The groups presently within the combine for the College Football Playoff could be acquainted, with Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State in place to as soon as once more earn one of many coveted 4 spots. But lots of the gamers who’re main the way in which for these groups and others have stepped into starring roles for the primary time.
Not one participant on the 2021 ESPN Midseason All-America team was included on the All-America team on the finish of the 2020 season. The Crimson Tide prepared the ground with three picks, adopted by Georgia and Iowa, every with two. Overall, the 24 gamers chosen on offense, protection and particular groups come from 20 completely different groups.
Quarterback: Bryce Young, Alabama
The first-year starter is just the sixth participant within the College Football Playoff period with a minimum of 1,700 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns and not more than three interceptions via six video games. Four of the earlier 5 went on to grow to be NFL first-round draft picks: Cal’s Jared Goff, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, LSU’s Joe Burrow and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. The different was Florida’s Kyle Trask final season.
Running again: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Walker, a Wake Forest switch, leads the FBS with 152.2 speeding yards per recreation — greater than 20 yards higher than the following participant. He’s additionally averaging 7.1 yards per carry — greatest amongst FBS gamers with a minimum of 100 makes an attempt. Walker is certainly one of simply seven Power 5 working backs within the CFP period with 900 speeding yards, 9 speeding touchdowns and greater than 7 yards per carry via six video games. Stanford’s Bryce Love and LSU’s Leonard Fournette had been among the many others.
Running again: Bijan Robinson, Texas
It’s superb what Robinson can do when the Longhorns give him the ball. He ranks fourth within the FBS with 131.5 yards per recreation and has already run for extra yards than all of final season, with twice as many speeding touchdowns. His 59 missed or damaged tackles is 10 greater than another runner within the FBS.
Wide receiver: Drake London, USC
Don’t blame London for the Trojans’ disappointing 3-3 begin. He has 64 catches — practically thrice as many as another participant on the USC roster — for 832 yards with 5 touchdowns. He had 16 catches in opposition to Utah, 13 in opposition to Washington State and greater than 100 yards receiving in all however one recreation. London’s 64 receptions are essentially the most by a Power 5 receiver via six video games since West Virginia’s Tavon Austin had 68 in 2012.
Wide receiver: Josh Downs, North Carolina
Downs remains to be working his magic within the Tar Heels’ disappointing begin. He leads the ACC with 49 receptions and 741 receiving yards. He is the primary FBS participant to have a minimum of eight receptions and a landing in six straight video games since Fresno State’s Davante Adams, who did it in 9 consecutive video games in 2013. Downs has a landing catch in seven straight video games going again to final season’s Capital One Orange Bowl. He has 451 yards after the catch, most amongst Power 5 gamers, and 162 greater than London, who’s second.
Tight finish: Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
Likely’s stat line via six video games this season (27 catches, 513 yards, eight touchdowns) seems to be rather a lot like Florida’s Kyle Pitts a 12 months in the past (29 catches, 513 yards, 11 touchdowns). In the undefeated Chanticleers’ 52-20 victory at Arkansas State on Oct. 7, Likely had eight catches for 232 yards and 4 touchdowns, together with a school-record 99-yarder on Coastal Carolina’s second play from scrimmage. He is the primary tight finish in Sun Belt Conference historical past with 4 landing receptions in a recreation.
Tackle: Evan Neal, Alabama
The Crimson Tide uncharacteristically have some issues up entrance on offense, permitting 14 sacks in six video games, however Neal is not certainly one of them. He earned a team-high 89.3 grade from PFF in Alabama’s 42-21 victory in opposition to Ole Miss. Neal has proven versatility throughout his school profession, beginning 13 video games at left guard in 2019 and 13 video games at proper deal with in 2020. He has allowed just one sack in 206 dropback snaps and has not been known as for a penalty in 415 snaps total.
Guard: Eli Cox, Kentucky
In his first season because the beginning proper guard, Cox has helped solidify Kentucky’s “Big Blue Wall,” which has paved the way in which for the SEC’s main rusher, Chris Rodriguez Jr. Thanks to its punishing floor recreation, Kentucky is 6-0 for the primary time since 1950 and simply the second time previously 111 years. Described because the strongest pound-for-pound participant on the team, Cox had seven knockdown blocks, 15 blocks on the level of assault and did not miss an project in final week’s 42-21 victory in opposition to LSU. Overall, he has graded at 80.8 % with 15 knockdown blocks this season. He additionally recovered a fumble in the long run zone, which was the profitable landing in opposition to Missouri.
Center: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Hawkeyes’ homegrown star from Solon, Iowa, has been completely dominant throughout their 6-0 begin. According to Pro Football Focus, Linderbaum has a 92.8 run-blocking grade, which is 11 factors higher than another middle within the FBS. PFF additionally famous that he did not permit a sack, hurry or quarterback hit in Iowa’s 23-20 victory in opposition to No. 4 Penn State final week. He’s a transparent favourite to win the Rimington Trophy because the nation’s high middle.
Guard: Zion Johnson, Boston College
Johnson did not begin enjoying soccer till his senior 12 months of highschool and performed his first two seasons in school at Davidson. The Maryland native graded out as Boston College’s high lineman final season, after shifting from left guard to left deal with. He’s again at guard this season and has been simply pretty much as good. The Eagles have surrendered simply six sacks in 5 video games, fewest within the ACC. They additionally rank fifth in speeding at 185.6 yards per recreation.
Tackle: Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
The Wolfpack’s left deal with hasn’t allowed a sack in 371 snaps via 5 video games. Even extra spectacular, he has zero blown blocks on 152 run-play snaps and simply three blown blocks all season. A two-time ACC offensive lineman of the week this season, Ekwonu had a career-high 11 pancake blocks in opposition to Louisiana Tech and eight extra in opposition to Clemson.
