Kickoff of a new season is here, so we need to recognize college football's brightest stars. Here is our preseason All-America team for 2014.
QB: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Mariota spurned a spot in the 2014 NFL Draft’s first round to return to Eugene, where he’ll lead a Ducks team that’s a preseason favorite to make the College Football Playoff. Fully healthy after battling a knee injury in the second half of 2013, Mariota will try to top his 4,380 yards and 40 total touchdowns from a season ago.
Getty ImagesSteve Dykes
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
Gurley racked up 1,430 total yards and 16 TDs in 2013 despite missing three games with an injury. With QB Aaron Murray now gone, Georgia will likely redefine its offensive identity around Gurley, Keith Marshall and the Dawgs’ ground game, giving Gurley ample opportunities to shine.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Will any player have to “carry” his team more in 2014 than Gordon? The Badgers’ QB spot is still undecided, they lose their top three receivers and backfield mate James White is gone. Gordon averaged 7.8 yards per carry last season and should have another outstanding year, even if the yards prove tougher to come by with opposing defenses keying on Wisconsin’s Heisman candidate.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State
Meet the man who will be among Jameis Winston’s best friends this fall. Greene, a senior, was a first-team All-ACC pick last year after racking up 1,128 yards. With Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw gone, Greene becomes the reigning Heisman winner’s No. 1 target.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
If you can’t play quarterback in the Big 12’s most explosive offense, playing wide receiver with a QB who could have made this list isn’t too bad. Goodley led Baylor with 1,339 receiving yards in 2013, averaging 18.9 per catch. With QB Bryce Petty pushing for his own inclusion on All-America teams, Goodley could put up even bigger numbers this fall.
Getty ImagesCooper Neill
TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama
If you saw Howard’s 52-yard touchdown catch against LSU last season, you understand why the sophomore makes this team. He’s a 6-foot-6, 240-pound freak who will officially break out this season as a go-to matchup nightmare for the man who replaces AJ McCarron at QB.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
OT: Andrus Peat, Stanford
Peat is a first-round talent who will be vital for the Cardinal in 2014, as they replace four along their offensive line, including first-team All-America guard David Yankey and first-team Pac-12 tackle Cameron Fleming. A 6-7, 312-pound force, Peat is ready to be the next great Stanford O-lineman.
Getty ImagesDavid Madison
G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke
The Blue Devils lose a couple of starters on their offensive line, but fortunately Tomlinson isn’t one of them. The senior returned to Duke after making first-team All-ACC in 2013. If QB Anthony Boone and RB Josh Snead have big years in the Coastal, there’s little doubt Tomlinson will be one reason why.
C: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
Grasu has made the Pac-12’s first team twice already and will be coveted by the NFL when he finally throws himself into the draft. He’s the backbone of Oregon’s offensive line and shouldn’t be overlooked as a vital piece to any Duck playoff run.
Getty ImagesKevin Casey
G: Tre' Jackson, Florida State
The first of two offensive linemen from Florida State on this list, Jackson has soared since becoming a Nole, making All-ACC teams twice. Phil Steele rates Jackson as his No. 1 offensive guard for the 2015 NFL Draft.
OT: Cameron Erving, Florida State
Erving was an All-ACC and All-America selection last season for FSU and a cog alongside Jackson on the defending champs’ O-line. While he’s not regarded as the top tackle prospect in the draft – that’d be Iowa’s Brandon Scherff or Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi – Erving is very talented and will make a quality pro after his senior season in Tallahassee.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Beasley is the star of a Clemson defensive line that led the nation in tackles for loss in 2013. He piled up 13 sacks last season and reportedly added 10 pounds this offseason. It’ll be a surprise if Beasley is not one of the nation’s most productive edge rushers this fall.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
DT: Leonard Williams, USC
Enjoy Williams while you can, because this is almost certainly the junior’s last season in college football. He was the Pac-12’s defensive rookie of the year in 2012 and first-team all-league pick last season. After what we all expect to be a stellar season for the Trojans, he’ll likely go in the first 10 picks of the 2015 NFL Draft.
