July 22, 2024


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Sporting News 2021 college football Preseason All-American team

Sporting News 2021 preseason All-American team showcases the skill-position talent in the Big 12 heading into the season.

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler and Iowa State running back Breece Hall, a first-team SN All-American in 2020, lead that list. Texas running back Bijan Robinson and Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar also made our first team, which was well-represented by the sport’s bluebloods.

MORE: 2021 College Football Preview

Alabama and Ohio State led the way with four players spread across the first and second teams, and Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame and Oklahoma joined Iowa State with three players apiece.

The SEC led all conferences with 14 players. The Big 12 was next with 11, and the Big Ten finished with 10 players on the list.

Sporting News is one of five outlets used to determine consensus All-American status at the end of the season. Who made our preseason team? Here’s a closer look.

  • Rattler is the early front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and he should thrive in a talented offense that averaged 43.0 points per game in 2020. Rattler shook off early-season turnovers and passed for 18 TDs and two interceptions in the Sooners’ last eight games. He had five games with at least four total TDs in 2021, and the expectation is those numbers should go up after another full offseason with coach Lincoln Riley.

  • Hall, a first-team SN All-American in 2020, led the FBS with 1,606 yards from scrimmage as a sophomore. He scored at least one TD in every game for the Cyclones. The expectations are higher in Ames this season, and Hall will likely maintain another 250-plus carry workload. The consistent play-making ability should continue for Iowa State.

  • Naysayers might see this as a Texas-sized reach, but the sophomore’s talent is undeniable. He averaged 8.0 yards per carry on a limited sample of 86 attempts, but just look at the last two games again. Robinson had a total of 355 yards and four TDs on just 19 carries against Kansas State and Colorado. With new coach Steve Sarkisian, Robinson should put up monster numbers in 2021.

  • Olave is one of the cleanest route runners in college football, and his decision to return for his senior year was a coup for the Buckeyes. Olave has 22 TD receptions on 110 career catches, and he’s opposite another future NFL receiver in Garrett Wilson. Either receiver could end up on the first team at season’s end, but we’ll give the nod to the more-experienced player.

  • Dotson was among the bright spots for the Nittany Lions last season. He averaged 17.0 yards per reception, and he had five games with 100 yards or more. Dotson’s 144-yard, three-TD performance against Ohio State in primetime highlighted a skillset that will translate well at the next level.

  • Kolar bypassed the 2021 NFL Draft to return to school, and that gives Brock Purdy a reliable target for the Cyclones. Kolar is the best of both worlds in the receiving game. He’s scored 10 TDs in the red zone the last two seasons, but he also has four TD catches for 20 yards or more. He’s a mismatch problem for opposing defenses.

  • Neal stands out as a 6-7, 360-pound right tackle, and he’s made 26 starts between that position and guard for the Crimson Tide the last two seasons. Neal allowed 1.5 sacks last season, and he will be the anchor of yet another big-and-physical front for Alabama in 2021.

  • Madden, a 6-3, 313-pound guard, made 31 starts the last two seasons with Marshall before transferring to Notre Dame. The top-rated guard by Pro Football Focus last season gives the Irish valuable experience in the interior, and this should help offensive line coach Jeff Quinn re-tool what is typically a dominant line.

  • The Rimington Trophy finalist returned for his redshirt junior season, and that is pivotal for the Hawkeyes given Linderbaum has made 19 starts the last two seasons. The 6-3, 290-pounder was the highest-graded center at Pro Football Focus last season, ahead of Alabama’s Landon Dickerson.

  • Green was a SN first-team All-American selection in 2020, and he emerged as a dominant run-blocking force as a sophomore. The Aggies averaged 202.9 yards per game, and Green will be paving that way for an offense that also improved in the passing game. Green should continue to improve as an upperclassmen.

  • The 6-5, 345-pound tackle continues to live up to expectations with the Wildcats. A second-team SN All-American selection in 2020, Kinnard has made 26 consecutive starts on the edge. He has 79 knockdowns the past two seasons for the Wildcats.

  • Williams is one of the best multi-purpose players in the FBS. He rushed for 1,125 yards and 13 TDs, but he also caught 35 passes for 313 yards and a TD out of the backfield. Williams will be active in both of those roles as a junior as the Irish work to settle their QB situation.

