Bleacher Report's Preseason All-America College Football Team
There is an abundance of football talent scattered throughout the nation. Only a small portion of these players—a percent of a percent—can be preseason Bleacher Report All-Americans.
Of course, such labels are only labels. There are no prizes or trophies for the select few picked—that’s still a violation, probably—although it’s still a label you’d rather have than not. And with the college football season inching oh so close, it’s time to crown the truly exceptional (and enrage excluded fanbases accordingly).
Crafting this team took the following into consideration: statistical performance from last year, team impact, award presence, 2014 projection and the vital eye-test addition. This is how a pool of thousands was narrowed to just 25.
The All-America team consists of 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and three specialists (a kicker, a punter and a return man). A second team was also handpicked, and these players are highlighted on each positional slide.
Here they are. Your outrage undoubtedly to follow.
Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Second Team: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
He can be better. That’s a popular opinion when it comes to Jameis Winston these days, because it carries a fair amount of truth. As is, however, the Florida State quarterback is a no-brainer All-American despite ample competition at the position, particularly from Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.
In the end, it’s hard to argue with a national championship, a Heisman Trophy, a U-Haul jam-packed with awards and 44 total touchdowns. And with another offseason to focus on mechanics and All-Americans surrounding him (much more to come), there’s no reason to anticipate anything less in 2014.
Running Back: Todd Gurley, Georgia
Second Team: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Todd Gurley is part tank and part Ferrari—a rare combination of size and explosiveness you simply don’t often come across. The Georgia back is also a gifted pass-catcher, an unheralded attribute that gives him the edge over every RB, including Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, who is worthy of a second-team selection.
Six of Gurley’s 16 touchdowns came via the pass last year. Factor in that he missed three games due to injury, and the talks of devaluing running backs slowly start to fade away.
If he stays healthy, 2,000 total yards from scrimmage seem within reach. Hop aboard the "tank-rrari" and let’s go.
Running Back: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Second Team: Mike Davis, South Carolina
For his career, Melvin Gordon is averaging more than eight yards per carry. Just think about that for a moment: The Wisconsin back—and maybe the most explosive player in the sport—is running for a first down nearly every time he carries the ball.
In 2013, Gordon averaged 7.8 yards per carry and had three runs of 70 yards or more. He finished with more than 1,600 yards despite logging almost 30 carries less than “starter” James White. With much of his offensive line back and White off to the NFL, it’ll be his show in 2014.
The results should be spectacular, and it’s why he gets the nod over college football’s bowling ball with feet, the hardest runner of them all, Mike Davis.
Wide Receiver: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Second Team: Amari Cooper, Alabama
The system he plays in is an enormous help—like the turbo-boost arrows in Mario Kart—but crediting Antwan Goodley’s greatness to his quarterback and coach doesn’t come close to painting a picture of the player. He’d produce anywhere.
The first-team All-Big 12 selection burst onto the scene, catching 71 balls for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2014, he’ll be catching passes from Bryce Petty again and will work alongside a handful of talented wideouts. This is all horrendous news if you’re a Big 12 defense.
Goodley gets the slight edge over Alabama’s Amari Cooper—maybe the most physically gifted wideout in the class—after an up-and-down, injury-riddled sophomore season. You'll want to look out for both (especially if you're a defensive back).
Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Second Team: Nelson Agholor, USC
It’s simple, really. You—yes, you—should be talking about Tyler Lockett much more than you are right now. While we’re at it, the same can be said about the team he plays for.
Lockett, who caught 81 passes for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013 en route to first-team All-Big 12 honors, had three separate three-touchdown games. He also went for more than 230 yards receiving against Oklahoma and Texas. In those two games, he hauled in 25 catches all by his lonesome.
USC’s Nelson Agholor, a second-team selection, is poised to one-up his placement on the team one year from now. For now, however, Lockett’s magnificent productivity is worthy of being with the No. 1s.
Tight End: Nick O’Leary, Florida State
Second Team: O.J. Howard, Alabama
Alabama’s O.J. Howard is one of the more intriguing players in the country. The question is, however, how can Lane Kiffin get the future star the ball more during his sophomore season at Alabama? If they figure it out, there will be no stopping him.
