Preseason conference teams and watch lists begin to release as we inch closer to the college football season. There are very few names in college football who hold more weight than Phil Steele, who decided to release his preseason All-American teams for the upcoming season.
The list includes players from 63 different schools, and all 10 conferences were represented. There is a ton of talent across the board and it is really hard to nitpick, but there are some valid disagreements that can be made.
After glancing over all four teams, let's check out some of the biggest hits and misses with Steele's All-American teams.
There is no problem with listing De'Anthony Thomas as a first-team Pac-12 selection. But considering him as a first-team All-American player is more than a stretch.
Thomas doesn't get the ball enough to be a first-team player. He has yet to have a season of 100 rushing attempts and he isn't involved in the passing game as much as you would like, either. Thomas should see a larger workload with Kenjon Barner now in the NFL, but the same case could have been made when LaMichael James left Oregon.
The Black Mamba is the most exciting player in college football, but he needs more carries if he is going to compete with some of the other elite running backs. Thomas should switch places with second-teamer Todd Gurley of Georgia, who had a monster freshman season and is poised to make a run as the nation's top running back.
Stephon Tuitt can get lost in all of the talk about South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. Believe it or not, there are other great defensive ends in the country besides the eventual first-round NFL draft pick.
Tuitt finished last season with 11 sacks, 45 tackles and a fumble recovery he returned 77 yards for a touchdown. His athleticism and quickness off the ball isn't as beastly as Clowney's, but it is nothing to sneeze at. He gets into the backfield in a hurry and carries his weight extremely well for somebody who is pushing 300-plus pounds.
Tuitt really established himself his sophomore season and will be the engine to making this Notre Dame defense go. It's great to see that he has earned the respect he deserves.
Players have to earn the right to receive preseason first-team honors. Sammy Watkins has not if we are judging his performance on last season.
Watkins was extremely inconsistent, hauling in just 57 passes for 708 yards and three touchdowns. He missed four games due to various reasons and was badly outshined by his counterpart DeAndre Hopkins. Watkins will now be asked to become the No. 1 option and won't have the help of having another talented receiver to take away some of the attention.
Yes, Watkins has proved to be an explosive player and had a monster season in 2011. But he really got caught in the sophomore slump and it took a while for him to get going. It wouldn't be surprising to see him finish the season as a first-team selection, but he has to prove he has found himself first.
It seems like Ed Reynolds came out of nowhere. He missed all of the 2011 season with a leg injury, but he was sure to make his mark when he finally took the field last season. Reynolds quickly became one of the leaders for Stanford and was a player who did his talking on the field.
He finished with six interceptions, which was the most for a Cardinal player since 1973. He also returned three of those takeaways for touchdowns and finished 10th on the team with 47 tackles. Reynolds was a game-changer for Stanford and will be counted on more than ever his senior year.
The Stanford safety was a first-team Pac-12 selection, now it is time for him to take that next step.
Phil Steele did not include Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota on any of his four teams.
The quarterbacks that were picked include Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, A.J. McCarron and Teddy Bridgewater. All are great quarterbacks, but will they really have a better season than Mariota?
The better question may be: Did they even have better seasons last year?
While Manziel was receiving all of the hype, Mariota completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also ran for 752 yards and five scores. Mariota ran that Oregon offense to perfection as a freshman.
Throw the big names out the window, Mariota deserves much more credit than what he is receiving.
Preseason lists are always fun to look over because it gives guys who play on lousy teams a chance to shine. Stefon Diggs plays for Maryland—a team that only won four games last year and is showing no signs of life—and is by far one of the best players in the country.
Diggs caught 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Keep in mind that he was playing with numerous different quarterbacks and was the only threat on the entire team. Diggs also ran for 221 yards and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. A total of 10 of his 54 receptions produced more than 25 yards.
The scary part is that he was only a true freshman.
Diggs will continue to be overshadowed by receivers who play on great teams, but very few are as talented as him.