College football royalty collides: The all-time best Tide and Trojans lineups

USC has most to gain with a win over Alabama (1:15)

Danny Kanell breaks down what a win for USC over Alabama would mean for the Trojans and examines a key match up to watch. (1:15)

Kevin Gemmell (USC): How difficult is it trying to build an all-time USC team? You’re drawing from a pool of 53 consensus All-Americans, 27 unanimous, seven Heisman Trophy winners (including Reggie Bush's vacated Heisman) and multiple Hall of Fame inductees. It’s a veritable who's who of college football royalty.

Dozens of All-Americans didn’t make the cut. Three Heisman Trophy running backs (Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson and Charles White) were passed up for two other Heisman Trophy-winning backs. This list has NFL Hall of Famers as well as college football game-changers. There are probably only a couple other programs nationally that could compete with this group top to bottom. Alabama is one of them.

Alex Scarborough (Alabama): This was difficult. Very, very difficult.

But, hey, when a school can can claim 16 national champions and more than 100 All-Americans, creating a single all-time team is going to be a harrowing journey. Such was the case with Alabama.

Some worthy candidates missed the cut. I’m talking legends like Johnny Musso and Kenny Stabler. Others were moved around. Having some two-way players created wiggle room. The all-purpose/return spot was a great relief.

We could have easily gone three- or four-deep here, but the goal was one all-time Alabama team.


QB: Matt Leinart (2002-05): A Heisman Trophy winner and a three-time All-American, Leinart was 37-2 as a starter. He finished with 99 passing touchdowns in three seasons.

RB: Reggie Bush (2003-05): Bush had back-to-back seasons with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards. In 2005, he accounted for 19 touchdowns (16 rushing, two receiving, one punt return) and was a unanimous All-American and Heisman Trophy winner (which was later vacated because of NCAA violations).

RB: Marcus Allen (1978-81): USC’s fourth Heisman Trophy winner, he was a unanimous All-American in 1981 with 22 rushing touchdowns (45 for his career).

OT: Tony Boselli (1991-94): He was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Winner of the (then) Pac-10’s Morris Trophy and a consensus All-American in 1994.

OG: Brad Budde (1976-79): He was a four-year starter and was USC’s first Lombardi Award winner (in 1979) and a runner-up for the Outland Trophy, also earning unanimous All-American honors. He was the first freshman to start a USC season-opener since World War II.

C: Ryan Kalil (2003-06): A Rimington Award finalist in 2006 and winner of the Pac-10’s Morris Trophy, he was an All-American and enjoyed a 48-4 record while at USC, winning two national championships.

OG: Bruce Matthews (1980-82): The 1982 consensus All-American won the Pac-12's Morris Trophy and was a two-time all-conference pick.

OT: Ron Yary (1965-67): USC’s only Outland Trophy winner, Yary was a two-time All-American (consensus in ’66 and unanimous in ’67). He was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2012.

WR: Mike Williams (2002-03): He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award in 2003, when he was a consensus All-American after catching 95 balls for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns.

WR: Keyshawn Johnson (1994-95): A unanimous All-American in 1995 with 102 catches for 1,434 yards and seven touchdowns (he had 16 in his two-year career).

TE: Charles Young (1970-72): Part of the College Football Hall of Fame class in 2004, he was a unanimous All-American and part of the Trojans' national championship team in 1972. Nicknamed "Tree."


QB AJ McCarron (2010-13): Don’t call him a game-manager. Not when you consider that he was the first quarterback in school history to throw for 3,000 yards. Not when he flashes the two championship rings -- and 36 games overall -- he won as a starter.

RB Derrick Henry (2013-15): He broke pretty much every single-season rushing record in the books on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, including the SEC rushing yards mark set by Herschel Walker.

RB Mark Ingram (2008-10): Alabama produced nearly 100 All-Americans before Ingram delivered the Tide its first Heisman Trophy winner in 2009.

WR Don Hutson (1932-34): Receivers weren’t stars before Hutson came around in the 1930s. In fact, the Heisman didn’t exist yet. But legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins thought so much of Hutson’s 1934 season that he awarded him a "retroactive Heisman."

WR Amari Cooper (2012-14): From the minute he walked on campus, it was clear he would leave as one of the school’s best receivers. In three seasons, he amassed 228 catches, 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns.

TE Ozzie Newsome (1974-77): Alabama’s wishbone offense didn’t exactly favor the forward pass back in those days, yet Newsome caught enough balls to wind up second in career receptions (102) and first in career receiving yards (2,070) at the time of his graduation.

OL John Hannah (1970-72): He was a three-year starter, an All-American, and the fourth overall pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Paul "Bear" Bryant called him the best offensive lineman he’d ever been around.

OL Dwight Stephenson (1977-79): An All-American, Stephenson is widely considered to be among the best centers of all time.

OL Billy Neighbors (1959-61): One of 20 College Football Hall of Fame players to come through Alabama, Neighbors was a star on both sides of the football, helping the Tide to the 1961 national title.

OL Chris Samuels (1996-99): The first "modern era" offensive lineman on the list, Samuels won the Outland Trophy and was a consensus All-American in 1999 before being selected with the third overall pick in the NFL draft.

