Bleacher Report's Spring Football All-American Team
The spring-football rotation gave fans the first and final glimpse of their squads before next season kicks off. After a stellar round of spring games that gave many teams hope for the future, it's time to put out an All-America team that reflects those performances.
The 2012 season saw a lot of young stars break out, and many of the players on this list will be returning because they can't leave yet.
Others are coming back for their senior season, which will allow them to claw their way up the draft ladder in hopes of landing that all-important first-round slot in April 2014.
Regardless of where each player ends up in the draft, here is the Bleacher Report All-America Team as it stands following spring practice.
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the reigning Heisman winner, and he overcame the associated curse during the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. That has made him a 4-to-1 favorite to repeat the feat.
As the reigning best player in college football, it should come as no surprise that Manziel graces this list as the starting quarterback.
Manziel went 295-of-434 for 3,706 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. He tacked on 201 carries for 1,409 yards and 21 more scores.
If he can achieve even 80 percent of those stats in 2013, he'll be an All-America selection again at the end of the season. The question is whether he'll be a first-string selection.
Running Back: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
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Ka'Deem Carey pounds the rock for the Arizona Wildcats, and he did a phenomenal job in 2012. He rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns on 303 carries.
He's an every-down back that opponents will key on in 2013. However, due to his game-by-game production, there is little hope for the enemy. Only two FBS teams held him below 100 yards last season.
He's clearly the go-to offensive weapon for Arizona, and he's good enough to get on this roster as well.
Running Back: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
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With Eddie Lacy gone to the Green Bay Packers, T.J. Yeldon is poised to take over as Alabama's top tailback in 2013.
While he will split carries with any number of players on the roster, Yeldon will prove that he's better than all of Alabama's past three running backs (Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Lacy).
He rushed for 1,108 yards in his freshman season, and Alabama beat LSU off his screen-pass-turned-touchdown. That victory proved to be one of the deciding factors in Alabama's bid for a national championship.
Without Yeldon's performance in that game, Alabama would have been a two-loss team playing outside the BCS bowls.
Wide Receiver: Marqise Lee, USC
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So far, his quarterback hasn't proved that he can do what Matt Barkley did, but Lee will still be one of the best (if not the best) wide receivers in the country.
USC has plenty going for it on offense, and there is a lot of new talent on its defense as well. (There will be more on that later.)
Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper, Alabama
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Alabama's Amari Cooper was highly effective in the SEC title game against Georgia. He was as effective in that game as T.J. Yeldon was in the LSU game.
Cooper caught what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown against the Bulldogs in the 32-28 contest. Cooper was a true freshman in 2012, and contributing to a national championship at that age is a rarity.
The Miami native will be even better in 2013, and he will be in the running for the Biletnikoff Award against the reigning award winner, Marqise Lee.
Tight End: Colt Lyerla, Oregon
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The 6'5", 238-pounder didn't have stellar stats in 2012, but he was a valuable part of the blocking scheme for the Ducks' third-ranked rushing attack and second-ranked scoring offense.
Lyerla has earned a spot on this list with his performance last season. Even if his stats don't improve that much in 2013, his overall body of work will keep him here.
Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
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Taylor Lewan kept South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in check throughout the entire Outback Bowl. Sure, there's hype surrounding the giant hit that Clowney leveled on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, but Lewan wasn't actually responsible for Clowney on that play.
If you (rightfully) take that hit out of the equation, then Lewan and Clowney were basically at a stalemate for the entire match.
Any tackle that can hold down the nation's best defensive end deserves to be on this list (and in the NFL already, but that's a whole other argument).
Offensive Tackle: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
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Jake Matthews is replacing Luke Joeckel at left tackle in 2013. If he lives up to his billing, then he is an obvious pick for this team.
He finished 2012 as a third-string selection to the AP All-America Team, and the two ahead of him (D.J. Fluker and Luke Joeckel) were just drafted.
Matthews is on the short list of prospective stars in the 2014 draft class, and he could easily break into the top five with a great performance in 2013.
Offensive Guard: Spencer Long, Nebraska
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Spencer Long is an anchor on Nebraska's offensive line, and he's returning for his final season in 2013. Behind his leadership, there's no telling what Nebraska can do in the Big Ten this coming season.
