Penn State Football

Who is Penn State's best-ever DT? Former players and the media vote

Penn State defensive tackles Matt Millen and Bruce Clark formed a dynamic duo up front.
Penn State defensive tackles Matt Millen and Bruce Clark formed a dynamic duo up front.

More from the series


Penn State football: The all-time Top 10 at each position

Expand All

The summer series on Penn State's storied history continues.

After Saquon Barkley, John Cappelletti, Ki-Jana Carter and seven more Penn State running backs were ranked on Tuesday, it's time to delve into defensive tackle — one of the deepest positions in Nittany Lion lore.

As a reminder, we organized a group of 12 experts — six former players, six media members — to vote on the top-10 all-time players at each position. Each day we'll release a new position, and if you think we missed something, you can vote in our fan poll, which will be released on July 22.

Here are Penn State's top-10 defensive tackles based on the opinion of our 12-person panel:

10. Brandon Noble, 1994-1996

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: 147 tackles, 14 sacks

Noble's story of perseverance is one no Penn State fan could forget. After breaking his leg and missing the 1993 season, Noble lost 40 pounds in a threatening bout with mononucleosis in spring 1994. But the pass-rusher rebounded, leading the Nittany Lions with eight sacks and earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 1996. Noble was also the defensive MVP in Penn State's 1997 Fiesta Bowl win over Texas.

9. Jordan Hill, 2009-2012

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: 171 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks

In October 2012, former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien stumped for Hill — and teammates Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti — to be considered for national awards, saying, "I can't imagine that there's that many linebackers or defensive linemen in the country better than those guys." Well, O'Brien's words and Hill's play paid off. At the end of a stellar senior season in which he had 8.5 tackles for loss, HIll was recognized as a second-team All-American.

DT Still
Penn State's Devon Still pressures Michigan State's Kirk Cousins on Saturday, November 27, 2010. CDT/Christopher Weddle

8. Devon Still, 2009-2011

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 113 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks

Still and his daughter, Leah — who is in remission after a battle with neuroblastoma — remain an inspiration in the fight against cancer. The former Bengals defensive lineman is now retired and focused on his foundation, the Still Strong Foundation. When he was on the field at Penn State, Still was a game-wrecker. In 2011, he was a consensus first-team All-American, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik awards.

DT Adams
Penn State's Anthony Adams during the game against Universtiy of central Florida, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2002. Craig Houtz Centre Daily Times

7. Anthony Adams, 1999-2002

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 166 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks

Adams — a.k.a "Spice" — is known today for his entertaining social media channels and work on the Big Ten Network. But in his playing days, the Michigan native was a consistent presence in opposing backfields. His 33 tackles for loss ranks ninth all-time among Penn State defensive linemen, and he averaged 10.7 stops behind the line per year from his sophomore season on. That ability carried him to a nine-year career in the NFL.

5 (tied). Roosevelt Grier, 1951-1954

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: Stats not available for time period

Grier — an actor, singer, humanitarian and inspirational speaker — is a man of many talents. One of those talents back in the 1950s and 1960s was taking down the quarterback. Grier was a three-time All-Pro selection and member of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line. And in 2006, with the NCAA celebrating its 100th anniversary, Grier was named to the organization's list of 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes.

DT Odrick
Jared Odrick pressures Ben Chappell during the game. Penn State beat Indiana 31-20 November 14, 2009. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

5 (tied). Jared Odrick, 2006-2009

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: 104 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks

In November 2009, Joe Paterno said Odrick was "right up there" with Penn State legends Mike Reid and Matt Millen. "He reminds me a lot of the good ones we've had," the former coach added. That's high praise, but in retrospect, it was warranted. Odrick is arguably the best Penn State defensive lineman of the last decade. As a senior, the Lebanon product was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. A three-year starter, Odrick earned first-team All-Big Ten twice.

