clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Top 12 Pac-12 linebackers of the BCS era: USC produced some serious talent at linebacker during the Pete Carroll era

Almost half of the players on the list played under Pete Carroll at USC.


Adam Archuleta Arizona State 1997-2000

A workout champion Archuleta was an incredible story, going from walk-on to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was a phenomenal all-around linebacker, especially adept at getting into the backfield and was a two-time first team All-Pac-10 honoree, All-American and Butkus Award finalist in 2000.

Anthony Barr UCLA 2010-13

Yes, he only played two seasons at linebacker, but boy were they big years as the former running back was one of the best pass rushers the conference has ever seen at outside linebacker. He was an All-American, two-time near Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year winner, led the nation in sacks as a junior and finished with 23.5 in his career and now will be a first round draft pick.

Lance Briggs Arizona 1999-2002

Briggs was a rock on some pretty forgettable Arizona teams, finishing his career with more than 300 tackles with 36 of them for-loss and 10.5 sacks. He was a two-time first team All-Pac-10 honoree and regularly seemed like he was the entire Wildcat defense.

Chris Claiborne USC 1996-98

Claiborne finished off a fantastic college career by becoming the only Pac-10/12 player to ever win the Butkus Award which is a testament to just how great he was in his final season at USC. Big, strong, fast and a pure linebacker, Claiborne was all-conference multiple times and an All-American.

Brian Cushing USC 2005-08

Cushing quickly became a star in the heyday of the Pete Carroll era at USC, winning Rose Bowl MVP as just a sophomore. Cushing was one of the most versatile linebackers to ever play in the conference and left USC as an All-American.

Mason Foster Washington 2007-10

A tackling machine, Foster played for some very bad Washington teams at first, but then was a big part of their turnaround under Steve Sarkisian. Foster broke out nationally as a senior, finishing second in the nation in tackles while leading Washington the Holiday Bowl and earning All-American honors.

Matt Grootegoed USC 2000-04

One of the best undersized linebackers to ever play in the conference, Grootegoed was one of the best players on USC's back-to-back national championship teams. He was an All-American, first team All-Pac-10 honoree and Butkus finalist as a senior.

Casey Matthews Oregon 2007-2010

His brother Clay may be the bigger star now, but Casey was the better college player as the best defender on Oregon's 2010 squad that made it to the BCS Championship Game. Matthews had a phenomenal years as a senior, earning All-American and all-conference honors.

Rey Maualuga USC 2005-08

One of the most intimidating and biggest hitters to ever play in the Pac-12, think about USC's starting linebackers in 2008 for a second... Maualuga, Cushing and Matthews... how did they not win a national championship that year again? Maualuga was probably the best of the bunch and won the Bednarik Award along with Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 while taking home unanimous All-American honors and his third-straight first team all-conference selection.

Trent Murphy Stanford 2010-13

Murphy just wrapped up a career as one of the best players in Stanford history and actually earned our MVP award for the Pac-12 in 2013. Murphy had a fantastic overall career at Stanford while playing a huge part in one of the best defenses the conference has ever seen and was an All-American as a senior while totaling 15 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-loss.

Keith Rivers USC 2004-07

Rivers was one of the most physically imposing and athletic linebackers to ever play in the conference as a big part of some devastating USC defenses. Rivers was first team all-conference as a junior and senior and an All-American as a senior.

Chase Thomas Stanford 2009-12

The first great linebacker of the Jim Harbaugh/David Shaw era in Palo Alto, Thomas was huge with great side-to-side speed and a big part of Stanford becoming a juggernaut on defense. Thomas was first team all-conference as a senior and received All-American honors in his career.

Robert Thomas UCLA 1998-2001

Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2001, Thomas was a beast against the run and could also rush the passer as the leader of the Bruin defense. Thomas racked up honors as a senior as an All-American, Butkus and Bednarik award finalist and first team all-conference.

Honorable Mention

Spencer Havner UCLA 2002-05

Clay Matthews USC 2004-08

Richard Siegler Oregon State 2000-03

Shayne Skov Stanford 2010-2013

Lofa Tatupu USC 2003-04