College Football: Grading Every All-American List

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2012

College Football: Grading Every All-American List

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    When analyzing the nine major All-American lists that came out last week, the one thing we know for sure is that the people handing out high honors agree almost as much as they disagree.

    Yes, though each of the nine lists we reviewed has its own unique attributes, it's fairly amazing that of the 25 positions that grace most All-American honor rolls, nine are completely, 100-percent agreed on by all our lists. Beyond this, four additional positions represent player agreement on eight out of nine of the rolls we reviewed.   

    The unanimous All-Americans in this presentation offensively are WR Marqise Lee from USC, TE Zach Ertz from Stanford, OT Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M, OG Chance Warmack from Alabama and OG Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina.

    Defensively, the unanimous winners are DE Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina, LB Manti Te'o from Notre Dame, LB Jarvis Jones from Georgia and CB Dee Milliner from Alabama.

    The following slideshow moves away from the agreements between the nine major All-American lists and pinpoints their differences to gauge strengths and weaknesses, ultimately awarding each an overall grade.

    It’s admittedly a subjective business, but it’s also an interesting exercise in analyzing how different bodies go about declaring which players are the “best of the best” in a given season of college football.

    As a note, this discussion is limited to the first-team All-American lists offered by the nine sources included below.

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    CBS’s All-American team was voted on by “staff, writers and bloggers from,” and being that the network features SEC games, it’s no surprise that there is a SEC flair to the list.

    This wild accusation should be quantified by saying that by “flair” we mean slight leaning in certain positions, as opposed to a completely biased offering.

    On offense, the list is noteworthy at RB, where’s staff chooses UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin as the back to compliment Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, as opposed to Oregon’s Kenjon Barner or Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, which were far more popular choices.

    In fact, CBS was one of only two lists (Lindy’s was the other) to give Franklin first-team honors, even though he finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation in rushing yards (versus only No. 28 in rushing TDs).

    At OT, CBS was one of only two of our lists (the other was to select Alabama’s D.J. Fluker over Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, who made five of the nine lists, and Stanford’s David Yankey, who was selected twice.

    It is interesting to note that as a unit Michigan allowed less sacks (15) in 2012 than either Stanford (19) or Alabama (23).

    Defensively, CBS was one of only three lists (Lindy’s and AT&T ESPN’s were the others) to select sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame, who even with 11 sacks wasn’t necessarily all-world in 2012.

    Overall Grade: B-


Sporting News

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    The most colorful All-American list in our presentation, the Sporting News’ honor roll sets itself apart from the rest of the pack in only a few instances.

    On defense, the Sporting News is the only listing to award Florida’s DL Sharrif Floyd with first-team honors, a big deal for a junior with 41 tackles (26 solo), 11 tackles for a loss, one sack, six QB hurries, one forced fumble and one blocked kick.

    In another show of SEC and Gator love, the Sporting News was one of only three lists (with CBS and Athlon) to recognize Florida DB Matt Elam, who racked up 65 tackles (49 solo), four picks, one sack, five broken-up passes, one forced fumble and 10 tackles for a loss.

    The final tip of the cap to Florida came in the Sporting News’ first-team nod to Florida’s kicker, Caleb Sturgis. The Sporting News was the only list to award Sturgis first-team honors—a real conundrum given the fact that he went 23-of-27, or 85.2 percent, on field goals in 2012, earning him the No. 14 spot nationally.

    This means that 13 kickers were better than Sturgis.

    Overall Grade:  C+


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    Moving on to one of the most popular preseason magazine’s postseason All-American offering, Athlon played it fairly safe with its honor roll.

    Offensively, Athlon was one of four lists (the others were AFCA, Walter Camp and AT&T ESPN) to honor Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with first-team honors. 

    This selection could be argued several different ways, but at the end of the day, Ball was the No. 3 rusher in the nation in 2012 in terms of yards and was No. 4 in rushing TDs. 

    Tack on the injury, the record setting and the late surge from his team, and it starts to seem like Athlon got it right, while others missed the mark.

    From the defense, Athlon was one of only two lists (the other was to tip the cap to Utah’s DL Star Lotulelei, a brave selection for a guy who played for the defense that ranked No. 48 in scoring defense in 2012.

    Lotulelei racked up 42 tackles (25 solo), five sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, four broken-up passes and three forced fumbles this season. These are great numbers, until you stack them up with Arizona State’s Will Sutton (58 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 20 TFL, five broken-up passes).

    The other relative oddity is the selection of Oklahoma’s DB Tony Jefferson, who earned first-team honors from the Bleacher Report as well, but other than that wasn’t mentioned on the other seven lists.

    Jefferson ripped it up in 2012 with 113 tackles and 3.5 TFL, but only nabbed 2 picks.