DT Kennedy 1
Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy (73) loses his helmet while being double teamed by Ohio State 's Adrien Clarke (63) and LeCharels Bentley, right, Staurday, Oct. 27, 2001. Craig Houtz Centre Daily Times

4. Jimmy Kennedy, 1999-2002 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 213 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 14 sacks

Despite speculation that he might leave for the NFL after his junior season, Kennedy came back for a fifth year in Happy Valley and turned in a historic campaign. Kennedy — the 320-pound anchor of Penn State's vaunted 2002 defense — had 87 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in his final year. Four of those sacks came in one game, tying a program record in a pivotal 34-31 win on the road at Wisconsin. He was an All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2002 before being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the NFL draft.

DT Millen 1
Penn State defensive tackle Matt Millen.

3. Matt Millen, 1976-1979 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 36 tackles for loss, 22 sacks

Millen became a world-class, stand-up linebacker in the NFL — but he got his start at Linebacker U as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive lineman, and a darn good one at that. Millen was a 1978 All-American after tallying 54 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles and a punt block. He missed most of his senior season due to injury, but still had himself a fine NFL career. Millen won four Super Bowl rings and was selected to the 1988 Pro Bowl. The gap between Millen and No. 2 was close, with good reason.

DT Clark 1
Penn State defensive tackle Bruce Clark.

2. Bruce Clark, 1976-1979 (3 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 43 tackles for loss, 19 sacks

Three voters believed Clark deserves the top spot, and they have some valid points.

In 1978, Clark was the first-ever junior to win the Lombardi Trophy, then awarded to the nation's most outstanding lineman or linebacker. It was a well-deserved honor, as Clark boasted 21 tackles for loss, four sacks and three fumble recoveries. The Pennsylvania native was an All-American that year — and in 1979, too. As a senior, Clark had seven tackles for loss, three sacks and three fumble recoveries despite missing the end of the season due to a knee injury.

Now, Clark's son, Brandon, is a freshman with the Nittany Lions. Clark said the walk-on is "a much better athlete" than he was, which — all things considered — says quite a bit.

DT MikeReid
Penn State defensive tackle Mike Reid.

1. Mike Reid, 1966, 1968-1969 (7 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 87 tackles in 1969

Reid has the resume to contend for the title of greatest player in Penn State history.

Reid was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987, less than two decades after completing a dominant career with the Nittany Lions. The Altoona native captained Penn State's undefeated 1968 and 1969 teams, which combined to go 22-0 with Orange Bowl wins over Kansas and Missouri.

As a senior in 1969, the consensus All-American was showered with awards. Reid is still the only Penn State player to win the Outland Trophy as the "outstanding interior lineman in college football." He is just one of five defensive players in the last 50 years to take home the Maxwell Award, given to the country's best player. And Reid also finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting — the closest a defensive player from Penn State has ever come to lifting the storied statue.

"Of all the great players I've had here," Paterno told Sports Illustrated in 2001, "Mike Reid remains near the top."

Top DT honorable mentions: Jay Alford, 2003-2006; Steve Smear, 1967-1969; Randy Crowder, 1971-1973; Leo Wisniewski, 1979-1981; DaQuan Jones, 2010-2013; Tim Johnson, 1983-1986; Lou Benfatti, 1990-1993; Austin Johnson, 2013-2015

Voters in our panel: (Players) Keith Conlin, 1992-1995; Bill Contz, 1980-1982; Stephon Morris, 2009-2012; Joe Nastasi, 1995-1998; A.Q. Shipley, 2005-2008; Adam Taliaferro, 2000; (Media) Nate Bauer, Blue White Illustrated; Matt Brown, The Athletic; Cory Giger, Altoona Mirror; John McGonigal, Centre Daily Times; Josh Moyer, Centre Daily Times; Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call

How the voting was done: Each voter was given an online survey, with 20-50 players at each position, to rank 1-10. If a player was not listed, voters were given the option for a write-in. First-place votes gave players 10 points, second-place votes gave them 9, etc. We then added all the point totals together to find our top 10; honorable mentions have received at least 10 total points.

  Comments