DE: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
Calhoun is a stud on a defense that typically isn’t light on them. However, the Spartans do lose important pieces in their front seven this season, so Calhoun’s disruptiveness off the edge will be even more vital if Michigan State is going to stifle the Big Ten and contend for a playoff spot.
LB: Trey DePriest, Alabama
A senior, DePriest will anchor a Tide linebacking unit that has to replace first-round pick and former All-American and Butkus Award winner C.J. Mosley. At 6-2, 250, DePriest is a cinder block in the middle of Alabama’s front seven. He was third on the team in tackles last season and is a good bet to lead the Tide in that category this season.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
LB: Myles Jack, UCLA
The running back talk has cooled a bit, as head coach Jim Mora said Jack will be nothing more than a situational back for the Bruins, which means he can focus on becoming an even better linebacker. Of course, we all want to see Jack get some carries, too, as the Pac-12 defensive and offensive freshman of the year in 2013 is capable of putting together a Heisman case that few will be able to match if he’s dominant on both sides of the ball.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
LB: Shaq Thompson, Washington
The Huskies lose two linebackers from last year’s team, but they return Thompson, who was a first-team freshman All-American in 2012. The junior will be crucial to Washington’s contention in the Pac-12 this season, as that road leads through Stanford and Eugene, the homes of two teams that gash opponents on the ground.
Getty ImagesSteve Dykes
LB: Ramik Wilson, Georgia
Wilson lead the SEC with 133 tackles last season and is in line for another great season. He’ll lead a unit that includes junior Jordan Jenkins, a second-team All-SEC pick in ’13, and with people paying close attention to how new DC Jeremy Pruitt helps the Bulldogs this fall, Wilson shouldn’t be short on national attention. With a good season, he could go in the first round the 2015 NFL Draft.
Don McPeak-USA TODAY SportsDon McPeak
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, Oregon
Like Mariota, Ekpre-Olumu had an opportunity to turn pro after last season and be a coveted draft pick, but he chose to return to Oregon for his senior season. He’s been named to the first-team All-Pac 12 twice in his Ducks career and is the best corner in the country.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
S: Landon Collins, Alabama
Collins played both strong and free safety as a sophomore in 2013, ranking second on the team in tackles and contributing two picks. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix now in the NFL, Nick Saban will look to Collins to become a full-fledged star and lead the Tide’s secondary in 2014.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
S: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Ramsey was a huge contributor as a true freshman on FSU’s national title team last season, starting in all 14 games and making 49 tackles. He split time between corner and safety, earning him a second-team Freshman All-America selection. Ramsey is locked into the safety position entering his sophomore year and should be among the country’s best DBs.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
CB: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller was a star in 2013, except it’s likely you didn’t see much of him, as he was buried on an 8-5 Virginia Tech team that rarely enjoyed any national significance. He started 12 games and made 58 tackles with six interceptions and 11 passes broken up. The 2013 ACC defensive rookie of the year and a first-team Freshman All-American, Fuller will become a national name this fall.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
K: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
As a freshman last season, Aguayo nailed 21 of his 22 field goals and set an NCAA record for points in a season by a kicker (157) on his way to winning the Lou Groza award, which honor’s the nation’s best kicker. What Aguayo is looking for this season is simply consistency, as it’s difficult to improve on his first season in college football.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
Overlooked on an Aggies team that’s offensively aggressive, Kaser averaged 47.4 yards per punt last season and was a first-team All-SEC pick. If he repeats that performance, he’ll be in the mix for the 2014 Ray Guy award.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
KR: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
As a freshman last season, Switzer tied the single-season NCAA record with five punts returned for TDs and was the first Tar Heel to earn first-team All-America honors in his first season on campus. It will be difficult for Switzer to match his numbers from a year ago, if only because teams are fully aware of his ability and will kick away from him. But when the ball does drift into the middle of the field and his blockers give him a crease, watch out.
AP: Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Montgomery was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick last season as a receiver, while also averaging 30.3 yards per kick return. His 157.7 all-purpose yards per game last season made him a first-team All-American, and Montgomery is in line to do it again as a senior.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
YOUR TURN TO VOTE
Have another player you believe should get All-America consideration? Nominate him and explain why in the comments.