ESPN's Preseason All-American Football Team 2012: Analyzing the Picks

Tim KeeneyContributor IAugust 29, 2012

ESPN's Preseason All-American Football Team 2012: Analyzing the Picks

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    ESPN has released it's college football preseason All-Americans, and just like every list of this nature, there will be much debate.

    The guys and gals over in Bristol did a solid job with their 2012 selections, but again, not everyone will ever be completely satisfied. It's just impossible. 

    There are too many talented players in the college football world, too many potential choices, too many favorite schools...and too much bias.

    That being said, let's take a gander at the final choices.

    For a complete look at ESPN's picks and analysis, click here.

Special Teams

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    K: Brett Maher, Nebraska

    P: Brad Wing, LSU

    KR: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon


    You'd be hard-pressed to find a college football player more exciting than Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.

    And he's still just a true sophomore. 

    Last year, just one year removed from high school, Thomas racked up 595 rushing yards (on an unfair 10.8 yards per carry), 605 receiving yards and 983 kick-return yards. The Usain Bolt of college football is just the type of player you need to see to get an idea of how impressive his speed is. 

    He's the perfect pick for returner.

    As for the kickers, Maher and Wing also make sense. The Nebraska senior was deadly accurate last year from inside 50 yards while still showcasing a powerful leg from deep.

    Wing gives LSU not only his strong Australian leg but also an ability to pin opponents deep.

    Oh, and he can run pretty well, too. 

Defensive Line

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    DE: Sam Montgomery, LSU

    DT: Jesse Williams, Alabama

    DT: Star Lotulelei, Utah

    DE: John Simon, Ohio State

     

    The obvious pick in this group is Utah's Lotulelei. He might fly under the radar playing for Utah in the Pac-12, but he's an absolute force in the middle.

    The future top-10 NFL draft pick constantly sees double teams but still finds a way to create havoc in the backfield.

    The man is downright scary. 

    Who should comprise the rest of the DL list comes down to your opinion. All three of the other choices certainly deserve at least a first- or second-team honor, but two defensive ends from Texas (Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor), along with Florida State's Brandon Jenkins and Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, could all make a case for being chosen.

    I would have went Jenkins, Williams, Lotulelei and Okafor, but ESPN's picks are far from a stretch.  

Linebackers

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    LB: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

    LB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia

    LB: Chase Thomas, Stanford

     

    I really like these picks, but that's probably just because the choices are fairly obvious.

    Te'o would most assuredly have been a first-round pick in this past April's NFL draft had he left the Fighting Irish after last season. But now that he's back for another year of elite production, he's an easy choice for first team All-American.

    So is Jones, who led the SEC in sacks (second in the nation) and tackles for loss last year en route to being chosen as a consensus All-American.

    The only pick here really up for debate is Thomas, who easily could have seen teammate Shayne Skov (whose suspension likely hurt his chances) or North Carolina's Kevin Reddick (I wonder how UNC fans feel about having a Reddick on their team) take his spot. 

Secondary

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    CB: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

    CB: David Amerson, NC State

    S: Eric Reid, LSU

    S: T.J. McDonald, USC

     

    Johnthan Banks—does he know he's missing a vowel in his name?—is an intriguing choice considering the media didn't even vote him to the preseason All-SEC first team.

    But with Tyrann Mathieu's spot now wide open, Banks deserves the honor. 

    As does Amerson, who pulled in a ridiculous 12 interceptions as a sophomore last year, which was easily tops in the country. 

    The safeties are legitimate choices, although it's pretty clear in my mind that Georgia's Bacarri Rambo deserves one of the spots—provided he avoids a possible suspension—not just because he has the best name in college football, but because he's silly talented. 

Offensive Line

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    OT: Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

    OG: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

    C: Barrett Jones, Alabama

    OG: Chance Warmack, Alabama

    OT: Oday Aboushi, Virginia

     

    You could ask 20 people and they all might choose a different offensive lineman, as that's just the nature of picking these big guys to All-American teams.

    Often times, there is just no clear way to separate them.

    That being said, I would have to agree with most of these picks, with the exception of Aboushi. That's not to say the senior isn't talented—that couldn't be further from the truth—but there are some better choices.

    Most notably, Alabama's D.J. Fluker.

    It would mean giving the Crimson Tide three of the five offensive line spots, but Fluker is arguably the best tackle in the country. RBs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are likely very happy gentlemen heading into this season.

    They will have a lot of holes to run through. 

Receivers

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    TE: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

    WR: Robert Woods, USC

    WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

     

    Eifert and Woods are easy choices.

    Eifter, the Notre Dame tight end, pulled in 63 catches for 803 yards last season and should only improve, especially if Everett Golson turns out to be as good as everyone says he is. 

    Woods, meanwhile, had a video-game season last year. The true sophomore reeled in 111 balls—yes, 111 catches—for 1,292 yards and seven touchdowns. No brainer.  

    Austin was almost just as productive, as he hauled in 101 catches for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns, while adding solid production as a kick returner. The senior is downright impossible to cover.

    But I see more talented receivers having better years in 2012. 

    Washington State's Marquess Wilson should have a ridiculous season in new head coach Mike Leach's wide-open passing attack. Cal's Keenan Allen will also benefit from the fast-paced nature of the Pac-12. Sammy Watkins of Clemson—if he stays out of trouble—can rack up yards in a number of different ways.

    Again, it's nothing against Austin. He'll be huge once again with Geno Smith throwing him the ball.

    I just would have picked one of those other guys ahead of him. 

Running Backs

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    RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

    RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

     

    In 2011, Montee Ball racked up 2,229 total yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns. He was a consensus All-American and finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

    And he stayed in school.

    Another monstrous year is coming for the Wisconsin senior. He's the easiest pick of this entire list. 

    Lattimore's inclusion, on the hand, depends on how you feel about his knee. There's little question about his talent—most draft boards have him as the No. 1 NFL running back—but he is coming off a season-ending ACL injury.

    If Lattimore proves to be back at full speed—and most reports indicate he is—this will be the right pick. If he doesn't, then someone like Knile Davis will probably replace him on the end-of-the-season list. 

Quarterback

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    QB: Matt Barkley, USC

    There's no question that Barkley was going to be this pick, but that doesn't necessarily make it a clear-cut decision. 

    Landry Jones, Tyler Wilson and Geno Smith—all would have made for fine picks, but I also would have went with Barkley in the end.