OL Barrett Jones (2008-12): Good luck finding a more decorated player in Alabama’s history. Jones was a freshman All-American, a two-time first-team All-SEC selection, an Outland Award winner, a Rimington Award winner, and a a three-time national champion.


DL: Leonard Williams (2012-14): Over a three-year career, Williams notched 218 tackles with 36.5 for a loss. He was a two-time All-American in 2013 and 2014.

DL: Jimmy Gunn (1967-69): A member of USC’s "Wild Bunch" defensive line, he was a 1969 consensus All-American and helped the Trojans to a 29-2-2 mark during his career with a national championship (1967) and three conference championships.

DL: Tim Ryan (1986-89): A two-time All-American (consensus in 1989), he finished his career with 389 tackles (55 for a loss).

DL: Tim Rossovich (1965-67): He was a 1967 consensus All-American, enjoying a 24-7-1 record at USC with a national championship (1967) and two conference titles.

LB: Richard "Batman" Wood (1972-74): He became USC’s first three-year All-American first-teamer and the first from the West Coast to be a three-year pick by the AP. Wood was a part of two national championship teams and played in three Rose Bowls.

LB: Junior Seau (1988-89): He was named the Pac-10’s defensive player of the year in 1989, when he posted 72 tackles and was an All-American.

LB: Chris Claiborne (1996-98): He became USC’s first Butkus Award winner in 1998, earning unanimous All-American status with 120 tackles and six interceptions, two that were returned for touchdowns.

CB: Mark Carrier (1987-89): He was USC’s first Thorpe Award winner in 1989 while earning unanimous All-American honors. He posted 13 career interceptions, including seven in ’89.

CB: Tim McDonald (1983-86): He had 339 tackles and 11 career interceptions, and was a two-time All-American (consensus in 1986).

S: Ronnie Lott (1977-80): He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, and was a unanimous All-American in 1980 following an 86-tackle, eight-interception season.

S: Troy Polamalu (1999-02): A two-time All-American and Thorpe Award finalist, he posted 281 tackles with six interceptions in his four-year career.


DB Antonio Langham (1990-93): He’s best known for the interception he returned for a touchdown against Florida in the first-ever SEC Championship Game in 1992, but Langham’s career was much more than that. In 1993, he followed that up with All-American honors and the Jim Thorpe Award, and remains the Tide's all-time leader with 19 interceptions.

DB Jeremiah Castille (1979-82): The Castille name has deep roots in Alabama. Not only did Jeremiah become an All-American in 1982, three of his sons followed his footsteps by playing football at the university.

DB Mark Barron (2008-11): You’d be hard-pressed to find a better three-year span than what Barron did from 2009-11 when he was twice named an All-American and averaged 73 tackles and 4 interceptions.

DB Bobby Johns (1964-67): A two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC player, Johns capped off an undefeated season with three interceptions in the 1967 Sugar Bowl against Nebraska.

LB Woodrow Lowe (1972-75): He made it a rare trifecta, earning All-America status in 1973, '74 and '75. As a sophomore, he set a school record with 134 tackles.

LB Lee Roy Jordan (1959-62): An easy College Football Hall of Fame selection, Jordan was a big part of Bryant’s first national championship team in 1961.

LB Cornelius Bennett (1983-86): He would go on to play in five Super Bowls, but before that Bennett was a three-time first-team All-America selection, a Lombardi Award winner and SEC Player of the Year at Alabama.

LB Derrick Thomas (1985-88): If he’s not the best player in school history, he’s certainly one of the most feared. In 1988, Thomas set the NCAA record for sacks (27) and tackles for loss (39) on his way to winning the Butkus Award.

DL Leroy Cook (1972-75): A two-time All-American, by the time Cook had left Alabama he had set school records for forced fumbles, sacks, and tackles for loss.

DL John Copeland (1991-92): It’s interesting to consider what Copeland might have done had he bypassed junior college and gone directly to Alabama. But nonetheless, when he did arrive he was an immediate success, transforming into an All-American and national champion in 1992.

DL Marty Lyons (1975-78): He was an All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and national champion. Without Lyons, the famed goal-line stand in the 1979 Sugar Bowl doesn’t happen.


P: Tom Malone (2002-05): He became USC’s first All-America punter in 2003, carrying a career average of 44 yards per punt.

K: Ryan Killeen (2002-04): USC’s kicker during the 2003 and 2004 championship runs, he finished his career with 51 field goals and 176 PATs.

K/PR Curtis Conway (1990-92): He remains USC’s all-time kickoff return leader with 1,723 yards and an average of 23.6 yards per return and one touchdown from 1990-1992. On punt returns, he’s third all time with 679 yards and a pair of touchdowns.


K Van Tiffin (1983-86): He was a perfect 135-for-135 on extra point attempts. Need we say more?

P JK Scott (2014-current): His career isn’t over, but the junior already owns the school record for yards per punt (minimum 50).

AP/KR/PR Harry Gilmer (1944-47): It’s fitting that Gilmer wound up an all-purpose selection and not a running back since he did a little bit of everything. In 1945, he not only led the nation in touchdown passes, he also averaged 7.0 yards per rush. The next year as a junior he led the nation in yards per punt return. He ranks second in school history with 16 interceptions as well.