Those questions don’t exist for Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, who’s expected to play an integral role in the Seminoles offense. O’Leary only caught 33 passes last season, but seven of these catches were touchdowns, and he still went over 500 yards receiving. He also averaged nearly 17 yards per catch en route to being named a second-team All-ACC selection in 2013, right behind former North Carolina freak Eric Ebron.
With departures at the skill positions, expect Jameis Winston to lean on O’Leary even more. Expect O’Leary to deliver.
Tackle: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
Second Team: Andrus Peat, Stanford
For the third consecutive year, Texas A&M will start the season with an All-American talent at left tackle. Oh, what a wonderful luxury.
In 2012, it was Luke Joeckel. Last season, it was Jake Matthews’ turn. This year, senior Cedric Ogbuehi will make the move, and there’s no reason to anticipate a drop-off of any kind.
At 6’5” and 305 pounds, Ogbuehi is an athletic force. Run, pass, it doesn't really matter; this is the guy you want protecting you. He gets the call over Stanford’s Andrus Peat—the second-team selection—although the gap between the two isn’t significant. In fact, if all goes accordingly, both could hear their names called in the top 10 of next year’s NFL draft.
Guard: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
Second Team: Laken Tomlinson, Duke
South Carolina’s standout guard thought about making the jump to the NFL after his junior season. Instead of leaving early, however, A.J. Cann decided to come back for his senior year. Mike Davis, Steve Spurrier and just about every Gamecocks fan on the planet celebrated by pulling a back muscle with an excessive fist pump.
Cann has started all but one game over the past three seasons. In that time, he was named a team captain and has also made the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll each year. And yes, at 6’4” and 311 pounds, he is beastly in the middle of the line. The very dependable All-ACC lineman Laken Tomlinson from Duke, our second-teamer, might not be on Cann's level in terms of overall athleticism, but he's exceptional at the position.
Center: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
Second Team: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Hroniss (huh-RO-niss) Grasu is a name you should learn to say if you are currently unfamiliar. Seriously, do it. This is the most gifted center in the country we're talking about, and that is actually very easy to say. He’s also the last line of defense standing between defenders tasting blood and Mariota, Oregon’s ultimate weapon.
A two-time first-team Pac-12 all-conference selection, Grasu has 40 career starts under his belt, which is remarkable. Reese Dismukes, Auburn’s anchor in the middle, gets the deserving call on the second team. With 77 combined starts between the two, the All-American tandem is in good hands.
Guard: Tre Jackson, Florida State
Second Team: Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech
Although Tre Jackson won’t get the same national recognition as some of his teammates—particularly his Heisman-winning quarterback—he is a key cog in the Seminoles’ success. That was on display last season, and it will certainly be the case once again.
Florida State has pro prospects across its offensive line, although Jackson might be the most accomplished of an accomplished group. The All-ACC selection gets first-team honors here over Georgia Tech’s Shaquille Mason for his ability to move large men backward. One better, he makes moving mass look easy at times.
Tackle: Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Second Team: La’el Collins, LSU
The man can hang clean 443 pounds...three times.
That’s not solely why Iowa’s next great left tackle is an All-American, but it seems like a fashionable place to begin. After missing the final five games due to injury in 2012, Brandon Scherff became a household name for the Hawkeyes last season.
The first-team All-Big Ten selection passed up an opportunity to enter the NFL to return for his senior year, where he is expected to lead one of the Big Ten’s best offensive lines. The same can be said about LSU’s La’el Collins, who returned to the Tigers for his senior year and is more than deserving of his second-team selection.
Is the 443-pound hang clean the tipping point? Well, no.
OK, it is.
Defensive Line: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Second Team: Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State
Clemson’s relentless quarterback-eating machine was a finalist for just about every award he was eligible for last season. An All-American in 2013, Beasley finished the season with 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He dabbled with the NFL—as a player should after this type of performance—although he decided to return to a defense that should be one of the nation’s best.
Beasley gets the All-American nod over fellow ACC defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. Both should be forces, operating with vastly different bodies, and you can expect plenty of disruption despite their unique styles.
