Updated College Football All-American Team Projections for 2013

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2013

Updated College Football All-American Team Projections for 2013

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    Five weeks into the 2013 college football season—with a tragically large portion of the year sitting already in the rear-view mirror—a new batch of potential All-Americans has started to emerge.

    As days and weeks trickle off the calendar, the season's strongest starts are turning into America's strongest seasons.

    Players who have sustained success this long, more than a third of the way through the regular season, have proven their ability to excel in a larger sample.

    But the season is long. Lest we forget, around this time last year, Geno Smith was still a front-runner for the Heisman.

    Will this year's stars be able to keep it up and earn postseason acclaim?


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    Marcus Mariota, Oregon

    There's an embarrassment of good options to choose from, but why not go with the best player on the best offense—and perhaps the best team—in America?

    Mariota's stats have deflated (slightly) the past two weeks, but he's kept the Ducks offense rolling to the tune of 59.8 points per game on the season.

    And unlike other high-powered offenses like, say, Baylor, Oregon has played 75 percent of its games against BCS opponents.

    For the season, Mariota has 1,003 passing yards, nine touchdowns, no picks and 295 rushing yards (plus five rushing TDs) on just 21 carries. Those are Heisman numbers.

    Second Team: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Running Backs

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    Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

    Gordon struggled to get going against Ohio State, but he also appeared to be the sole focus of its defensive game plan. The Buckeyes' insistence on slowing him down helped open things up for Jared Abbrederis and almost allowed Wisconsin to mount the comeback.

    Still, even with one slow day, Gordon is second in the nation with 698 yards on just 68 carries. No other tailback in the top 20 has less than 70 rushes. 

    Simply put, Gordon is a gentle blend of explosiveness and down-to-down production. He's a perfect, one-cut fit in Wisconsin's offense, and if his production keeps up all season, voters will take notice.

    Bishop Sankey, Washington

    Sankey leads the nation with 151.8 rushing yards per game and has become a true workhorse for the much-improved Huskies. He's carried the ball 100 times in three games against Boise State, Illinois and Arizona.

    Head coach Steve Sarkisian was at USC when Reggie Bush won his (eventually vacated) Heisman.

    Sankey is a different runner—somewhere between Bush and LenDale White on the power-speed spectrum—but he's talented enough, should Washington stay hot, to make a similar run.

    We'll know a lot more after the Huskies play Stanford this week.

    Second Team: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

    Second Team: Todd Gurley, Georgia 

Wide Receivers

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    Mike Evans, Texas A&M

    Evans has looked like a man among boys in, supposedly, America's best conference.

    In five games this season, he's racked up 691 yards on just 28 catches. That's an average of almost 25 yards per reception, good for fourth in the nation and more than anyone who's hauled in 15-plus passes.

    After watching Alabama shutout Ole Miss on Saturday, what Evans was able to do to its secondary—seven catches for 279 yards—looks (somehow) even more impressive. 

    Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

    Oregon State's defense has betrayed it this year, but the offense, led by Cooks and quarterback Sean Mannion, is doing a valiant job of compensating.

    After five weeks of action, Cooks has the receiving triple crown: He leads America with 52 catches, 807 yards and nine touchdowns. Prorated over 12 games, he's on pace for 125 catches, 1,937 yards and 22 TDs.

    Those type of numbers would make him a cinch for All-American status.

    Second Team: Jarvis Landry, LSU

    Second Team: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Tight End

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    Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

    Amaro is basically a receiver in Texas Tech's offense, but he's technically a tight end, and he might be the best in America.

    He isn't the physical specimen of Eric Ebron (UNC) or Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington), but Amaro has an innate sense of how to get open and very strong hands.

    He's the only tight end in the top 30 for receiving yards per game, leading the position with 367 yards on 29 catches. If Texas Tech continues its surprising success, they will have Amaro, in large part, to thank.

    Second Team: Eric Ebron, North Carolina

Offensive Line

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    OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

    Unlike Taylor Lewan, the other consensus preseason All-American at tackle, Matthews has not disappointed in the slightest. He's helped keep Johnny Football clean and the A&M offense rolling.

    OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

    Jackson continues to earn rave reviews for his play, even if his contributions go largely unnoticed in a grander sense. He could be playing his way into the first round next April.

    C Bryan Stork, Florida State

    Stork has been a force up the middle for Florida State, which has had equal (and impressive) success both on the ground and through the air this year. Having a veteran, talented, confident center makes things much easier on freshman QB Jameis Winston.

    OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor

    Art Briles, Bryce Petty and the skill position guys get most of the credit for Baylor's offense. But their offensive line—led by Richardson—is an underrated unit that keeps one of America's best offenses running. 

    OT Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

    Ohio State's offense didn't miss a beat with Kenny Guiton under center, and a lot of that had to do with how clean he stayed in the pocket. Mewhort is a big, nasty, classic Big Ten lineman and he's having a great season.

    Second Team: OT Cameron Erving, Florida State

    Second Team: OG David Yankey, Stanford

    Second Team: C Hroniss Grasu, Oregon

    Second Team: OG Spencer Long, Nebraska

    Second Team: OT La'el Collins, LSU


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    Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

    Beckham has done a little bit of everything for LSU this year and leads all BCS players with 215.8 all-purpose yards per game.

    He doesn't have the positional versatility of De'Anthony Thomas—that is, he's not technically an "all-purpose back"—but this year he's been, perhaps, the most dynamic playmaker in America, and he's more than capable of lining up in the backfield.

    Beckham has 507 receiving yards and 365 kick-return yards in 2013, including this 100-yard field goal return TD against UAB.

    Second Team: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Defensive Ends

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    Vic Beasley, Clemson

    Beasley continues to be the fulcrum of Clemson's upstart defense, which, after watching Georgia shred through South Carolina and LSU, might not have played a single bad game all season.

    He's second in the nation with six sacks, including two against the Bulldogs and three in a Thursday night test against North Carolina State.

    Leonard Williams, USC

    USC's defense finally collapsed in the second half against Arizona State on Saturday, leading to the dismissal of head coach Lane Kiffin. But prior to that, it had been one of America's best units.

    There is plenty of praise to go around for the Trojans defense, but no one has stuck out on film more than Williams, a freshman All-American last year who might be the best sophomore defender in the country.

    He has 24 total tackles and seven tackles for loss on the season.

    Second Team: Chris Smith, Arkansas

    Second Team: Dante Fowler, Florida (DE/LB)

Defensive Tackles

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    Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

    Donald is undersized and plays on a defense that allowed 55 points by Duke. But he's still, probably, the easiest defensive inclusion on this list. 

    That's how good he's been.

    Through four games, Donald has 9.0 tackles for loss, third-best in America, most among BCS players and more than any defender with less than five games played. 

    And this has all come from the inside, which, traditionally, makes it much harder to make an impact on the box score.

    Say hello to this year's Will Sutton.

    Louis Nix, Notre Dame

    Notre Dame's defense has struggled, relatively, compared to last year's unit, but Louis Nix has not been the problem.

    While partner-in-crime Stephon Tuitt has taken some time to get going, Nix has occupied multiple blockers at a time and wreaked general havoc in the middle of opposing offensive lines.

    Even if the stats don't show it, Nix is still playing at a high first-round level.

    Second Team: DaQuan Jones, Penn State

    Second Team: Anthony Johnson, LSU


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    Anthony Barr, UCLA

    Barr has five tackles for loss in only three games this season and hasn't finished with less than 1.5 in a single outing.

    Against Nebraska—the Bruins' biggest game—his 1.5 TFL went for a total of 20 lost yards, and he finished that afternoon with 11 total tackles and three forced fumbles.

    Barr is playing like a top-five pick, and his stock should only go up.

    C.J. Mosley, Alabama

    Ho-hum. Mosley doesn't make noise with highlight-reel plays or eye-popping stats, but he is, quite simply, the best middle linebacker in the country.

    His contributions jump out on tape, where he can be seen flying from sideline to sideline and making savvy plays for Alabama's defense.

