This is the sixth installment of a 20-part series taking stock of the best players, teams and coaches in Conference USA's 20 years.
Like Penn State on the national level, Southern Miss has been “Linebacker U” in Conference USA's two decades of existence.
There are several Golden Eagle linebackers worthy of consideration in this version of C-USA Top 5, but Rod Davis' career at USM was the most decorated of all of them. That's why the Gulfport native is at No. 1 on this list.
When Davis completed his career, he held the FBS record for career tackles with 526 total. That record has since been broken by Northwestern's Tim McGarigle (545).
Here are the top five linebackers in Conference USA history:
1. Rod Davis (Southern Miss, 2000-03): Starting with a Sporting News Freshman All-American selection in 2000, Davis was selected as an All-American in three out of his four years at USM. In an era when Southern Miss was the class of C-USA because of its defense, Davis ran the show for the Golden Eagles and was named the 2003 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to his 526 total tackles, Davis had 60.5 tackles for lost yardage, 18.5 sacks, four interceptions and 18 pass breakups.
2. Michael Boley (Southern Miss, 2001-04): Playing alongside Davis, there was a serious debate on whether Boley was actually the better linebacker. Following his ninth year in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, Boley has had a good showing on football's highest level. At USM, the extremely athletic Boley was named the 2004 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and finished with 422 career tackles, 28 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
3. Tyrus McCloud (Louisville, 1995-96): He earned the first two Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was named second-team All-American by the Sporting News in 1995 and finished with 405 career tackles.
4. Pernell Griffin (East Carolina, 1998-2001): The Pirate picked up plenty of accolades in his time in Greeneville, N.C. He was a first-team All-Conference USA selection three times and a freshman All-American. He completed his career at ECU with 460 career tackles.
5. Gerald McRath (Southern Miss, 2005-08): He got off to a slow start after redshirting his first season and getting injured in the second game of his redshirt freshman campaign. Once he was healthy, McRath racked up tackles at the same rate as Davis. He covered as much ground as any linebacker in C-USA history and finished as the 2007 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and totaled 386 career tackles.
Also receiving consideration: Houston's Marcus McGraw, Mario Harvey of Marshall and Houston's Sammy Brown.