All-Time Single-Game Tackle Leaders

All-Time Single-Game Tackle Leaders

September 10, 2019
Jarrett Irons (image via Bentley Historical Library)

This was a very interesting list to put together. I wasn’t old enough to remember a lot of these performances or players when they were at Michigan, though I have seen some in throwback videos. Most of them I’m only familiar with through their name, at least until Erick Anderson and beyond.

  1. 21 – Calvin O’Neal (1975 vs. Baylor)
  2. 20 – Ron Simpkins (1977 vs. Ohio State)
  3. 19 – Paul Girgash (1982 vs. Illinois)
  4. 19 – Mike Mallory (1984 vs. Purdue)
  5. 19 – Andy Moeller (1985 vs. Illinois)
  6. 18 – Mike Taylor (1970 vs. Ohio State)
  7. 18 – Mike Boren (1981 vs. Navy)
  8. 18 – Mike Boren (1982 vs. UCLA)
  9. 18 – Tim Anderson (1984 vs. Purdue)
  10. 18 – Garland Rivers (1984 vs. BYU)
  11. 18 – Al Bishop (1987 vs. Alabama)
  12. 17 – Phil Seymour (1968 vs. Cal)
  13. 17 – Ron Simpkins (1979 vs. Ohio State)
  14. 17 – Mike Boren (1982 vs. Illinois)
  15. 17 – Mike Boren (1982 vs. Michigan State)
  16. 17 – Mike Mallory (1985 vs. Iowa)
  17. 17 – Al Bishop (1987 vs. Minnesota)
  18. 17 – Erick Anderson (1991 vs. Ohio State)
  19. 17 – Steve Morrison (1992 vs. Illinois)
  20. 16 – Ron Simpkins (1977 vs. Washington)
  21. 16 – Ron Simpkins (1978 vs. Arizona)
  22. 16 – Ron Simpkins (1978 vs. Michigan State)
  23. 16 – Andy Cannavino (1979 vs. Ohio State)
  24. 16 – Jarrett Irons (1994 vs. Colorado)
  25. 16 – Jarrett Irons (1996 vs. Ohio State)


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 24
    Joined: 9/3/2015
    Sep 10, 2019 at 7:10 AM

    Morrison and Irons were at U-M when I was a student. What stuck out to me was how they tackled with such authority. Even before you saw the #36 or #37 on the jersey, you could tell who made the tackle. Thanks for putting this list together- might try to find some Simpkins or Boren clips from WH.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 74
    Joined: 1/10/2017
    Sep 10, 2019 at 7:14 AM

    One thing I find interesting about this list (if my recall of past players is OK): There are very few “NFL” years associated with any of them. For better or worse, most of them were “system” players who went out and did their job (make the tackles served up to them).

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1857
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Sep 10, 2019 at 8:23 AM

      That’s because “defensive players don’t matter”

      Just kidding. I still have my Jarret Irons jersey. Joby is right; dude could HIT!

    • Avatar
      Comments: 413
      Joined: 12/24/2016
      Sep 10, 2019 at 1:03 PM

      I kinda get your point, I think, but truth is there aren’t many ‘NFL’ years from hardly any1 – for every Brady, Manning + Farve = 60ish years combined in the NFL; there are 60ish players who maybe only played 1 year……..
      NFL definately means Not For Long ………….intjohn

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5909
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Sep 11, 2019 at 8:53 PM

      I think that’s right. It’s about the role – like RBIs in baseball. We know now that some stats are more contextual than indicators of performance.

      Certainly deserve credit for ‘doing the job’ but some players got outsized credit in that era – MLBs and RBs in particular.

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 25
    Joined: 11/13/2015
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:29 AM

    What’s really interesting about that list is that all but a handful of those names — Irons, Anderson, Morrison — played for Bo. And none in 23 years since Irons.
    So was it the era or the scheme that Bo ran that made it so that one guy collected so many tackles in a given game? Why are tackles now so widely dispersed within a defensive squad? Substitutions/platoons maybe? Or is it offensive diversity, i.e., more spread, pro-style and run/pass balance, that dictates playmakers at all three levels?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3618
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 10, 2019 at 12:42 PM

      I’ve actually thought about this quite a bit over the years. One reason has been my own high school coaching and how we have run our defenses. High school offenses lag behind college offenses a little bit, and you can keep more people in the box because teams can’t throw as well. So we have had a defense designed to funnel everything to the two inside linebackers. And because of that, our inside linebackers have racked up big tackle numbers over the years.

      But in college and the NFL over the past 15-20 years, spread offenses are attacking all parts of the field – deep, short, left, right, middle, etc. There might be just as many tackles being made, but now the free safety is getting in on the action more, or the field corner, etc. Middle linebackers can’t just run sideline to sideline, because the ball isn’t being run on sweeps and tosses and powers and dives every play. Now if the MLB reacts to a run, teams are throwing an RPO behind him. Or they’re throwing a quick screen out to the numbers, and the safeties/corners converge to make the play.

      I don’t think we’ll ever see numbers put up like those on this list again. Not consistently, I mean. You might see a freak 16-tackle game against Army or Air Force or something, or perhaps against a running team in a driving snowstorm/rainstorm. But you won’t see a name like Simpkins or Boren or whoever popping up with multiple 16-, 18-, 20-tackle games throughout their four-year career.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 413
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        Sep 10, 2019 at 1:11 PM

        Pretty much concur. The passing game in one way shape or form vs buck the line has taken over the game in the last 20 years.

      • GKblue
        Comments: 356
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Sep 10, 2019 at 3:05 PM

        Excellent questions Leftrare and answers Thunder. Aside from the ironman mentality where there may have been less rotation the obvious answer is the offenses we face with the ball spread all over the field.
        I have another theory to pass along. Open field tackles are easy to credit. In the days of the gang tackle who got the credit for the tackle was a bit more subjective. The number of games televised and the technology that came with it such as replay has made stats more accurate. I don’t remember much in the way of stat revisions made after in-house review of game film.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 1290
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Sep 10, 2019 at 5:24 PM

    I was at the top two games as well as many of Ron Simpkins other games. At the time, I thought Simpkins was just about the best linebacker I had ever seen and was very disappointed at him going in the 7th round to Cincinnati, and then more so when he struggled so hard getting a start for the Bengals. I hadn’t really studied football at the time and probably wouldn’t have recognized a “system guy” during that period had I seen it and haven’t bothered to go back and try to figure out what Bo was doing beyond the D line thing I saw. But … I can tell you that Simpkins was pretty much always clean and free to run sideline to sideline and maybe that’s more like hashmark to hashmark during the Triple Option era. He hit a lot of fullback types and stood them up, and was still able to get down the line and clean up on Qbs turning it upfield. Michigan had Safeties (Wolf back … I think) who primarily had the pitchman.

    Among the knocks on Saint Bo at the time was that he hit so much in practice that his guys were used/beat up by the time they were seniors.

    It wasn’t until probably 1988 or 90 when I had my Percy Snow epiphany that I got even an inkling about how a system can make a guy. Percy Snow was among the biggest disappointments in Chiefs history, a top ten pick who after a real solid rookie season, got not a lot done in the NFL because of an offseason motorcycle accident … a-la whatshisname, only at least he made it to rookie camp.

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