November 21, 2011
As a member of the Football Writers Association of America, one of the unique things I get to do is provide input on the organization’s All-American Team. Last week, I shared my ballot for the defensive side of the ball. In Part II, I provide my ballot for the offensive squad and special teams.
Robert Griffin III (Baylor): There are a lot of good candidates for All-American here including Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, and Houston’s Case Keenum, to name a few. But my choice is Griffin, who is not only leading Baylor to a respectable season, but is having a great individual campaign as well. His 29 touchdowns to only five interceptions heading into this weekend’s game against Oklahoma is one of the best ratios in all of college football. But the thing that separates Griffin from the others is his ability to run with the ball. He has nearly 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns on the season, making him nearly as deadly with his feet as he is with his arm.
Trent Richardson (Alabama): Richardson has been in the spotlight all season, leading the way for the Crimson Tide, one of the top teams in the country. He has more than 1,200 yards on the season and 18 touchdowns. Richardson’s also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield as evidenced by his 25 receptions for 318 yards and is really a dual threat of sorts.
LaMichael James (Oregon): When James went down with an injury earlier this year, it wasn’t known how much time he would miss. But even despite sitting out two games, he still has more yards than Richardson on the season. On my ballot, he barely beat out Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who with 1,242 yards and 22 touchdowns, is having a monster season. But James’ numbers despite the missed games are pretty significant and heading into the weekend, his Ducks were still alive for the National Championship game.
Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): Blackmon is regarded as one of the nation’s best receivers and his 1,242 yards on the season ranked him fourth in the FBS. The Cowboys lost their first game of the season on Friday night against Iowa State and that may have knocked them out of the National Championship picture. But Blackmon still starred, catching ten passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He leads the nation in receiving touchdowns with 15 and is second in catches with 103.
Jordan White (Western Michigan): Sure, go ahead – chalk up White’s big-time numbers (a nation-leading 108 catches for 1,389 yards and 14 touchdowns) to lesser competition if you want. Thing is, though, that his Broncos have squared off against several BCS AQ conference teams including Michigan, Illinois, and UConn. White didn’t play in the season opener against Michigan, but in games against the Illini and Huskies, he had 26 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns. That proves he’s the real deal and worthy of a spot on my All-American team.
Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame): Eifert leads all tight ends in the FBS in receptions with 51 on the year and is second in receiving yards with 589. The fact that he’s done it against some pretty stiff competition in games against Michigan, Michigan State, USC, and several other BCS AQ conference teams, is even more impressive.
Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin): Zeitler is the top offensive lineman on a line that’s allowed the Badgers’ Montee Ball to run wild to the tune of 1,200+ yards and 23 touchdowns. Wisconsin’s rushing attack is ranked tenth in the nation and Zeitler’s ability to open up holes is a big part of that.
Nate Potter (Boise State): It’s easy to forget that the Broncos are still in the hunt for the National Title, but with only one loss, they’re not yet out of it. That’s largely due to quarterback Kellen Moore, and Potter and the Boise State linemen have ensured he gets plenty of time to throw as Moore has only been sacked five times this year.
Barrett Jones (Alabama): Jones helped anchor a line that paved the way for 2010 Heisman candidate (and 2009 Heisman winner) Mark Ingram at Alabama. He’s now doing the same for Trent Richardson, who could be a candidate for the award this year and has given the Crimson Tide one of the nation’s best rushing attacks.
David DeCastro (Stanford): DeCastro has quietly helped the Cardinal to a 9-1 record this season and as a senior, has protected quarterback Andrew Luck about as well as can be done. Luck has only been sacked 19 times in his entire career and only seven times this season.
David Molk (Michigan): Molk and the Wolverines have one of the hardest jobs in college football trying to not only protect athletic quarterback Denard Robinson, but also get out and block for him if he takes off running … which happens quite a bit. Robinson’s legs have helped Michigan to the 11th best rushing attack in the country, but Molk has also protected him when passing as he’s been sacked only eight times all season.
Bobby Cowan (Idaho): Cowan leads the nation in total punting yardage with nearly 4,000 and his average of 47 yards per punt is good for third. The Vandals are one of the lowest scoring teams in college football and Cowan gets plenty of work because of that.
Caleb Sturgis (Florida): Sturgis has been one of the most accurate kickers in college football this season, hitting more than 90% of his field goals (19/21). He hasn’t missed one within 40 yards all season and is 2/3 from distances of 50 yards or greater.
Jamal Miles (Arizona State): Miles hasn’t had many opportunities to return kicks or punts this season, but that makes his three returns for scores even more extraordinary. Those three touchdowns from returns are tied for the lead in the FBS.
November 14, 2011
As a member of the Football Writers Association of America, one of the unique things I get to do is provide input on the organization’s All-American Team. I thought I’d share my ballot for the defensive side of the ball as well as some brief insight on the selections. Part II next week will take a look at my ballot for the offensive side.
Whitney Mercilus (Illinois): Mercilus leads the nation in sacks with 12 ½ and should be a candidate for several defensive Player of the Year awards. After a 6-0 start, Illinois has lost their past four games, though, and that could derail his chances a bit. Still, he’s a no-brainer for a spot on my first team.
Vinny Curry (Marshall): Curry comes in second in sacks with 10 ½ and with 12 last year, has quietly put together two good seasons for the Thundering Herd.
Jamie Blatnick (Oklahoma State): Blatnick leads the defense for the No. 2 ranked Cowboys and is a big reason they could play for a National Championship. He has seven sacks and an interception on the season and will be playing on Sundays.
Andre Branch (Clemson): The Tigers have come out of nowhere and are ranked in the top ten, largely due to the efforts of Branch. His 58 tackles rank near the top for defensive ends and a huge four-sack effort against Virginia Tech was one of the better defensive performances this season.
Luke Kuechly (Boston College): Kuechly not only leads the nation in tackles with 168, but is on pace to break the NCAA’s single season record. He is looking like the best linebacker in the country right now and one of the top defensive players in the nation.
Zach Brown (North Carolina): Brown is one of those indispensable players who might not get a lot of credit, but he’s always around the ball. On the season for the Tarheels, he’s got 71 tackles, 5 ½ sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He’s not a leader in any major category, but does a lot of different things. Simply put, he makes plays.
Sammy Brown (Houston): Brown has missed two games and is still in second in sacks for linebackers this season with 9 ½. He’s recorded at least one in every game he’s suited up for this season except the opener against UCLA and is unquestionably the leader of the undefeated Cougars’ defense.
David Amerson (North Carolina State): Amerson’s ten interceptions lead the FBS and he’s a serious threat to return it to the house with three returns greater than 25 yards. He returned one for a touchdown in a big road win at Virginia this season.
Nigel Malone (Kansas State): Malone is second in the nation in interceptions and is leading the way for the surprising 8-2 Wildcats. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and Malone picked him off in a game this season. Twice.
Tony Jefferson (Oklahoma): Jefferson is a do-it-all type of defensive back for the Sooners. He had a three-interception game earlier this season against Ball State and also has three sacks and a forced fumble this year. As a sophomore, he’s only going to get better, too.
Tyrann Mathieu (LSU): Don’t be fooled by Mathieu’s relatively unspectacular stats. Quarterbacks fear him like the plague, meaning he doesn’t get a lot of chances for picks. He’s a staple on No. 1 ranked LSU’s defense and had interceptions in big wins against West Virginia and Florida this season. Mathieu has also forced three fumbles this season – two in the season opening win against highly-ranked Oregon.