The 2021 college football season will be here before we know it, but there’s no time to waste if you want a chance to make the All-America team. The NCAA is already coming out with their first-ever preseason All-Americans, and the list includes a few familiar faces. The list is only a prediction, though, so there’s still plenty of time to change the minds of select voters.
As the college football season approaches, we take a look at last year’s preseason All-America teams and identify the most impactful players from the upcoming season. We’ll use the same formula that we use the NFL to determine players who must start in the upcoming season, as well as players who will be key backups.
The 2021 college football preseason All-America team is loaded with talent. The only position that isn’t loaded is the quarterback, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some excellent players who can step up and help a team.. Read more about 2021 college football all-american team and let us know what you think.
Because of COVID-19 issues a year ago, just a few leagues planned to play college football.
As a result, ESPN’s preseason All-America squad was cut down to a smaller group. Our 2021 squad, on the other hand, is back to full strength, with 14 of the 26 players playing for clubs in the top ten in the Associated Press preseason poll.
Iowa State running back Breece Hall and LSU place-kicker Cade York are the only two players from our 2020 postseason All-America team who are returning.
Just a reminder, as we do every year when announcing our preseason All-America team, that this is not a ranking of the best NFL draft prospects, despite the fact that many of these players will have lengthy pro careers. It’s also neither a ranking of returning players with the greatest numbers from the previous season, nor is it a lifetime accomplishment award. The objective is to simulate what we believe the All-America team will look like in December.
Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler
Rattler could be even better as a redshirt sophomore after his first trip through the Big 12 generated 3,031 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, and six running scores a year ago, particularly with a few new pieces added to the OU offensive assault. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Rattler’s 92.5 percent passing grade last season was third nationally, behind only BYU’s Zach Wilson and Alabama’s Mac Jones, both of whom were drafted in the first 15 selections in the NFL draft.
Breece Hall of the Iowa State Cyclones is a running back.
What does Hall do as a follow-up to being the first player in Iowa State history to get unanimous All-America accolades last season? There will be many of pleased fans in Ames if he repeats his sophomore season’s performance. Hall, who stands 6-1 and weighs 220-pounds, topped all FBS players with 1,572 running yards and 23 total touchdowns in 12 games. He was tied for third in the country with eight 30-yard or longer runs and grabbed 23 receptions.
Bijan Robinson of the Texas Longhorns is a running back.
Robinson is not only one of the most talented true sophomores in college football, but he also has a lot of momentum heading into the 2021 season. In each of his final two games as a freshman, the 6-foot, 214-pound running back racked up at least 220 rushing/receiving yards. After being sidelined for the first half of the season due to a back ailment, he’s back on track. He had a team-high 14 plays of 20 yards or more last season and is a great match in Steve Sarkisian’s backfield.
Chris Olave of the Ohio State Buckeyes is a wide receiver.
Holding on to Olave, who turned down the NFL draft to return for his senior season, was one of Ryan Day’s most significant recruits this summer. He’s an exceptional athlete with explosiveness to match, and he’ll pair up with Garrett Wilson to offer Ohio State two of the best receivers in the nation. Olave, who is 6-1 and 188 pounds, has been the Buckeyes’ best pass-catcher the last two seasons, catching seven touchdown passes in seven games in 2020.
Clemson Tigers’ Justyn Ross is a wide receiver.
Given his spine issue and surgery that forced him to miss last season, picking Ross as one of the two receivers might be a bit of a risk. But he’s been cleared medically to play in 2021, and if he’s fit, there’s no harder opponent in college football than Ross, who stands 6-4 and weighs 205 pounds. In his first two seasons, he caught 17 touchdown passes and averaged 16.7 yards per reception, making him a strong red-zone target.
TE: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M Aggies
It was tough to choose just one tight end, but Wydermyer gets the nod since he is the most complete player of the group. Wydermyer is as comfortable blocking in the run game as he is jumping up and making an amazing grab down the field. He was one of three candidates for the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end last season. In each of his first two seasons, the 6-5, 255-pound junior has caught six touchdown passes.
OT: Alabama Crimson Tide’s Evan Neal
Neal has been a starter since his true freshman season and will line up in 2021 at his third different position. He started at left guard for Alabama in 2019, shifted to right tackle a year ago, and will return to left tackle this season. He’ll be in the finest condition of his career to do so. The number 6-7 Neal has lost 15 pounds and now weighs 345 pounds. He moves extremely well for a guy of his stature, displaying his agility with a 48-inch box leap this summer.
