As the 2014 NFL draft drew to a close last Saturday, I could still hear Joe Pendry’s prophetic words in the press box on Nov. 5, 2011.
Pendry, who had just retired the previous year as Alabama’s offensive line coach, said there was a very simple reason that nobody could score a touchdown that night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“Look out there on the field, and probably 20 of the 22 defensive starters will be playing in the NFL,” said Pendry, who was an offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans before ending his career in the college ranks.
Turns out, he might have undersold just how much talent was on the field, which in my 20-plus years of covering the SEC is unquestionably the gold standard for premium defensive talent on the field together at one time.
In that game alone, which LSU won 9-6 in overtime, there were 28 defensive players who played in the game -- 14 on each side -- who would get drafted. That includes 10 first-rounders.
The grand total of future draftees who played in the game was 42, and that doesn’t even count another handful of players who made NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.
“You don’t see that every Saturday,” said Phil Savage, former Cleveland Browns general manager and current executive director of the Senior Bowl.
“That’s why it was a tug-of-war in the middle of the field, all those future pros on defense. We call it a logo game. Neither offense could move the ball very far past the logo at midfield.”
Savage, the color man on Alabama’s radio broadcasts, remembers doing interviews leading up to that epic No. 1-versus-No. 2 encounter and estimating that 40 to 50 players from the game would end up playing in the NFL.
“It’s as close to an NFL game as you’re ever going to see in terms of a college matchup, with so many future NFL players on each side,” Savage said.
The two teams wound up playing twice that season. Alabama avenged its only loss by beating LSU 21-0 in the BCS National Championship in New Orleans. Alabama finished No. 1 nationally that season in scoring defense, and LSU was No. 2. Between them, they gave up 27 touchdowns in 27 games.
The only games in Savage’s recent memory that would come close to that Alabama-LSU affair in terms of producing NFL draft picks were the Florida State-Miami game in 2000 and the Miami-Ohio State BCS National Championship game to cap the 2002 season.
Miami beat Florida State 27-24 in 2000, snapping the Seminoles’ 26-game regular-season winning streak.
In the next three drafts, Miami produced 26 draft choices, although not all of those players played in that 2000 game. For instance, Willis McGahee and Jerome McDougle redshirted in 2000, and Clinton Portis was injured and didn’t play.
Florida State, over the next three drafts, produced 18 draft choices.
But in one game, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever see 42 future draft choices again on the field playing, and certainly not 28 on defense.
As a comparison, in that FSU-Miami game in 2000, there were a total of 17 defensive players who would end up being drafted.
Now, when it comes to one team, good luck in trumping Miami’s 2001 national championship team. The Hurricanes had 16 players from that team who would go on to be first-round picks.
Here’s a look at the draftees from that Alabama-LSU game in 2011:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, first round
C.J. Mosley, LB, first round
Kevin Norwood, WR, fourth round
AJ McCarron, QB, fifth round
Ed Stinson, DE, fifth round
Vinnie Sunseri, S, fifth round
Dee Milliner, CB, first round
Chance Warmack, OG, first round
D.J. Fluker, OT, first round
Eddie Lacy, RB, second round
Nico Johnson, LB, fourth round
Barrett Jones, C, fourth round
Quinton Dial, DE, fifth round
Jesse Williams DT, fifth round
Michael Williams, TE, seventh round
Trent Richardson, RB, first round
Mark Barron, S, first round
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, first round
Dont’a Hightower, LB, first round
DeQuan Menzie, CB, fifth round
Courtney Upshaw, DE, second round
Josh Chapman, DT, fifth round
Brad Smelley, TE, seventh round
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, first round
Ego Ferguson, DT, second round
Jarvis Landry, WR, second round
Lamin Barrow, LB, fifth round
Alfred Blue, RB, sixth round
Barkevious Mingo, DE, first round
Eric Reid, S, first round
Kevin Minter, LB, second round
Bennie Logan, DT, third round
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, third round
Sam Montgomery, DE, third round
Tharold Simon, CB, fifth round
Lavar Edwards, DE, fifth round
Spencer Ware, RB, sixth round