The Vols showcased quantity over quality at linebacker in the 2000s - while there are no superstars in this group like John Henderson on the line or Eric Berry in the secondary, all six of the nominees were defensive leaders, and each played on a team that won a division championship. It's a deep pool, with an honorable mention nod to guys like Keyon Whiteside and Dominique Stevenson, who were overshadowed by some of the guys on this list but were still very solid players at the position.
Unfortunately, our poll system only allows for one vote, so you're picking the best linebacker of the decade. But we'll take the top three vote getters and add them to our all-decade team; since several of these guys played both middle and outside linebacker during their time at Tennessee, we're not differentiating between the two and just going with the top three overall LBs.
Breakdown and analysis after the jump...
Eric Westmoreland (1997-2000)
Started at OLB on the 1998 National Championship team as a sophomore in a deadly unit with Al Wilson and Raynoch Thompson. As a senior in 2000 he led the Vols with 83 tackles. Had 3 sacks against Kentucky that same season, and was named second team All-SEC. For his career, he is third all-time in TFLs at Tennessee, trailing only Reggie White and Leonard Little. Taken in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Eddie Moore (1999-2002)
A two-year starter, he was one of the leaders of the 2001 defense and led the team in tackles that season with 81. Contributed in the 2001 win over Florida by almost decapitating Kelvin Kight on one of the biggest hits I've ever seen. A second round draft pick in 2003.
Kevin Burnett (2001-2004)
One of those guys it seems like was around forever, #2 was chosen as first team All-SEC in his senior season, serving as team captain. He was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2005, playing four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before moving to San Diego this year, where he has continued to play well.
Kevin Simon (2002-2005)
Playing alongside Kevin Burnett, Kevin Simon is one of those guys we only saw flashes from, leaving all kinds of questions about how good he could've been if he was ever really healthy. He tore a ligament in his knee in a high school all-star game, forcing him to redshirt in 2001. At Tennessee, he broke a bone in his ankle one year, and then tore his ACL in the 2004 Florida game. The two years he was healthy, he led the Vols in tackles with 115 in 2003 (including 3 sacks against Marshall) and 88 in 2005. A seventh round draft pick, mostly due to health concerns, Simon joined UT's strength and conditioning staff in 2007.
Jerod Mayo (2005-2007)
After seeing spot duty in 2005, Mayo jumped into the spotlight with a 3 sack performance against #9 Cal in the 2006 season opener. In 2007, Mayo recorded 140 tackles (10 per game), the most for any Vol in a season this decade by 25. He was named first team All-SEC and elected to enter the NFL Draft, where he was taken 10th overall by the Patriots. Last year, Mayo was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Rico McCoy (2006-2009)
A freshman All-SEC selection in 2006 and a second team All-SEC selection this year, McCoy leads the Vols in tackles with 112, and recorded 16 tackles against Auburn, the highest single game total for any defensive player this decade. He has twice finished in the Top 5 in tackles in the SEC.