OG: Ohio State Buckeyes’ Thayer Munford
The offensive line for Ohio State in 2021 should be stacked, particularly with Munford returning for a fifth season at 6-6, 320 pounds. He has appeared in 45 of the Big Ten’s 50 games over the last four seasons, making him one of the league’s most experienced players. Munford is set to shift from left tackle to left guard as a result of Dawand Jones’ improvement, allowing the Buckeyes to play their five best offensive lineman.
Iowa Hawkeyes’ Tyler Linderbaum
Linderbaum would have been one of the top centers chosen in the NFL draft if he had opted to join after the 2020 season. But he had bigger goals at Iowa, and the 6-3, 290-pound redshirt junior is back as one of the most complete offensive lineman in the country. He’s as fundamentally sound as he is strong, and he’ll be the Hawkeyes’ offensive line’s cornerstone for the third year in a row.
OG: Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s Cain Madden
With the acquisition of Madden this summer, the Irish have “hit gold.” The 6-2, 310-pound graduate transfer from Marshall adds strength, toughness, and experience to a Notre Dame offensive line that lost four starters last season. After coming at Marshall as a walk-on, Madden earned 31 career starts and has developed into one of the best interior lineman in college football.
Kentucky Wildcats’ Darian Kinnard (OT)
You’ll have a hard time finding a guy as big as Kinnard, who stands 6-5 and weighs 345 pounds and moves as effectively as he does. Kinnard will go from right tackle to left tackle for his senior season after contemplating a move to the NFL. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the best run-blocking tackle in the nation, and he utilizes his agility to gobble up pass-rushers. Kinnard has started 26 games in his career, dating back to his freshman year.
Kansas State Wildcats’ Deuce Vaughn (AP)
Vaughn accomplished nothing but lead the Wildcats in rushing yards (642), receiving yards (434), and all-purpose yards as a true freshman running back (1,221). Vaughn, who is 5-6 and weighs 173 pounds, is elusive and difficult to pin down. He’s a big-play danger in every aspect of the game, joining Najee Harris and Travis Etienne as the only three FBS players to run for over 600 yards and catch for over 400 yards last season.
Oregon Ducks DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux came to Oregon as ESPN’s No. 1 overall recruit, and he enters his junior season as the most feared defensive player in college football. Thibodeaux, who stands 6-5 and weighs 258 pounds, mixes power and quickness and has performed at his best on the greatest platforms. In two career Pac-12 championship games, he has 18 quarterback pressures, 10 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
Jordan Davis of the Georgia Bulldogs is a defensive tackle.
Davis’ choice to return for his senior year will help both himself and the Georgia Bulldogs. He wants to play at a weight of about 330 pounds, down from the 370 he previously weighed, and with that weight loss, he should be more flexible and play a bigger role in Georgia’s pass rush. From his nose guard position, the 6-6 Davis is a run-stuffing behemoth and a one-man pocket collapser.
Bryan Bresee of the Clemson Tigers is a defensive tackle.
Clemson continues to produce great defensive lineman, and Bresee, who stands 6-5 and weighs 300 pounds, has just touched the surface of his potential. He tied for the team lead with 11 quarterback pressures and four sacks as a true freshman, confirming his status as ESPN’s No. 1 defensive lineman prospect in the 2020 class. Bresee will be a force in the center of the Tigers’ defensive line, surrounded by a wealth of skill.
TCU Horned Frogs DE: Ochaun Mathis
Mathis may have a larger name than most defensive ends entering the 2021 season, but he has a bigger game. With a team-leading nine sacks a year ago, the 6-5, 257-pound redshirt junior made a tremendous leap from his rookie to sophomore season, and he is primed for an even better season this year. Gary Patterson’s defenses are notorious for swarming, and Mathis will be the driving force behind a strong TCU defensive line.
Alabama Crimson Tide LB Will Anderson Jr.
This Alabama defense may bring back memories of some of the Tide teams from the past under Nick Saban, ones that included players of Anderson’s quality. After finishing with 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a true freshman, the 6-4, 243-pound sophomore leads the finest linebacker corps in the nation. Anderson’s work ethic is commensurate with his enormous skill, which is terrible news for anyone attempting to stop him.