  • Thibodeaux was a SN Preseason All-American last year, and his talent translates to a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Thibodeaux has compiled 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 20 career games, and he has the tools to be the nation’s most-dominant pass rusher with a full Pac-12 season.

  • Garrett emerged as one of the best stories of 2020 considering he suffered a gunshot wound during the offseason. He became another disruptive presence for the Buckeyes, and he flashed that athleticism with an interception return for a TD against Michigan State.

  • The five-star recruit is expected to make the jump in his sophomore season, and there were glimpses of that potential that show what’s possible. Bresee had four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss for the Tigers in 2020. He is surrounded by up-and-coming talent on the defensive line, and we expect a full-fledged breakout as a result.

  • Leal will attract attention as one of the most-athletic defensive linemen in the country. The 6-4, 290-pound defensive tackle is consistent against the run, and he will get a handful of sacks in Mike Elko’s scheme. The Aggies’ last two first-round picks off the front seven were Myles Garrett and Von Miller. Leal is a different kind of talent, but he should follow the same path.

  • Alabama boasts the best group of linebackers in the FBS with Christian Miller, Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o and Anderson, who enjoyed a fantastic freshman season with 52 tackles, seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. All seven sacks came in the Crimson Tide’s last six games. Imagine the production that will come through a full season.

  • Bonitto is a high-energy linebacker for the Sooners, and he averaged six sacks and nine tackles for loss the past two seasons. Bonitto had 6.5 sacks in Oklahoma’s last four games, and he’s a capable playmaker in space.

  • Lloyd made the most of a five-game season with 48 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. He’s always around the football, and he averages 7.4 tackles per game over the past two seasons. Lloyd can play the pass, too. He’s one of the most-complete defenders in the Pac-12.

  • Stingley Jr. had a bit of a sophomore slump, but he will work with a new defensive coordinator in Daronte Jones as a junior. He averages three interceptions and 10 pass breakups per season, and he is a solid tackler who contributes in the return game. In a prove-it season, expect Stingley to return to his freshman form.

  • “Sauce” brought it in 2020 with a second straight consistent season as a lock-down cornerback. He averages 30 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups per season, and according to PFF opposing QBs have a 35.3 passer rating when throwing to him in primary coverage. He’s nasty.

  • Hamilton is one of the most-talented players in the country. He averaged more than 50 tackles the last two seasons, and that’s come with 5.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions. He’s a playmaker, and he gives new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman a dominant chess piece to work with in the secondary.

  • Joseph, a SN first-team All-American in 2020, arrived earlier than expected with a brilliant redshirt freshman season. He had six interceptions, including a memorable one-handed pick against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Joseph also totaled four interceptions in clutch performances against Wisconsin and Iowa. Throw in 43 tackles, and you have one of the most reliable safeties in the FBS.

  • York made the clutch kick with a 57-yard game-winner in the upset against Florida last season, and that was part of a season where he hit 10 field goals of 50 yards or more. He has made 81.3 percent of his attempts the last two seasons for the Tigers.

  • Hedley was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season, and he ranked second in the FBS with 47.2 yards per punt. Hedley had 19 punts of 50 yards or more, and the Hurricanes led the FBS in net punting in 2020.

  • Ebner returned two kickoffs for TDs in the opener against Kansas last season, and he had three games with more than 100 return yards for the Bears last season. He should be more active in the punt return game as a senior for the Bears.

  • QB: Sam Howell, North Carolina
    RB: Sincere McCormick, UTSA
    RB: Kevin Harris, South Carolina
    WR: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
    WR: Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
    TE: Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
    T: Jordan McFadden, Clemson
    G: O’Cyruse Torrence, Louisiana
    C: Grant Gibson, N.C. State
    G: Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
    T: Thayer Munford, Ohio State
    APB: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

  • DL: Myles Murphy, Clemson
    DL: Dante Stills, West Virginia
    DL: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
    DL: Jordan Davis, Georgia
    LB: Mike Rose, Iowa State
    LB: Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
    L:B Mike Jones, LSU
    CB: Josh Jobe, Alabama
    CB: Tiawan Mullen, Indiana
    S: Tykee Smith, Georgia
    S: Jaquan Brisker, Penn State

  • K: Will Reichard, Alabama
    P: Lucas Dean, UTSA
    RET: Phillip Brooks, Kansas State

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