt.

Defensive Coordinator - Will Muschamp, Auburn

Walter -
I love Will Muschamp. Anyone who reads the 323 knows of my unabashed affinity for the Tigers fiery leader. But don't tell me it isn't deserved. Auburn has had great defenses under Muschamp every year, and 2007 was no exception. Witness the Tigers holding Florida to 17 points in an upset win, and holding Arkansas to only 7 points and 67 rush yards. All year Muschamp came up with diversive gameplans to stop any type of offense the SEC the threw at him.

Head Coach - Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State

Frazier - This was a tough one. We love what Mark Mangino did, but he got tons of love. We love what coach Jagz did, but we've given BC enough love so far. So we decided to go with a guy that did a lot, with a little. In the toughest conference in the country, Croom got his decidedly un-sexy team to play tough, and even win a bowl game. This team overcame a 45-0 loss to open the season with LSU, then turned around and beat Auburn, in a hostile environment, just two weeks later. They took the show on the road again to stun #14 Kentucky on the Blue Grass. Against arch-rival Ole Miss, they overcame a 14-0 deficit with only eight minutes on the clock to make a bowl game for the first time in years. In his fourth season, Croom finally got his team to come together, ending the season by slowing down Kevin Smith, and earning a 10-3 bowl win. Croom is the SEC's first African-American coach, and it's certainly been a long, difficult road. Sylvester deserves a ton of credit for a great job this season, and for overcoming so many obstacles, and disappointments, to get to this place.


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