Devin Lloyd of the Utah Utes is a linebacker.
Under Kyle Whittingham, Utah’s defense has a potential to be one of the best in the country, and Lloyd’s return for his senior season is a major reason for that. Lloyd, who was one of the Pac-12’s best defensive playmakers a year ago with 10 tackles for loss in five games, joins nine other returning starters on defense. Lloyd, who was a candidate for the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in college football last season, will be the Utes’ enforcer again in 2021.
Oklahoma Sooners LB Nik Bonitto
Bonitto, now a redshirt junior, has grown as a player both on and off the field, and he enters the 2021 season as one of the most disruptive defenders in NCAA football at OU’s rush linebacker position. Bonitto, who is 6-3 and 240 pounds, is a blur coming off the edge, and after piling up 10.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks in 10 games last season, he should be even better with another year under Alex Grinch’s defensive system.
LSU Tigers’ Derek Stingley Jr., CB
Stingley, who returns as one of college football’s most explosive athletes, is the next member of LSU’s star-studded “DBU” club. Stingley, who stands 6-1 and weighs 195 pounds, has been a starter since his freshman year and mixes lockdown coverage abilities with safety-like strength. On the opposite side of the field, sophomore Eli Ricks, his cornerback partner, is also a superb talent, making it tough for opponents to ignore one side of the field.
Ahmad Gardner of the Cincinnati Bearcats is a cornerback.
Gardner, dubbed “Sauce,” is precisely the kind of cornerback you want. He possesses the size (6-3, 200 pounds) that many defensive coaches want, as well as the ball skills, technique, and agility that will make him a potential first-round draft selection in the NFL. Gardner, a junior, has started since his true freshman season and allowed the third-lowest passer rating in the FBS in coverage in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus.
Kyle Hamilton, Fighting Irish of Notre Dame
Hamilton was one of the finest safeties in the nation as a sophomore. In 2021, he has a potential to be one of college football’s top players. Hamilton, who stands 6-4 and weighs 220 pounds, is what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly refers to as a “eraser.” Despite being hindered by an ankle ailment that necessitated surgery in the summer, he led the Fighting Irish with 63 total tackles last season.
Northwestern Wildcats’ Brandon Joseph
Joseph will be the cornerstone of a defense that lost many important players from a team that ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense after a spectacular redshirt freshman season in which he led Northwestern with six interceptions. Joseph, who is 6-1 and 192 pounds and has the ability to cover slot receivers and tight ends, is constantly around the football due to his intelligence and reflexes. He’s been particularly impressive in some of the Wildcats’ most important games.
Cade York, LSU Tigers, PK
With a kicker like York, LSU doesn’t even need to get into the red zone to have a decent chance of scoring points. He made field goals of 50 yards or longer in six of the Tigers’ ten games last season. York has a 65-yard range and went 9-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond in 2020. In the thick fog, his school-record 57-yard field goal boosted LSU to its greatest win of the season, a 37-34 victory against Florida.
Miami Hurricanes’ Lou Hedley
Hedley, a former Australian Rules Football player, seems more like a linebacker with his intimidating 6-4, 225-pound physique and signature tattoos. After ranking second in the country with a 47.2-yard average last season, he’s a crucial weapon for the Hurricanes. Hedley was one of three candidates for the Ray Guy Award a year ago, with 19 punts of 50 yards or longer and 24 fair catches caused. During the regular season, Miami topped all FBS teams in net punting.
Marcus Jones of the Houston Cougars (KR)
Jones, an All-AAC cornerback last season, is also a standout special teams player in the nation. He had the most punt return yards (337) and the highest punt return average of any FBS player (19.8 yards per return). Jones, who is 5-8 and weighs 185 pounds, is looking to improve on his strong senior resume. Last season, he returned a punt 72 yards for a score. He also had three kickoff returns for touchdowns while at Troy, where he began his career.
The 2021 season will be a pivotal one in the history of college football. With the College Football Playoff still in its infancy and the CFP model still being tweaked, the sport’s biggest teams are still young. The SEC, for example, will once again rule the conference. But the Big Ten and Pac-12 will again be the top two conferences as the Big 12, ACC and Big East will battle it out for fourth place. Meanwhile, the Big Ten will field teams in the playoff, and the Big 12 will try and break the conference tie.. Read more about football today on tv and let us know what you think.
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