    The Tide are, once again, one of America's top defensive units, and Mosley is their best player. It only seems right to put him in.

    Ryan Shazier, Ohio State 

    Shazier has been just as good as advertised in Columbus this year, playing both sound and explosive football for the Buckeyes.

    He has 37 total tackles and 7.0 tackles for loss through five games, helping to lead an OSU defense that just survived its first true test against Wisconsin.

    He'll need to be on top of his game in Evanston this weekend, where Kain Colter and Venric Mark will challenge his open-field agility.

    Second Team: Kyle Van Noy, BYU

    Second Team: Max Bullough, Michigan State

    Second Team: Khalil Mack, Buffalo


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    Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

    Oregon's offense gets (and earns) most of the praise, but their defense is nothing to be scoffed at. Especially in the back third, the Ducks can hang with anybody.

    The leader of that secondary is Ekpre-Olomu, a shutdown corner who allows Oregon's defense to start and stay aggressive throughout the game. He has great cover skills and a big, wiry frame that allows him to help in the run game too.

    For the season, opposing teams have averaged just 4.4 yards per pass attempt against the Ducks—and again, 75 percent of those opponents have been BCS programs.

    Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

    Michigan State hasn't faced the same competition Oregon has, but its eye-popping pass defense numbers are hard to ignore.

    Through three games, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 36.3 percent of their passes for 3.9 yards per attempt, both of which are the lowest in America.

    Dennard doesn't have elite size, but he sticks out on film with great in-air ball skills and moxie on the outside. He isn't afraid to take on anybody and played a great game, even in defeat, against Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago.

    Second Team: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

    Second Team: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma


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    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

    *Update* Clinton-Dix was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules on Wednesday, Oct. 2

    Like linebacker C.J. Mosley, Clinton-Dix has lived up to the hype and continues to play at a high level.

    Partner-in-crime Vinnie Sunseri has made the highlight-reel pick-sixes this year, but Clinton-Dix has been the better player. He is strong against both the run and pass, and other teams go out of their way to avoid him.

    As bad as Alabama's secondary looked against A&M, little of that was Clinton-Dix's fault. It's hard to discount him because of shoddy cornerback play.

    Ed Reynolds, Stanford

    Reynolds was a touchdown machine in 2012, taking back three interceptions for scores.

    And while he hasn't found the same good fortune in 2013, there's little doubt the former Thorpe candidate has been just as good if not better on tape.

    The big plays might come as Stanford enters conference play, but after watching the Cardinal defense in the first half against Arizona State (and all game against Washington State), they might not be needed.

    This defense is scary good.

    Second Team: Hakeem Smith, Louisville

    Second Team: Brian Randolph, Tennessee


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    K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

    Hunnicutt has a share of the national lead with 10 field goals made on his 11 attempts.

    Oklahoma's offense struggled in the two games B.B. (before Bell), often stalling before being able to punch in a touchdown.

    Hunnicutt bailed it out with three makes against both West Virginia and Tulsa, plus two more in the Sooners' other two games.

    P Cody Mandell, Alabama

    This just doesn't seem fair. Why does Alabama, already possessing an elite offense, need America's best punter?

    Mandell has come up big for the Tide this year, especially against Texas A&M, when he averaged 53.00 yards on his three boots. He also had a great game against Virginia Tech, when the offense was forced to punt nine times, averaging 46.44 yards per kick.

    Of all BCS punters with more than 15 punts, Mandell (who has 22) leads with an average of 46.95 yards per kick.

    Ret. Jamison Crowder, Duke

    Crowder goes unnoticed by the mainstream because, honestly, who watches Duke football? But he's starting to make a case for attention.

    Along with being a very good receiver, Crowder has become the nation's best punt returner, leading America with 289 yards on returns.

    He's also taken two kicks back for touchdowns in just five games, including one in the shootout against Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago.

    Second Team: K Brad Craddock, Maryland

    Second Team: P Pat O'Donnell, Miami

    Second Team: Ret. Christion Jones, Alabama