15 min Read

O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Defensive Linemen

The Obvious: We now turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball for our O/NSO Mount Rushmore, and we begin with our four-man selections of the tough guys inside, the down defensive linemen.

The Not So Obvious: Before making our selections on the defensive side of the football, the O/NSO had to take into account the different defensive alignments during the various eras of Trojans football. We looked at four basic defensive fronts: 5-2, 3-4, 4-3, 4-4, and 3-3-5. We tried to separate those that were considered nose guards (NG) and those that had their hands on grass even though they were called defensive ends.

The O/NSO would first like to recognize those defensive linemen that did not make our Mount Rushmore but were so good they still needed to be recognized:George Achica (NG), Otha Bradley (NG), Jurrell Casey, Tony Colorito (NG) Al Cowlings, Richard Dimler (NG/DT), Monte Doris (NG), Dennis Edwards, Sedrick Ellis, Don Gipson (NG), John Grant, John Michaels, Ralph “Chip” Oliver (NG), Dan Owens (NG), Mike Patterson, Larry Petrill (NG) Art Riley, Darrell Russell, Tody Smith, Willard “Bubba” Scott (NG), Tony Terry, Walter Underwood, Charles Ussery, and Jeff Winans.   

Sedrick Ellis (photo above on left with Pete Carroll on right) was one of the great defensive tackles during the Carroll era and was a unanimous 2007 All-American.

As usual, feel free to differ from our selections and inform us of your own selections on the Garry P. WeAreSC message board. A reminder, our selections are not ranked in order of greatness but as a group and not by what they accomplished after their playing days at USC.

The O/NSO now presents our four down defensive linemen for the O/NSO’s USC Football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: Gary Michael Jeter (1973-76) was a 1976 consensus All-American defensive tackle.

Gary Jeter (photo above) was a consensus 1976 All-American, who was the State of Ohio Prep Lineman of the Year out of Cathedral Latin HS in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Not So Obvious: Gary (6-4, 255), arrived at USC from Cleveland (Ohio) Cathedral Latin HS, where he was named the 1972 Ohio Defensive Lineman of the Year and ranked No. 2 in the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Top 50 prep players from 1963-2013.  

During Gary’s three seasons in cardinal and gold, the Trojans’ team record was 38-8-2.

Gary started every USC game at defensive tackle from his 3rd game in 1973 until his final game in the 1977 Rose Bowl and was a member of the 1974 National Championship team.

In his 1976 senior season, Gary was a first-team All-American. He started in three Rose Bowls (1974, 1975, and 1977) and the 1975 Liberty Bowl. Gary also participated in the post-season 1977 Hula and Japan Bowls.

Gary, who was a 1976 Playboy preseason All-American, was also a three-time All-Pac-8 Conference first-team selection (1974, 1975, 1976). In 1975, he won the Trojans’ Defensive Player of the Year Award. In 1976, Gary also won the USC Special General Excellence Award.

By the time his USC career was completed in 1977, Gary Jeter (photo above) was about as decorated as a defensive lineman could be.

Following his USC career, Gary was selected as a first round (5th pick) selection of the New York Giants in the 1977 NFL Draft. He played in 13 NFL seasons from 1977 to 1989.

Sadly, Gary passed in 2016 at the age of 61 of an apparent heart attack.

In the two videos below, the first is actually a fascinating podcast of how Gary was recruited by USC out of Ohio, his relationship with John McKay, and an overview of playing for the Trojans for four years. In the second video, Gary (No. 79) battles the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 1975 Rose Bowl Game for the national championship.

The Obvious: Timothy Edward “Tim” Ryan (1986-1989) was a consensus two-time All-American.

The Not So Obvious: Tim (6-5, 260) arrived at Troy via San Jose (Calif.) Oak Grove HS.

Tim Ryan ( photo above) was a two-time USC All-American defensive tackle. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Allsport/Getty Images)

During his time at Troy, the Cardinal and Gold had a team record of 34-13-1.

A two-time All-American (1988/1989), Tim, a former 1989 team captain, led the Trojans to three Rose Bowls and at one time held the team season-record for sacks with 20.

During Tim’s career, the Trojans played in the 1987 Citrus Bowl and the 1988, 1989, and 1990 Rose Bowls. No. 99 was a two-time All-Pac-10 first team selection.

In 1989, Tim was the runnerup for the Lombardi Award and won the Pop Warner Award, given to the top senior on the West Coast.

In 1989, Tim was also a preseason Playboy All-American. 

By the time Tim Ryan (photo above – No. 99) left USC, it was almost impossible to block him one-on-one.

Tim started his freshman season in the 1986 opener against Illinois and became the first true freshman to start since linebacker Riki Ellison in 1978.

