College athletes are back on campus, and even though Covid-19 still threatens the season, nothing has been postponed yet. With that said, it’s time to take a look at the upcoming college football season, and the players who will stand out and should emerge as the best of the best.
1st Team Offense
QB: Justin Fields, Ohio State
You expected to see a certain blonde haired signal caller from Clemson here, didn’t you? With Justyn Ross out for the season, and the light schedule Clemson faces, the statistics will be there Trevor Lawrence, but Fields, who has most of his top weapons back from last year and a more competitive schedule, has a chance to build on his monster numbers that made him a Heisman finalist and possibly earn himself the trophy.
2nd Team: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson
Clemson’s stud running back is another reason Lawrence may see lower stats, as Etienne has and will continue to be a workhorse for the Tigers. Coming off back to back 1,600+ yard rushing seasons, Etienne is one of the most explosive players in college football, and will be looking to cement himself in the Clemson record books.
2nd Team: Najee Harris, Alabama
RB: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
It’s very hard to keep a 2,000 yard rusher off this list. Hubbard had an unbelievable season in 2019 and should be a popular name on Heisman ballots this year, especially with the majority of the OSU offense returning. Assuming he can keep the stats up, if the Cowboys can compete with power house Oklahoma and make the Big 12 interesting, Hubbard will be not only pushing for an All American selection, but a serious Heisman Trophy contender and a potential RB1 in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2nd Team: Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
WR: Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
The 2019 Biletnikoff award winner is coming off a monster season in which he pulled in 20 touchdowns to go with 84 catches and 1,780 yards. Even though his star quarterback is off the the NFL, Chase will still be dominating defensive backs this season, and he’ll make new starter Myles Brennan look very, very good.
2nd Team: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
WR: Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Arguably the top returning wide receiver in the Big 10, Bateman is coming off a strong season as quarterback Tanner Morgan’s top target, catching 11 touchdowns to go with 1,219 yards. With Tyler Johnson off to the NFL, Bateman is set to step into a bigger role in the offense of a team that is looking to play spoiler in a conference dominated by Ohio State and Penn State.
2nd Team: Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
A local Massachusetts kid, Freiermuth emerged as one of the top tight ends in college football last season, catching 43 passes for 507 yards to go with 7 touchdowns, which followed a strong freshman season that included 8 touchdowns. The 6’5 athlete creates a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field and a strong redzone target, and will be looking to prove worthy of a 1st round selection in next years draft as the Nittany Lions battle for a Big Ten title.
2nd Team: Kyle Pitts, Florida
OT: Penei Sewell, Oregon
The 2019 Outland Trophy winner returns to the Ducks for his Jr season with top 5 draft pick hype, and comes into the year regarded as one of the premier offensive tackle prospects in recent memory.
2nd Team: Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
OG: Trey Smith, Tennessee
Smith is an absolute monster at left guard, standing 6’6 and 335 pounds, and after dealing with a blood clot issue as a sophomore, has become one of the most dominant offensive linemen in college football. Returning for his senior year to earn his degree and up his draft stock is one of the biggest offseason wins for Tennessee.
2nd Team: Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
C: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
Like Smith, Humphrey had a chance to make the jump to the NFL this past offseason, but decided to return to school after anchoring one of the best offensive units in college football. His talent and leadership will make things much easier on new quarterback Spencer Rattler.
2nd Team: Josh Meyers, Ohio State
OG: Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
Davis returns to the Buckeyes as a reigning All-American and regarded as many as the best interior offensive line prospect in the nation, after a dominant redshirt-sophomore campaign in Columbus. Expect him to continue to build off that momentum and continue to give Justin Fields time to pick defenses apart.
2nd Team: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
OT: Samuel Cosmi, Texas
Another tackle prospect who returned to school to improve his draft stock, Cosmi will once again be tasked with protecting Sam Ehlinger’s blind side as Texas tries to bounce back from a letdown season.
2nd Team: Walker Little, Stanford
1st Team Defense
DE: Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Rousseau burst onto the scene last season as one of the most dominant pass rushers in college football, finishing only being eventual number 2 overall pick Chase Young. With Quincy Roche opposite him, Rousseau could up those sack numbers in 2020.