No matter what, Long will still be one of the top linemen in the country. In 2012, Nebraska finished eighth in the country in rushing offense. That was all a combination of the offensive line and quarterback Taylor Martinez.
The passing attack ranked 90th, further asserting the dominance of Nebraska's offensive line. Why pass the ball when you can run it so easily?
Offensive Guard: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
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Behind Cyril Richardson's offensive line, Baylor produced the fourth- and 14th-ranked passing and rushing attacks, respectively, last season. That combination not only put the Bears at No. 4 overall in scoring, but it led them to a huge victory over then-No. 1 Kansas State.
That was one of Baylor's top-10 moments in history, and Richardson will be back to anchor the offensive line again in 2013. If Baylor has proved one thing over the past couple of years, it's that it doesn't need a star quarterback.
Richardson may not be as famous, but he's equally a part of Baylor's recent success. Any team would be lucky to have him on its line, even in the NFL.
Center: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
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Travis Frederick, Brian Schwenke, Barrett Jones, Khaled Holmes and T.J. Johnson all got drafted. Not all of them were better than Gabe Ikard, but their collective departure guarantees that he's the front-runner for the 2013 Rimington Trophy as the country's best center.
Ikard led the nation's fifth-best passing attack from center, and the Oklahoma Sooners earned a share of the Big 12 title. On the surface, Oklahoma's 61st-ranked rushing offense looks a little humdrum, but the Sooners had the country's No. 15 scoring offense.
Just as Nebraska didn't need to pass due to a successful rushing attack, Oklahoma didn't need to run the ball to score. Ikard will anchor the potential Big 12 champions again in 2013. Don't be surprised to see him at the Senior Bowl, either.
Defensive End: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
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Jadeveon Clowney is one of the best players in the country, and he proved it again against Michigan on the legendary first-down play that essentially gave South Carolina the win.
Clowney racked up 23.5 tackles for loss (tied for second) and 13 sacks (also tied for second) last season. He has been the subject of articles attacking the three-year rule and had essentially already reached legendary status by the time his sophomore season came to a close.
Those accolades aren't necessarily undeserved, but his on-field performance is the only thing that got him on this list. If he plays as well as he has in his first two seasons, then he will at least earn a trip to New York in December 2013.
Defensive End: Aaron Lynch, South Florida
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This name might not be as familiar to fans as the others on this list: Aaron Lynch. He transferred to the South Florida Bulls from Notre Dame and was forced to sit out the 2012 season.
He tallied six starts for the Irish as a freshman and racked up 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2011. He added a forced fumble and 14 quarterback hurries as well.
Lynch may be the most underrated defensive end in college football for the 2013 season, but not here. He was touted as possibly Notre Dame's best defensive player back before the transfer, and he should still be top-notch this fall.
Defensive Tackle: Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
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Stephon Tuitt will lead the Notre Dame defense in 2013, much as he did in 2012. This time, though, he won't be sharing the spotlight with Notre Dame great Manti Te'o.
Tuitt racked up 45 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, one forced fumble (and another returned for a touchdown) and a blocked kick. That was just last season.
He's a lethal defensive tackle, and he easily makes the post-spring list.
Defensive Tackle: Will Sutton, Arizona State
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Will Sutton was a beast in 2012, recording 12 sacks (only one behind Jadeveon Clowney), which averaged out to one per game.
In addition, Sutton logged 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Just thinking about him, Stephon Tuitt and Clowney all on the same defense would put a smile on almost any college football fan's face.
Sutton was the leader of the Arizona State defense, and he'll play an even greater role in 2013. His senior season will be one for the Arizona State record books, and he'll be drafted highly after his final audition for the NFL scouts.
Linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
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Beginning the linebackers section is C.J. Mosley of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Mosley will be the senior leader of the Tide's defense in 2013.
He totaled 107 tackles last season, and his behind-the-line performance seems to be lacking at eight tackles for loss and four sacks. However, he's a sure tackler in space. Over 60 percent of his takedowns (66 out of 107) were of the solo variety. He also added a forced fumble and two interceptions, making him a legitimate threat in the turnover battle.
Alabama could not have done much better in scoring defense last season, and Mosley was a huge part of that. Mosley will be Alabama's headliner on defense.