In his four-year USC career, Tim finished with 389 tackles (55 for losses/262 yds.), 19 deflections, 6 fumble recoveries, and two interceptions. A little known fact: Tim was a 5-time Junior Olympics boxing champion as a youth.

Following graduation, Tim was a third-round selection draft (61st pick overall) by the Chicago Bears in the 1990 NFL draft.

In the video below, Tim Ryan (No. 99) is part of a big 1990 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.

The Obvious: Shaun Michael Cody (2001-2004) was a 2004 consensus All-American, and the recruit that ignited the Pete Carroll dynasty.

The Not So Obvious: Shaun (6-4, 295) was a Prep All-America lineman from Hacienda Heights (Calif.) Los Altos HS.

Shaun Cody (photo above) was a 2004 consensus All-America defensive tackle and is now part of the USC radio broadcasting team.

As a true freshman in 2001, Shaun was a backup defensive lineman for USC’s first four games and started the last eight at tackle, posting 39 tackles, which included seven for losses (with five sacks), and one fumble recovery. He was a first-team Freshman All-America selection.

As a sophomore in 2002, Cody started for his second season at defensive and compiled 20 tackles, including one for a loss, a deflection, fumble recovery, and a blocked field goal.

Cody started all thirteen games as a junior defensive tackle in 2003, and had 26 tackles, including 10.5 for losses (with six sacks), plus a forced fumble, a deflection and three blocked field goals. He was a first-team All-Pac-10 choice and received third-team All-American honors from the Associated Press.

As a senior in 2004, Shaun was recognized as a first-team All-Pac-10 selection and consensus first-team All-American after he compiled a career-high 45 tackles (29 solo), 10 sacks, 13 stops for losses, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three pass deflections. He was also a team captain and voted Co-Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Shaun a team captain, was a finalist for the 2004 Lombardi and Hendricks Awards. 

During his time at Troy, Shaun’s teams had a record of 42-9.

Shaun Cody (photo above – No. 84) is considered the key recruit when head coach Pete Carroll first arrived at USC in 2001.

For his career, Shaun had 130 tackles, including 31.5 for losses and 21 sacks. He also blocked five field goal attempts. He played in the 2005 Senior Bowl.  

Following his USC career, Shaun was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft.  

In the two videos below, the first is a WeAreSC interview with Shaun Cody, Pete Carroll, and Norm Chow discussing Shaun’s recruitment out of high school, and the second video is highlights of the 2005 Orange Bowl game, a big BCS National Championship victory over Oklahoma. Shaun is wearing No. 84.

The Obvious: Leonard Austin Williams (2012 -2014) was a two-time first team USC All-American.

Leonard Williams (photo above) was a two-time All-American out of Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland HS.

The Not So Obvious: Leonard Williams (6-5, 300), from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland HS, became one of USC’s all-time great defensive linemen.

During his three seasons at USC, Leonard’s teams were a combined 26-14.

As a true freshman in 2012, Leonard started nine of 13 games at defensive tackle, recording 64 tackles, eight sacks and an interception. He was named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

As a sophomore in 2013, Leonard was moved from tackle to defensive end. After recording 74 tackles and six sacks, he was named a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and was an ESPN All-American.

As a junior in 2014, “Big Cat” recorded 80 tackles and seven sacks. He was named Team MVP, first team All-Pac-12, and was an All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and ESPN.

Opponents tried every conceivable blocking angle to stop Trojans all-time great defensive lineman Leonard “Big Cat” Williams (photo above – No. 94) but without much success.

During his career, Leonard had 218 tackles, including 36.5 yards for losses, 21 sacks, 7 deflections, 4 fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.

In 2014, Leonard was also the USC’s Most Valuable Player and a Hendricks Award Finalist.

Leonard was the Trojans Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2013 and 2014.

Big Cat played in the 2012 Sun Bowl, 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, and 2014 Holiday Bowl.  

After his junior season, Leonard announced that he would forgo his senior season and entered the 2015 NFL Draft, where he was taken in the first round by the New York Jets as the No. 6 overall pick.

In 2015, Leonard was named to the Pac-12 All-Century Team.  

The video below is a Leonard Williams (No. 94) highlight video.

The Obvious: And finally, you can quibble with our down defensive linemen selections, but it’s hard to say the one’s named weren’t deserving of the honor.   

The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we’ll release our four-man Mount Rushmore standup defensive ends.

Previous O/NSO USC Football Mount Rushmore position selections:

The head coach: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-football-mount-rushmore-series-edition-presenting-the-immortal-head-coaches/ 

The quarterbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-quarterbacks/  

The running backs: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tailbacks/  

The wide receivers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-wide-receviers/

The fullbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-fullbacks/

The offensive tackles: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-tackles/

The offensive guards: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-guards/

The centers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-centers/

The tight ends: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tight-ends/

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

More Articles By Greg