    Overall Grade:  B+


American Football Coaches Association

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    The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) has been selecting All-American teams since 1945 and currently takes on the huge task of filling honor rolls for all five divisions of college football.

    The AFCA’s 2012 version of its FBS All-American list is noteworthy for three selections that are completely outside of the normwith one being almost shocking.

    Beginning with the most surprising election first, the AFCA awarded first team honors at QB to Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, as opposed to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who is now also the Heisman Trophy winner.

    Though Boyd’s passer rating of 168.53 is better than Manziel’s 155.85, it’s hard to deny Johnny Football’s athletic gifts and the way he’s managed to harness these for victorious purposes.

    What’s most shocking is that it’s the collective voting of the coaches that has put Boyd’s name in front of Manziel’s for first-team honors at QB.

    The second huge difference between the AFCA list and the other eight in this presentation comes at center, where all our other offerings honor Alabama’s Barrett Jones. 

    In this case, the AFCA selects Clemson’s Dalton Freeman, who anchors the line that leads the way for the No. 32-ranked rushing offense in the land, a unit that has given up 26 sacks this season (No. 78 in the nation).

    The last surprise comes at special teams, where the AFCA once again went out on its own and uniquely chose Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp as its first-teamer at Kicker.

    Sharp has double-teamed as both the Cowboys’ kicker and punter in 2012, and though he’s done a fine job, his field-goal percentage of 80.6 is No. 26 nationally.

    That’s right, at 25-of-31, there are 25 guys who have been more successful at kicking field goals this season.

    Overall Grade: D

Walter Camp

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    Perhaps the most prestigious of the lists in our presentation, the 2012 All-American team represents Walter Camp’s 123rd offering.

    Overall, Walter Camp’s honor roll leaves little to question: the D-Line is filled out with Utah’s Star Lotulelei (a pick we dissected earlier, shared only with Athlon and and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore (chosen by five lists).

    Really, the only oddity comes in the defensive backfield, where Walter Camp is one of only three lists (the others are Lindy’s and to select DB Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State.

    Banks racked up 59 tackles (37 solo), two tackles for a loss, seven broken-up passes, one forced fumble and four picks for 124 return yards in 2012.

    Another thing to like about Walter Camp’s list is the choice of Kent State’s Dri Archer at kick returner. Archer averaged 35.81 yards per return this season, and his three TDs tied him for No. 2 nationally. 

    Overall Grade: A-


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    Like Athlon, Lindy’s cranks out a popular preseason magazine and also churns out a top-notch All-American offering.

    Lindy’s 2012 first-team awards are one of only two (the other was CBS) to honor UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin at RB, a guy who was long on yards this season (1,700) but somewhat short on TDs (13).

    Defensively, Lindy’s joined ESPN and CBS in awarding Notre Dame’s DL Stephon Tuitt honors while being one of only two lists (ESPN was the other) to leave Florida State’s DL Bjoern Werner off the first-team roll call completely.

    This seems somewhat criminal when you stack up Tuitt’s 11 TFL versus Werner’s 18, Tuitt’s 20 solo tackles versus Werner’s 28, Tuitt’s 11 sacks versus Werner’s 13 and Tuitt’s single broken-up pass versus Werner’s seven.

    Another guy completely MIA on Lindy’s list is Oregon State’s CB Jordan Poyer, who made all the All-American lists mentioned here with the exception of Lindy’s,’s and ESPN’s.

    In this case, he’s replaced with Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, who we discussed in the Walter Camp slide.

    Lindy’s is also one of the lists that chose LSU’s Eric Reid at safety over Florida’s Matt Elam, which based on straight-up stats seems a bit dubious at best.

    In the plus column, Lindy’s boldly went where no other All-American list dared to go on special teams and selected Tulane kicker Cairo Santos, who at 21-of-21 was one of only two to go 100 percent on field goals in 2012.

    Kudos for Lindy’s for opting out of following the crowd of six lists who chose Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, who went 24-of-28, or 85.7, on field goals this season.

    Overall Grade: C+

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    Voted on by “football experts from around the country,”’s 2012 All-American team offers a little something different for everybody.

    Offensively, FoxSportsNext is one of only two lists (the other being CBS) to select Alabama’s D.J. Fluker at OT in tandem with Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, as opposed to Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, who was chosen by five of nine lists.

    From the defense, Fox (we’ll just call them that for short), was of the trio of lists (along with Athlon and Walter Camp) to honor DL Star Lotulelei from Utah and then took things a step further by awarding the final spot on the D-line to Johnathan Hankins from Ohio State.

    This makes Fox (who also selected Clowney from South Carolina and Werner from FSU) the only list to leave both Arizona State’s Will Sutton and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore off its first-team list.

    To delve further in to Hankins, it’s interesting to stack up his stats this season with that of Moore’s.