The marquee player on the nation's top defense should definitely be on the list.
Linebacker: Kyle Van Noy, BYU
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Kyle Van Noy is one of the best defenders in the country. Van Noy's 52 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and two interceptions (one was a pick-six) would look decent on an entire collegiate resume.
The Nevada product did all that just in 2012. Van Noy is a terror to opposing offenses, and the only bad thing there is to say about him is that he's only got one more season in college. Boy, are those Cougars going to miss him in 2014.
Until then, he'll be the face of the entire program.
Linebacker: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
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Jeremiah Attaochu is a highly underrated linebacker for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He was integral to Tech's defense last season, and he's heading into his final college season in 2013.
Attaochu blasted 69 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and a forced fumble last season on the way to the Yellow Jackets' ACC championship-game berth.
Attaochu has flown in stealth mode long enough. He's a beast, and he should be on everyone's watch list for a potential first-round selection in the 2014 draft.
Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Ohio State
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Bradley Roby was an All-American last season after only one year of coaching by Urban Meyer. Meyer's turnaround at Ohio State was swift and decisive, and the Buckeyes were potential contenders for the national title if not for that pesky postseason ban.
In the meantime, Roby hooked Ohio State up with 62 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), 17 pass breakups and a blocked kick.
Roby has yet another year of development to put under his belt heading into 2013, and the Buckeyes will be counting on him to help lock down the secondary. He will gladly oblige, and he may declare early for the draft if his season goes well enough.
Cornerback: Leon McQuay III, USC
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The other cornerback on this list earned his spot during spring practice. Leon McQuay III has taken over the top spot for the USC Trojans following a great spring.
He was the sixth-ranked safety in the 2013 recruiting class, and he's already gotten himself on the field at a major FBS program that needs serious help on defense. (USC ranked 53rd against the pass last season.)
McQuay will be tried by fire in the Pac-12, and he will combine with the next player on this list to make one of the most formidable secondary tandems in the nation. Their combined efforts could very well put USC back into conference contention in 2013.
McQuay had a terrific spring, and the early-enrollment option paid dividends for him already.
Safety: Su'a Cravens, USC
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Su'a Cravens also enrolled early at USC and earned a starting slot on the roster. Cravens was the No. 1 safety of the 2013 recruiting cycle, and he's extremely talented.
He will help Leon McQuay lock down USC's secondary, and the Trojans are in dire need of more defenders as talented as Cravens.
Cravens will step out onto the field against teams like Oregon and Arizona and make a name for himself before the 2013 bowl season rolls around.
Safety: Ed Reynolds, Stanford
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The final member of the defense hails from the Pac-12 as well. Ed Reynolds is an interesting specimen at the safety position.
He made 47 tackles, but his most impressive stats were his interception numbers. He picked off six passes, returned three for touchdowns and averaged over 50 yards per interception return.
He is a game-changer for the Cardinal, and he would be a game-changer for any team that he played for. Don't forget to look for him in this season's Senior Bowl. He'll be there.
Kicker: Austin Lopez, San Jose State
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Austin Lopez of the San Jose State Spartans is one of the best kickers in the nation, and the only thing keeping him out of the national knowledge base is his small sample size.
He made 17-of-17 field goals last season, but had a long of only 45 yards. He connected from 30 or more yards out on eight of his 17 kicks.
Even without kicking any from over 50 yards, one cannot overlook the fact that he was 100-percent accurate through the entire year. That's better than most kickers in the FBS.
Punter: Kyle Christy, Florida
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Kyle Christy burst onto the scene in 2012, and he overtook LSU's Brad Wing as the SEC's best punter. Christy averaged 45.8 yards per punt, which was good for a fifth-place national rank.
He was the only punter in the top five last year that wasn't a senior. Christy is one of the biggest advantages that Florida brings to the field in any game it plays.
Leaving him off this list would be a mistake.
All-Purpose Player: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
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Johnny Manziel might have won the Heisman, but he had a distinct advantage over Jordan Lynch. That was the Texas A&M offensive line.
Lynch did everything he did last season without a stellar offensive line. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that Lynch may have won the Heisman if he'd been at a major school.
Lynch is a stellar athlete, and it would be wise to give him the ball in every possible situation. If for nothing else, just to see what he is actually capable of.