End: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
A two-time captain at Michigan, Hutchinson is main a revived protection that has helped the Wolverines get off to a 6-0 begin. A senior from Plymouth, Michigan, Hutchinson is ninth within the FBS with 5½ sacks. PFF’s knowledge says he ranks seventh within the nation with a 29.7% move rush win charge. He is PFF’s highest-rated edge defender with a grade of 92.7.
Tackle: Jordan Davis, Georgia
Davis practically turned professional after the 2020 season, however Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart urged him to return to high school, get in form and play with extra effort and depth. His choice to return again is paying off in a giant means, as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. now tasks him as a top-15 choose. At 6 ft, 6 inches and 340 kilos, Davis is an area eater within the inside. But Davis’ extraordinary quickness for a person his measurement permits him to chase down quarterbacks within the backfield and working backs on the perimeter.
End: Tre Williams, Arkansas
The Missouri switch has been a giant a part of the Hogs’ revival below second-year coach Sam Pittman. The fifth-year senior is tied for the FBS lead with 21 quarterback pressures and leads the Razorbacks with 4 sacks to go together with 15 tackles and 4½ tackles for loss. He was at his greatest in a 20-10 upset of No. 7 Texas A&M with two sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Linebacker: Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Dean is each bit as impactful as Davis on the perfect protection within the FBS. The Mississippi native has greater than lived as much as his lofty status as a recruit. He has 23 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3½ sacks, 11 quarterback hurries and one interception via six video games. Dean is PFF’s highest-rated linebacker with an 89.3 grade.
Linebacker: Will Anderson, Alabama
After recording only one deal with for loss in his first six video games at Alabama, Anderson has 20½ previously 13. This season, he leads the SEC and ranks second within the FBS with 11 tackles for loss in six video games. He is also tied for the FBS lead with 21 quarterback pressures and leads all Power 5 defenders with 16 tackles at or behind the road of scrimmage.
Linebacker: Devin Lloyd, Utah
Lloyd has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Utes this season. He leads the league with 10.6 tackles per recreation and 9 tackles for loss in 5 video games. He had 6½ tackles for loss within the final three video games alone. In the Utes’ 42-26 win at USC final week, its first over the Trojans in Los Angeles since 1916, Lloyd had eight tackles, one deal with for loss and one move breakup. The two-time All-Pac-12 choice additionally leads the league with 10 run stuffs and 13 tackles at or behind the road of scrimmage.
Linebacker: Darien Butler, Arizona State
The first true sophomore captain in Arizona State historical past, Butler is spearheading a unit that leads the Pac-12 in scoring protection (16.2 factors) and complete protection (299 yards). Through six video games, Butler leads the Sun Devils with six tackles for loss and is tied for the team lead with 39 tackles to go together with two sacks and two interceptions. He has 12 tackles behind the road of scrimmage and 9 stops on runs for unfavorable yards or on the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback: Matt Hankins, Iowa
Hankins has been among the finest gamers on an Iowa protection that leads the FBS with 16 interceptions. According to knowledge from PFF, Hankins has allowed solely 44 passing yards in protection, and his 0.19 yards per protection snap ranks first amongst FBS gamers. He has three interceptions in six video games, which is tied for second within the Big Ten behind teammate Riley Moss’ 4.
Cornerback: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Gardner, a junior from Detroit, had the key sauce in Cincinnati’s victories in opposition to Indiana and Notre Dame, which helped the Bearcats rise to No. 3 within the AP ballot and put them within the CFP combine. In these two video games, he held opposing quarterbacks to solely 2-for-9 passing for 19 yards when focused. Overall, Gardner has two interceptions with 10 tackles and two move breakups in 5 video games.
Safety: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Kiper tasks Hamilton because the second-best participant accessible for the 2022 draft, and he has largely performed as much as that billing this season. He leads the Fighting Irish with three interceptions and is second with 33 tackles, to go together with 2½ tackles for loss and 4 move breakups. At 6-4 and 219 kilos, Hamilton is large enough and bodily sufficient to make performs on the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by his huge fourth-down cease in a 27-14 victory in opposition to Purdue.
Safety: Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
The switch from Lackawanna College is a team captain and chief of a Penn State protection that ranks second within the Big Ten in permitting simply 13.8 factors per recreation. Brown has 25 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss, two interceptions, three move breakups and one quarterback strain in six video games. In Penn State’s 16-10 win at Wisconsin within the opener, Brisker intercepted a move on the Nittany Lions’ 2 and returned it 41 yards with 2:16 to play.
Kicker: Nick Sciba, Wake Forest
Sciba is nearly automated in terms of kicking for the undefeated Demon Deacons. He is 12 for 12 on discipline targets this 12 months and has made 24 straight going again to final season, the longest lively streak within the FBS. It’s 10 shy of the NCAA document of 34 he set in 2018-19. Sciba has made 69-of-76 discipline purpose makes an attempt in his profession, a 90.8 success charge. That’s the best in NCAA historical past amongst gamers with a minimum of 50 makes an attempt. He has by no means missed in 152 point-after tries. He made a 29-yard discipline purpose with 22 seconds left in a 37-34 victory in opposition to Louisville on Oct. 2, his twenty second birthday.
Punter: Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Araiza has been a field-position weapon for the unbeaten Aztecs via 5 video games. He leads the FBS with a 54.1-yard common, which is 3.08 yards forward of the FBS document set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018. The San Diego native has put 14 of his 33 punts inside opponents’ 20-yard line, and 20 of his punts had been longer than 50 yards, together with three of greater than 70 yards.