    Hankins had 50 total tackles while Moore had 80, Hankins had four TFL versus Moore’s 20 and Hankins registered one sack while Moore reeled off 12.5.

    The picture is pretty clear.

    Fox also left Oregon’s State Jordan Poyer out of its defensive backfield, and though they added LSU’s Eric Reid and kept Florida’s Matt Elam on the first-team, it was one of only three lists devoid of Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas.

    Thomas, a senior strong safety with eight picks for three TDs, 82 tackles, 12 TFL, four sacks and four forced fumbles was also left off Athlon and the Bleacher Report’s first-team offerings.

    This seems like a sizeable omission.

    On special teams, Fox was the only list to tip its cap to Florida’s punter Kyle Christy, who actually fell five slots short of Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, who finished No.1 in average yards per punt. Allen also received first-team All-American honors from seven of the nine lists we reviewed.

    Overall Grade: C-



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    It should be no surprise that the “worldwide leader in sports” has both an All-American honor roll and a highbrow sponsor for the list itself.

    The AT&T ESPN first-team All-American listing plays it oh so safe offensively and then rolls the dice from a defensive standpoint.

    To get things rolling, like Lindy’s, ESPN leaves Florida State’s DL Bjoern Werner totally off its first team, a problem that is exasperated by the fact that it only selects three defensive linemen so it can pick four linebackers.

    The D-line is filled out with South Carolina’s super-stud Jadeveon Clowney (a pick that all nine lists share), Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore.

    The linebacker corps consists of Manti Te'o from Notre Dame and Jarvis Jones from Georgia (both who have been selected unanimously by all our lists) and then is completed by Michael Mauti of Penn State and Khaseem Greene of Rutgers.

    What this means is that even with four linebackers honored, ESPN is the only list that omits Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, who is otherwise honored across the board.

    From a total-tackles perspective, Mosley had 99 in 2012 (seven for a loss, four sacks), while Mauti had 96 (four for a loss, 2.5 sacks) and Greene had 125 (10.5 for a loss, 5.5 sacks).

    Perhaps ESPN was on to something with the bold selection of Rutgers’ Greene, who was overlooked by the rest of the lists we reviewed.

    ESPN, like Lindy’s and, left Oregon State’s DB Jordan Poyer off its first-team as well as Florida’s Matt Elam.

    Not forgotten was super-stud Phillip Thomas of Fresno State (see the slide for his stats) and added in to the first-team backfield was Ohio State’s Bradley Roby.

    Roby’s only other first-team honors in our presentation come via the Bleacher Report’s list, and his 62 tackles, two TFL, one sack and two picks were made a lot more impressive by a whopping 17 broken-up passes (good for No. 3 in the nation in 2012).

    Still, Roby played for the No. 74 nationally ranked passing defense, and his numbers just don’t stack up with other top DBs in the nation.

    Overall Score: B-

Bleacher Report

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    Returning a little closer to home, we review the Bleacher Report’s comprehensive All-American listings headed up by the talented Danny Flynn.

    As you’d expect, the Bleacher Report isn’t afraid to step up and make some bold selections, honoring athletes that other lists may have overlooked (wrongly or rightly).

    First off, B/R is the only list to select North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, who rushed for 1,228 yards this season, making him the No. 27 back in the land. What makes Bernard’s case more impressive is the fact that his average yards per carry, 6.67, is No. 20 nationally, and his average yards per game, 122.80, is No. 10.

    Next, B/R is the only list that didn’t tip its cap to Baylor’s WR Terrance Williams, who finished the season No. 1 in receiving yards. B/R opted out for West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who finished No. 6 in yards.

    Though B/R went with the flow at D-line with selections like South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moorethe final pick was wholly unique.

    Yes, the final selection at D-line went to Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson, who with 75 tackles, 10.5 TFL, four sacks, one fumble return, three broken-up passes, seven QB hurries, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick was a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough type pick.

    Perhaps this is a guy who shouldn’t have totally been overlooked despite the fact he played for a 5-7 team.

    In the defensive backfield, B/R did honor Alabama’s Dee Milliner (as did every other list) and Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer (as did all but three), but it uniquely selected Ohio State’s Bradley Roby (the only other being ESPN) and Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson (the only other being Athlon).

    B/R didn’t leave special teams untouched either, selecting Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp at punter (every other list had Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, with the exception of FoxSportsNext with Florida’s Kyle Christy).  Sharp is the No. 8-ranked punter in terms of average yards per punt.

    An additional exception came at kick returner, where B/R honored Miami’s Duke Johnson at the first-team level. Johnson finished the season ranked No. 4 in average kick-return yards (33.04) and No. 7 in total kick-return yards (892), all the more impressive given the fact he’s a freshman.

    Overall Grade: C