The preseason Amway Coaches Poll is out. USA TODAY’s Paul Myerberg breaks down the biggest college football story lines from the top 25.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa headline the USA TODAY Sports preseason All-America teams for the Bowl Subdivision, with Lawrence edging past Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa for first-team honors among a star-studded group of contenders.
The first-team offense includes another Clemson standout in running back Travis Etienne, along with Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore. Five defenders from the SEC earned first-team accolades, including LSU safety Grant Delpit and Alabama lineman Raekwon Davis.
The debate between Lawrence and Tagovailoa was largely settled in January, when Lawrence’s near-perfect performance paced the Tigers past Alabama for the national championship. The Tigers and Tide combined for eight All-America selections.
While Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert missed the cut, the Ducks’ superb offensive line was recognized with three selections in Shane Lemieux, Penei Sewell and Calvin Throckmorton. The Ducks added a fourth All-America pick in linebacker Troy Dye, who earned second-team honors.
Six players come from the Group of Five ranks: Utah State returner Savon Scarver and linebacker David Woodward, Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, Central Florida safety Richie Grant and Temple returner Isaiah Wright.
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QB: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (So.)
After a strong offseason on the heels of a sterling debut campaign (30 touchdowns against four interceptions), Lawrence is bigger, stronger and even sharper mentally heading into his sophomore year.
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson (Jr.)
RB: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (So.)
Only Lawrence could overshadow what Etienne (1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns) has achieved since becoming the lead runner for the Tigers. Taylor (FBS-best 2,194 yards) continues to make his charge toward the career rushing record.
WR: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (Jr.)
WR: Rondale Moore, Purdue (So.)
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri (Jr.)
Jeudy (68 catches for 1,315 yards) is the unquestioned star on the nation’s top receiving corps. While the Boilermakers barely nudged into the postseason in 2018, Moore (114 receptions) was an absolute revelation. Okwuegbunam finished second for Missouri in receptions (43) and tied for first in touchdowns despite missing four games.
OL: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin (Jr.)
OL: Ben Bredeson, Michigan (Sr.)
OL: Shane Lemieux, Oregon (Sr.)
OL: Andrew Thomas, Georgia (Jr.)
OL: Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon (Sr.)
Biadasz is the face of Wisconsin’s remade offensive front and as good a starting point as you’ll find in the FBS. Bredeson anchors a line that powers Michigan’s potentially explosive offense. Thomas continues to make enormous strides as Georgia’s blind-side protector — his next stop is the first round of the NFL draft. Lemieux and Throckmorton are two of the most vital pieces behind Oregon’s push for the College Football Playoff.
DL: Derrick Brown, Auburn (Sr.)
DL: Raekwon Davis, Alabama (Sr.)
DL: A.J. Epenesa, Iowa (Jr.)
DL: Chase Young, Ohio State (Jr.)
Brown and Davis are dominant, havoc-causing SEC linemen. Across to the Big Ten, Epenesa (10.5 sacks) is ready to explode as an every-down performer and Young (14.5 tackles for loss) is the Buckeyes’ next great defensive end.
LB: Paddy Fisher, Northwestern (Jr.)
LB: Dylan Moses, Alabama (Jr.)
LB: Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (Jr.)
One of the Big Ten’s best linebackers since stepping on campus, Fisher (116 tackles) is the heart of what has become the league’s most underrated defense. Moses fits nicely in the Crimson Tide’s recent pantheon of stars at linebacker. Big enough to play linebacker and fast enough to play in the secondary, Simmons (97 tackles) might be the top defender in the country.
CB: Paulson Adebo, Stanford (Jr.)
CB: Bryce Hall, Virginia (Sr.)
S: Grant Delpit, LSU (Jr.)
S: J.R. Reed, Georgia (Sr.)
Adebo and Hall tied for the FBS lead last season with 24 pass breakups; the two stoppers can run with any receiver in the country. Delpit (74 tackles) is an elite athlete with a nose for the football. Reed has started every game across the past two seasons since joining Georgia as a transfer.
K: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse (So.)
P: Braden Mann, Texas A&M (Sr.)
RET: Savon Scarver, Utah State (Jr.)
As a freshman, Szmyt missed just four of his 34 field-goal attempts and was perfect from beyond 50 yards. Mann led the FBS in yards per punt (50.9) while the Aggies held opponents to 6.3 yards yards per punt return. Scarver (33.7 yards per kickoff return) is a threat to score on every attempt.
QB: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (Jr.)
RB: Eno Benjamin, Arizona State (Jr.)
RB: D’Andre Swift, Georgia (Jr.)
WR: Tee Higgins, Clemson (Jr.)
WR: Laviska Shenault, Colorado (Jr.)
TE: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (Sr.)
OL: Ezra Cleveland, Boise State (Jr.)
OL: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma (So.)
OL: Walker Little, Stanford (Jr.)
OL: Penei Sewell, Oregon (So.)
OL: Jedrick Willis Jr., Alabama (Jr.)
DL: Bradlee Anae, Utah (Sr.)
DL: Leki Fotu, Utah (Sr.)
DL: Xavier Thomas, Clemson (So.)
DL: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (Sr.)
LB: Troy Dye, Oregon (Sr.)
LB: Evan Weaver, California (Sr.)
LB: David Woodward, Utah State (Jr.)
CB: Lavert Hill, Michigan (Sr.)
CB: Jaylon Johnson, Utah (Jr.)
S: Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame (Jr.)
S: Richie Grant, UCF (Jr.)
K: Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia (Sr.)
P: Drue Chrisman, Ohio State (Jr.)
RET: Isaiah Wright, Temple (Sr.)