Keeping Score

C-USA Top 5: USM's Thomas the top DL in league history

This is the fifth installment in a 20-part series taking stock of the best players, teams and coaches in Conference USA's 20 years of existence.

While Conference USA has the reputation for putting up big points on offense, there has been no lack of talent along the defensive line in the league's 20 years.

You have to get after the quarterback in C-USA to succeed and defensive end is the position where you find the best defensive linemen in the league's history.

To be on the list of the top five defensive linemen in C-USA history, the player had to be much more than just a pass rusher.

While Southern Miss defensive end Adalius Thomas was at his best when he was sacking the quarterback, he had a much bigger impact on the game than just rushing the passer.

Here are the top five defensive linemen in C-USA history:

1. Adalius Thomas (Southern Miss, 1996-99): The Alabama native was an impact player from the moment he stepped on the field at USM. He registered 39 tackles as a freshman to make the Sporting News Freshman All-American Team. The honors didn't stop there as Thomas earned All-American selections as a junior and senior, including College Football News first-team honors in 1999. Twice the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, he finished his USM career with 242 tackles and 34.5 sacks. He was also dangerous on special teams with seven blocked kicks.

2. Vinny Curry (Marshall, 2008-11): His last two years at Marshall were among the best seasons ever for a C-USA defensive player. His breakout year came in 2010 when he registered 94 tackles and 12 sacks. He was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 with 77 tackles and 11 sacks.

3. Dewayne White (Louisville, 2000-02): Despite playing only three years before entering the NFL draft, White left C-USA as is its all-time sacks leader with 37.5. He was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 after registering 15 sacks. 

4. Jamie Collins (Southern Miss, 2009-12): The current New England Patriot became a defensive end/linebacker hybrid his last two years at USM and was a disruptive force after playing defensive back and linebacker his first two years. He had 190 tackles, 39.5 for lost yardage and 16.5 sacks in his last two seasons. He often flew under the radar when it came to earning accolades, but there was no denying that he was often the best athlete on the field.

5. Bruce Miller (Central Florida, 2007-10): Few C-USA players have been more steady in their careers. He finished his four seasons at UCF with 35.5 sacks and 214 tackles. Now a fullback for the San Francisco 49ers, his best season came in 2009 with 13 sacks.

Also under consideration: Houston DE Phillip Hunt, Southern Miss DE Cordarro Law, SMU DT Margus Hunt, UAB DE Bryan Thomas.