No. 1 USC, 37 players from 2006 to 2009
It actually took a little while to get the talent-ball rolling.
Pete Carroll was a questionable and controversial hire – not exactly an A-list superstar when he took over the gig in 2001 – and his 6-6 first season was hardly anything amazing.
But the Trojans managed to win 11 games or more in each of their next six seasons under Carroll, with one AP national title and another national championship to follow.
But the NFL talent wasn’t flowing out of the program over the first four seasons. Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu were special, but just ten Trojans were drafted from 2001 to 2003, and after that great 2003 season, just four players were drafted.
After winning the BCS Championship – and it did happen; I saw it – just five players were selected. Again, that’s not a lot of talent to lose after two straight national titles.
And then came the 2006 Draft.
11 Trojans were selected after coming within a Vince Young all-timer performance of winning three straight national titles, reading like a who’s who of college football rock stars, headlined by Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart.
The 2007 Draft was fine, with just five players taken, but that just meant the returning team was fantastic. And it was, going 11-2 with a Rose Bowl win, sending ten players off to the big league – but there wasn’t a drop-off.
The 2008 team went 12-1 with another Rose Bowl victory for a seventh straight top four finish, followed up by 11 Trojans picked in the 2009 Draft, with Mark Sanchez and Clay Matthews part of the first rounders.
That was all but it on the field – the Bush drama kicked in during a 9-4 season at the end of the Carroll era – but seven more players were drafted after all the fun stopped.
But the NFL kept on drafting Trojans. The 2006 to 2009 run came first, but overlap it a bit, and the run from 2008 to 2011 also sent 37 players to the NFL.
Expand it out, and over six years from 2006 to 2011, USC had a ridiculous 53 players drafted, with ten going in the first round and 13 in the second.
Scholarship restrictions hurt the base of talent, but it rebounded in a hurry. But by comparison, from 2012 to 2018, just 29 Trojans were drafted.