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USC, Notre Dame among colleges with strong professional track record

Updated: April 23, 2014, 3:52 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider

Clay Matthews and Brian CushingUSA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoFormer USC players Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing both have excelled in the NFL at linebacker.

Not so long ago, Penn State was widely known as "Linebacker U."

Under Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions produced a cavalcade of top-notch linebackers -- bone-crushers such as Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan, Andre Collins, LaVar Arrington and Paul Posluszny, just to name a few -- and many of them went on to have outstanding NFL careers, as well.

Around the same time, perhaps a little earlier, USC was being referred to as "Tailback U" because of Heisman Trophy winners Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen -- not to mention a few other All-American running backs who didn't take home the bronze statue.

That got me to thinking about which colleges are currently the best at producing NFL difference-makers within a specific position group. I looked at draft picks, number of players to start games and number of players to make the Pro Bowl in recent seasons, which helped me compile a short list. It doesn't include the offensive glamour spots -- quarterback, running back and wide receiver -- because aside from Georgia Tech having two of the most freakishly talented wideouts in the league (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas), not much is there for one school to brag about.

With that said, here are the biggest college pipelines of NFL talent at specific positions. These eight groups stood out to me in this order.


1. Offensive line -- USC Trojans

This might not be the first position group that people associate with USC, but it's the spot where the Trojans are making their biggest impression in the league currently. It starts with All-Pro center Ryan Kalil, but the most noteworthy thing about this crop of USC linemen is the number of successful offensive tackles. Sam Baker, Charles Brown, Winston Justice, Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith each has started at least 12 NFL games at tackle in the past two seasons. That's some serious value.

Who's next: Mel Kiper ranks USC's Marcus Martin as the best center in this year's draft.

• Analyzes college football and the CFB Playoff as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app