Defensive Line: Leonard Williams, USC
Second Team: Michael Bennett, Ohio State
The scariest piece of Leonard Williams’ 2013 season wasn’t the 74 tackles. It wasn’t the 13.5 tackles for loss. It wasn’t even the 6.5 sacks, all while becoming one of the more versatile defensive players in the country. The scary thing was that he accomplished all of it while playing at 65 percent, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, due to a shoulder injury.
He put forth an All-American performance while limited. Imagine what he might be able to do now.
With ample time to heal, Williams should be one of the more dominant forces up front. Ohio State’s Michael Bennett could have a similar impact, although he’ll do so with a much better supporting cast.
Defensive Line: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
Second Team: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
Last season’s Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year broke out as a sophomore, and as a result, Shilique “The Freak” Calhoun finds himself on every preseason watch list and All-American congregation imaginable. (Pro Tip: It's how it should be.)
The nickname is most certainly appropriate. Calhoun finished with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2013. He also scored three touchdowns—one on an interception and two on fumble recoveries—which is remarkable for a pass-rusher his size. Although there is ample competition at the position, including true sophomore Chris Jones, who is already a monster, Calhoun’s inclusion requires no real campaigning.
Defensive Line: Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Second Team: Joey Bosa, Ohio State
A year ago at this time, Randy Gregory was an unknown commodity. The JUCO-turned-Cornhusker exploded out of the gate, however, and he led the Big Ten in sacks (10.5). He also came on strong in the end, finishing with nine sacks in his final seven games. Gregory also added 19 tackles for loss and showcased what he can do in the open field by returning an interception for a touchdown.
Whew. Not bad for his first season.
There’s a Jadeveon Clowney-like look to the way the 6’6”, 240-pounder operates. Although he’s not there yet—and maybe a shade under No. 7 athletically—his one season was more than enough to include him on the first team. On the topic, fellow conference disruptor Joey Bosa earns a second-team nod after only one season with Ohio State. The true sophomore will be a fixture on these teams going forward.
Linebacker: Denzel Perryman, Miami
Second Team: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
The Miami defense remains a work in progress. Although there is still reconstruction to take place and pieces to be added, it was much improved in 2013. One good reason for this is Denzel Perryman, who, as a senior, has put himself on the short list of the best linebackers in all of college football.
He’s a throwback of sorts, listed at 6’0” and 242 pounds on his Miami bio. His build may not be that of other top tacklers around the country, but his 108 total tackles tell the necessary story.
Maybe even more impressive than the season total is the fact that he logged double-digit tackles in six games. He earns the slight edge over Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson, another tackling machine doing the heavy lifting for his defense.
Linebacker: Ramik Wilson, Georgia
Second Team: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
The SEC’s leading tackler is back for his senior season, and the Georgia defense—while loaded at the position—is thrilled to have him. Ramik Wilson finished with 133 total tackles last season, becoming only the third Bulldog to reach the 130-tackle threshold. He had 18 tackles against Auburn alone.
Wilson may not be as dangerous on blitzes as Oklahoma’s Eric Striker, although he still managed 11 tackles for loss and four sacks in ’13. Expect him to go well over 100 stops again and be the fixture on one of the strongest linebacking units in the nation.
Linebacker: Myles Jack, UCLA
Second Team: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Having to pick between UCLA’s Myles Jack and Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith is like having your choice of filet or lobster. You want both—and in most quality establishments, you can pair them—but not here.
Although both were magnificent as true freshmen last season, the slight edge goes to Jack. (Again, you really cannot lose.)
The two-way star became a national name when he began to log carries at running back, although the in-tune football fan was aware of his potential well before that. Jack was named the Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12, which is amazing.
It's also not shocking. On defense, he finished the season with 75 tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and a touchdown.
Expect those numbers to increase. He’s just getting started.
Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Second Team: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Playing cornerback is not supposed to look this easy. For true freshmen Vernon Hargreaves III and Kendall Fuller, however, it looked it at times. They’re just making the rest of us look bad.
Hargreaves gets the call with the first team, which shouldn’t be a shock if you watched him operate. The numbers were there—three interceptions and 11 pass breakups (tying a school record for a freshman)—although numbers at this position don’t tell the whole story.
