With the 2018 BYU football season slowly inching closer, the next generation of Cougar stars is hopefully ready to shine. Whose performance will be so impressive that they will earn a place among the all-time greats?
BYU has established a rich gridiron history, so attaining that level of greatness is no easy task. Every Cougar fan has their own list of favorite players that they believe are the best.
BYU reporters Jared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson go 1-on-1 to take a look at who they would select as the Top 5 Cougar athletes of all-time at each position.
They start their series by making their cases for the best BYU defensive linemen in history:
Jared’s Top 5
1. Jason Buck, 1985-86
This selection is a no-brainer for me. The 1986 Outland Trophy winner was an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive linemen, leading Hawaii coach Dick Tomey to call him “the most dominating player I’ve seen.” I remember watching him use his 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame to overpower opponents or his amazing athleticism to elude them. Buck only played for the Cougars for two years but finished with 23 sacks. He also had a solid pro career in the NFL.
2. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, 2010-12
While consistent performance over a number of years is an important quality, to me the meteoric rise of the gentle giant from Ghana earned this position. He went from complete unfamiliarity with football to becoming a dominating presence on the BYU defensive front in a very short time. His jaw-dropping physical abilities eventually resulted in him being selected fifth overall in the NFL draft.
3. Shawn Knight, 1983-86
Can you imagine being an opposing offensive coordinator in the mid-1980s who had to try to figure out how to slow Jason Buck and Shawn Knight? It definitely wasn’t an easy task. Knight finished his career with 22.5 sacks for the Cougars (16 of which came in 1986) and was always a disruptive force up front.
4. Jan Jorgensen, 2006-09 In some ways, it was unfortunate for Jorgensen that he had a phenomenal sophomore season (14 sacks) because it set the bar tremendously high. He may not have put up the same numbers after that but he was always a dangerous presence for the BYU defense in the late 2000s.
5. Brandon Flint, 1980-83
There are other Cougar defensive linemen who had higher profiles but no one in BYU history has been able to even approach Flint’s production. In basically three years of action (his playing time was limited during his freshman season), he sacked the opposing quarterback an impressive 35 total times. That type of disruptive success definitely deserves to be on this list.
Others I considered include Brett Keisel, Mike Morgan, Brady Poppinga, Wayne Baker and Bronson Kaufusi.
Darnell’s take on Jared’s picks
We agree on the top spot — how can you deny an Outland Trophy winner? I think Ansah is too high at No. 2 for a guy who didn’t even become a starter until his senior year, but his story is hard to ignore. I don’t have Knight in my top five or even in my honorable mentions. I’m probably letting his quick exit from the NFL — he was a first round draft choice who was traded after his rookie season and lasted just three years in the league — color my judgement of his college career. Hey, I’m not infallible.
Darnell’s Top 5
I tried to be logical, basing most of my decisions on stats and awards. But I have to admit there are some choices in my Top 5 in this category and the categories to come that are more emotionally based than anything else: I loved watching these guys play.
1. Jason Buck, 1985-86
Buck only played two years at BYU after transferring from Ricks College but he was as disruptive a presence as the Cougars have ever had on the defensive line, winning the Outland Trophy in 1986. He was a tall, skinny quarterback at South Fremont High School in Idaho and turned into a defensive terror at Ricks. He didn’t miss a beat moving up to Division I. In the NFL, he won a Super Bowl with the Redskins in 1992.
2. Brandon Flint, 1980-83
Next is Flint, BYU’s all-time sack leader with 35. He was a 1983 honorable mention AP All-American and totaled an amazing 64 quarterback hurries.
3. Jim Herrmann, 1980-84
Herrmann had a terrific career playing in tandem with Flint, posting 26 career sacks and also earning honorable mention AP All-American honors.
4. Jan Jorgensen, 2006-09
Jorgensen finished his career as the all-time MWC sack leader with 30. He was undersized but had a real knack for getting to the quarterback and making game-changing plays. His extra point block against Washington in 2008 preserved an upset in one of the most amazing finishes you’ll ever see.
5. “Ziggy” Ansah, 2010-12
At No. 5 is Ansah. He was a freak athlete who has obviously become a star in the NFL. His BYU career didn’t produce big numbers (72 tackles, 4.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries) and he only played in 31 total games, but his impact on the program is real.
I’m going to list a few honorable mentions, too: Bronson Kaufusi (2012-15), Brett Keisel (1997-2001), Ryan Denney (1997-2001), Setema Gali (1994, 1997-2001) and Randy Brock (1990-94) are guys I would go to battle with any game day.
Jared’s take on Darnell’s picks We agreed on a lot of the top names but our order was a little different. I didn’t put Jim Herrmann on my list but he was a tremendous talent and I can see why Darnell would go that way. I remembered Shawn Knight being more noticeable for his presence on the field back in those years (which is why he was the No. 11 overall selection in the draft).