2nd Team: Quincy Roche, Miami
DL: Christian Barmore, Alabama
Barmore was a stud against the run in a limited role on a stacked Alabama defensive line on 2019, so this is a projection pick. With a higher snap count, Barmore has a chance to fill the void for 3 year starter Raekwon Davis, and dominate offensive lines in the SEC this year.
2nd Team: Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
DL: Marvin Wilson, Florida State
One of the best returning players in the ACC and the best interior defensive linemen in the country, Wilson is a dominant pass rusher from the middle and is the only player worth watching on Florida State’s roster (that may be an exaggeration, but for real, that program is struggling).
2nd Team: Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
DE: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The number 1 recruit in the country for 2019 did not disappoint as a freshman, racking up 9 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He’ll have a chance to build on those numbers and be a prominent member of a very talented Oregon defense this season, and should be in the mid teens for sacks.
2nd Team: Carlos Bashman, Wake Forest
LB: Micah Parsons, Penn State
The top run defending linebacker in the nation last year, Parsons is no slouch in pass coverage either, giving up no touchdowns last year and breaking up 4 passes, to go with 17 tackles for loss. The leader of Penn State’s defense, Parsons is a star defender and will be a high pick in next year’s draft.
2nd Team: Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin
LB: Dylan Moses, Alabama
Despite not playing last season due to an offseason knee injury, Moses comes into 2020 as one of the most talented linebackers in the nation, and will be the name to watch on another strong Alabama defense this year. Moses had a strong sophomore campaign and will once again be viewed as a potential 1st round NFL pick.
2nd Team: Hamilcar Rashed, Oregon State
LB: Nick Bolton, Missouri
A tackling machine, Bolton took over as a starter for the Tigers in 2019 and never looked back, earning himself a 1st team All-SEC nod and a 3rd team All-American by Pro Football Focus. Bolton was also the SEC’s highest graded linebacker in 2019. He will look to build up his draft stock off that strong season.
2nd Team: Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
CB: Derek Stingley Jr, LSU
Stingley enters 2020 as arguably one of the best players in the nation, and possibly the best defensive prospect. Too bad he won’t be draft eligible for another year, but that’s good news for LSU. 6 interceptions in the SEC is impressive, especially for a true freshman. He may not see those numbers this year, but that’s due to the lack of targets he will see come his way.
2nd Team: Shaun Wade, Ohio State
S: Jevon Holland, Oregon
Holland might be a corner more than a safety, as he excelled playing both roles last year, but we’ll go safety for this. A Thorpe award finalist and 1st team All-Pac-12 last year, Holland is one of the nation’s premier defensive backs and a leader on the Ducks defense.
2nd Team: Caden Sterns, Texas
S: Richard LeCounte III, Georgia
An extremely gifted athlete, LeCounte returns to the Bulldogs coming off a strong 2019 campaign in which he pulled in 4 interceptions and was the 3rd leading tackler on the team, a year after leading Georgia in that category.
2nd Team: Trevon Moehrig, TCU
CB: Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
Since taking over as a starter in week 4 of his freshman season, Surtain II has allowed over 60 yards receiving twice, that should say enough about how good this kid is. Gifted with great ball skills, Surtain II will hear his named called early next April.
2nd Team: Paulson Adebo, Stanford
1st Team Specialists
PK: Nick Sciba, Wake Forest
Sciba has had a very impressive 2 years so far for the Demon Deacons. He has never missed an extra point, a perfect 90-90, and has hit 40-44 field goals, 24-25 last season. Accuracy wins games, and wins a kicker some awards.
2nd Team: Blake Haubeil, Ohio State
P: Max Duffy, Kentucky
The reigning Ray Guy award winner and All-American returns to the Wildcats as a weapon in the special teams game, with a booming leg that averaged 48.1 yards a kick.
2nd Team: Trenton Gill, NC State
KR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Waddle is not only the best return man in the country, but he is regarded as a near lock to be a 1st round selection in the 2021 draft as a wide receiver. His explosiveness in the open field is amazing to watch, and if you need a visual, watch his punt return for a touchdown against LSU last season.
2nd Team: Rondale Moore, Purdue
Image: (Associated Press)