The biggest commodity for cornerbacks is silence, and on his side of the field, there was plenty of it. He enters the 2014 season as the best cover corner in football, and he will only get better.
Cornerback: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
Second Team: P.J. Williams, Florida State
Oregon’s M.O. is to beat your defense into oblivion with neon, tempo and points. That won’t all of a sudden change this season, although this team is much more than its quarterback. As much as Marcus Mariota’s return to school was discussed, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s decision to come back for his senior year might be as important for the Ducks’ title chances.
This is the cornerback you need in the pass-happy Pac-12.
Ekpre-Olomu has been a first-team Pac-12 all-conference selection twice, and he’ll likely do it again. Although he can cover, he also loves contact. His 84 tackles and five tackles for loss were exceptional for the position. For that reason, he gets the call over P.J. Williams, a gifted corner playing in the nation’s top secondary.
Safety: Landon Collins, Alabama
Second Team: Su'a Cravens, USC
We’ve come a long way since Landon Collins, then a high school senior, shared with the world that he would be attending Alabama, only to watch his mother showcase her disappointment on national television. The decision, as it turned out, worked out wonderfully.
Despite playing a handful of positions in 2013, eventually settling in at a full-time safety role following a knee injury to Vinnie Sunseri, Collins shined. His 70 tackles were second on the team, and he also picked off two passes, forced two fumbles and scored a touchdown.
He is essentially a linebacker that can cover wideouts—a physical specimen and a break in the normal coding. He gets the edge over USC’s Su'a Cravens, who quickly became one of the most explosive defensive backs in the country.
Safety: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
Second Team: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Coming off an 80-tackle, two-interception season, Cody Prewitt entered 2013 with mighty expectations and All-American chatter. He responded with 71 tackles, six interceptions and 4.5 tackles for loss. His six interceptions led the SEC.
Prewitt’s performances in back-to-back years have him on just about every preseason accolade-related list imaginable. It’s where he belongs, quite frankly.
He is the complete package—coverer and tackler—and that’s why he gets the first-team call over Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, perhaps the most versatile defensive back in the country.
Oh, and we’re not done with the Seminoles just yet.
Kicker: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
Second Team: Jeremiah Detmer, Toledo
Once more, with feeling.
It seems fitting that Florida State claims yet another All-American vacancy. It’s even more fitting that it’s at kicker, showing the tremendous range on this roster.
After redshirting in 2012, Roberto Aguayo won the Lou Groza Award in his first season with the Seminoles. He set a national record for points by a kicker, connecting on 21-of-22 field goals and all 94 of his extra points. What’s even more remarkable, according to his FSU bio, is that Aguayo outscored eight of FSU’s opponents by himself in 2013.
Is this the product of the offense he kicks for? Absolutely. But Aguayo proved to be a sharpshooter with his leg, which is why he gets the edge over Jeremiah Detmer, Toledo’s very own kicking machine.
Punter: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
Second Team: Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Drew Kaser went to SEC media days. Let’s start there, because this is not an invitation typically handed to punters. This is not your average punter, however. It’s also not your average year in Aggie Land.
Does it stem from the vacancies Texas A&M is currently looking to fill on its offense? Of course. But it also speaks volumes about Kaser’s ability to send footballs sailing great distances. Kaser averaged 47.4 yards per punt in 2013. This was tops in the SEC. He also fired off a 76-yarder, which is more science experiment than football play.
Michigan State’s Mike Sadler, a special teams ace in the Big Ten, is an automatic second-team selection.
Returner: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Second Team: Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Ryan Switzer had 13 opportunities to return punts in the final five games of the 2013 season. He returned five of them for touchdowns, tying an NCAA record. He’s now just three punt returns away from the all-time mark, and he has three years of eligibility remaining.
Sometimes, the video game world becomes the real world.
Switzer, who should play a more prominent role in the offense, instantly became one of the most electrifying special teams players in all of college football. He was the only player in the nation to average more than 20 yards per return, a feat that is hard to fathom.
As explosive as Ty Montgomery was (and will be) for Stanford, Switzer earned his spot on the first team.