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Defense U: Who Has Produced the Best Defensemen?

Welcome to something special: Position U. In this six-part series, your favorite college lacrosse lover, Ryan Conwell, will break down the NCAA DI men’s programs that can consider themselves the best at producing a given position in recent history. First, let’s get into who produces the best lacrosse defenseman, a.k.a. Defense U.

When trying to determine which schools have a reputation for producing the best players at a certain position, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. It’s easy enough to just create a list off the top of your head, but in an effort to try and be as objective as possible, I of course lean on my old friend: math! I needed to find a way to consistently note which players could be considered better than others while also doing so in a manner which could be calculated in some way.

The result was making a formula that took into account All-America votes (via USILA), postseason awards, and also success at the pro level. For that last piece, I considered draft picks and rounds, but depending on the year, too many players get drafted and never play, or play a limited amount of time. So instead, I looked at All-Star rosters across the PLL and MLL to give an additional nudge.

The next question was how far back to look. Since we’re dealing with college, going beyond four years was a given. One great recruiting class does not mean your school is all of a sudden the best at producing defenders. We need a long enough trend to make a real pattern emerge. So, I went to 10 years, but the year 2020 kind of stuck out. Because, well, *you know why.* To make up for 2020’s lack of postseason awards and All-Star Games, I added 2011 to the mix as well. More is better, right?

The benefit of going all the way back to 2011 for Pro All-Star Games is it gave some of those wily vets a chance to impact the rankings of their schools as well. That way, there’s a small nod to the true history of a program in addition to the heavily weighted recent past. So mashing all these numbers together produced a list of the top programs to produce players at each position.

To continue the Position U series, we’ll now take a look at which program has produced the best lacrosse defensemen and gets to lay a claim as recent history’s “Defense U.”

Defense U: Who Has Produced the Best Lacrosse Defensemen?

3: Johns Hopkins

The third member of our top three is none other than Johns Hopkins, which makes sense when most of the time this list considers was when the program was under the direction of Dave Pietramala, who is viewed as one of the best defenders ever. But Petro wasn’t on the field for any of these accolades – those belonged to his players. And to be totally fair, many of these points are solely at the hands of Tucker Durkin.

Durkin has been a perennial professional all-star but also was a two-time Schmeisser Award winner on top of his All-American nods. But Durkin alone did not get Johns Hopkins here. He also had support from the pro careers of Matt Bocklet and Michael Evans to put the Jays over the next schools on the list.

2: Notre Dame

The Golden Domers are nearly synonymous with “good college lacrosse defense” at this point. It has been a central part of their team identity ever since they rose to national prominence as a program and became a Championship Weekend regular, and they’re rightfully close to being Defense U.

What was interesting in how these rankings shook out if that while had a big bump via the professional ranks, Notre Dame dominated in First Team All-Americans and Schmeisser Award winners. Matt Landis and John Sexton led the way here, but you also have to give credit to players like Jack Kielty, Garrett Epple, Steve O’Hara, Kevin Randall, and Kevin Ridgeway.

1: Maryland

The Terps are definitely know for recently being among the stingiest of stingy defenses. That is what led them to so many Final Fours, and it’s not a recent trend, either.

But what shot the Terps way above the other teams on the list was actually their success within the pros. Sure, they had a ton of First and Second Team All-Americans at close defense, but what really put them over the top was how many of those players have gone on to repeatedly make All-Star rosters, like Matt Dunn, Michael Ehrhardt, Bryce Young, and Jesse Bernhardt.

When you put it all together, Maryland has produced the best defensemen in men’s college lacrosse in the last decade and can claim the title of Defense U!

Honorable Mentions

Didn’t see who you thought you would up there? Here’s how the next bunch finished in our Defense U standings, in order:

4: Syracuse

5: Duke

6: Loyola

7: North Carolina

8: Cornell

9: Georgetown & Ohio State

10: Yale

Position U Series

You can find the rest of the Position U series here, which will include Attack U, Defense U, Faceoff U, Midfielder U, LSM U, and Goalie U, with a new one coming each week into early November.