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College Football's All-Week 1 First Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2016

College Football's All-Week 1 First Team: Top Performers at Every Position

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    You never get a second chance to make a first impression, but for some players, why would they want to? The impression they made in the first week of the college football season was plenty good enough as it stands.

    It was only the first weekend of a four-plus-month marathon, but a few of the standout performers from Wednesday-Saturday have put themselves on track to become household names (if they weren't already) or compete for major national awards.

    This All-Week 1 team is a collection of those standouts, the ones at each position who got their season off to the best start. A large part of that criteria is statistical, but numbers are not the only factor at play.

    Also considered (strongly) was the strength of opponent those numbers came against and the way the players looked on film. If a defensive lineman consistently got into the backfield and forced bad throws that turned into interceptions, he deserves more credit than the defender who actually picked them off…right?

    Sound off below and let me know whom I might have missed.

     

    Note: This piece was published before the Sunday and Monday games. If anything happens to affect the All-Week 1 team, it will be edited.

Quarterback: Kenny Hill, Texas A&M

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    Week 1 Stats

    44-of-60 passing, 511 yards, three TD, 0 INT

     

    Why He Stood Out

    No Johnny? No problem.

    Kenny Hill didn't just do his best Johnny Manziel impression in Texas A&M's season opener; he broke Manziel's single-game passing record with 511 yards. He was just as good as Manziel getting outside the pocket, but instead of wearing blinders and completing every play with his legs, he kept his eyes upfield and made plays with his arm.

    He did all this, too, in a true road game against a South Carolina team that was ranked in the Top 10. Obviously, the Gamecocks did not look like a true top-10 team, but they definitely have some quality athletes and won't get shredded like paper very often this season.

    If nothing else, Williams-Brice Stadium has been one of the hardest places in the country to play—much less debut—these past five seasons.

    Hill made it look like he was playing the scout team in practice.

     

    Second Team: Taysom Hill, BYU

    Stats: 28-of-36 passing, 308 yards, three TD, zero INT; 12 carries, 97 yards, two TD

    Taysom Hill was dynamite with his legs—what else is new?—but equally impressive with his arm in a 35-10 dismantling of UConn. By completing almost 80 percent of his passes, he showed a newfound confidence and accuracy that could make him a dark-horse Heisman candidate. BYU just needs to keep winning.

     

    Third Team: Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

    Stats: 46-of-56 passing, 569 yards, six TD, zero INT

    Those numbers are just…wow. Brandon Doughty picked apart a decent Bowling Green defense in the first game of the Jeff Brohm era, combining efficiency with explosiveness in a way he never could under former head coach Bobby Petrino. Last year, he didn't throw his sixth touchdown until the sixth game of the season.

Running Back: Todd Gurley, Georgia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats

    15 carries, 198 yards, three TD; 100-yard kickoff-return TD

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Why did he stand out? How did he not? 

    After losing one yard on his first carry of the game, Todd Gurley took his next 14 for 199 yards and three touchdowns, starting with a 23-yard score on his second attempt. Counting his one kickoff return, he went for roughly 300 yards and four touchdowns on 15 touches.

    Against an FCS or lower-level FBS opponent, those numbers would have landed Gurley on this list. Against a Clemson front seven that is (was?) supposed to be among the best in the country, it landed him on top of this list without so much of a deliberation.

    The Heisman has a new indisputable front-runner.

     

    Second Team: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

    Stats: 21 carries, 232 yards, one TD; one reception, 9 yards

    Like Gurley, Ameer Abdullah announced his Heisman candidacy in his first game of the season, gashing Florida Atlantic for more than 230 rushing yards and 11 yards per carry. The Owls are a C-USA opponent, sure, but they actually weren't terrible on defense last season, so watching Abdullah slice through them was impressive.

     

    Third Team: Dee Hart, Colorado State

    Stats: 22 carries, 139 yards, two TD; three receptions, 35 yards

    Dee Hart didn't join Colorado State until the beginning of August, but it didn't take long for him to earn a role. The Alabama transfer played up to the pedigree of a former top-40 recruit*, running low to the ground and angry and making decisive cuts in the Rams' comeback win over Colorado. He finished with 174 total yards on 25 touches.

     

    *Per the 247Sports composite rankings

Wide Receiver: Kevin White, West Virginia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats

    Nine receptions, 143 yards, one TD 

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Kevin White was the best thing West Virginia had going for it on Saturday, almost leading the Mountaineers to a stunning upset.

    He looked so good in shredding the Alabama secondary that it's unclear how much the Crimson Tide should panic. Perhaps they were just going against a really, really, really good player?

    The final line listed above looks great, but it might not even do justice to how well White played. He was big and athletic and assertive, and if not for Jordan Westerkamp's behind-the-back wundercatch for Nebraska, his climbing-the-ladder touchdown over Bradley Sylve might have gone down as the best catch of the weekend.

    "Kevin, man, he's a boss now," said West Virginia defensive back K.J. Dillon in fall camp, per Allan Taylor of MetroNews. "I guess he just got fed up with people saying he was a mediocre, average receiver and he did something about it."

    After Saturday, it's fair to say that Dillon was onto something.

     

    Second Team: Rashad Greene, Florida State

    Stats: 11 receptions, 203 yards, one TD

    Last year, Rashad Greene was the alpha dog of a three-headed monster. This year, sans Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, he is the alpha, beta and gamma. But he was up to the task against Oklahoma State, bailing the Seminoles out of a closer-than-expected game with a clutch 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

     

    Third Team: Keevan Lucas, Tulsa

    Stats: 13 receptions, 233 yards, three TD

    Keevan Lucas did work against an underrated Tulane defense Thursday night, catching 13 of his 17 targets for 233 yards and three touchdowns. At 5'10", he is a quick, shifty weapon with reliable hands who should help Tulsa—which is now an official member of the AAC—contend for a bowl again after a couple of down years.

Tight End: Jesse James, Penn State

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    Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats

    Seven receptions, 60 yards

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Jesse James took a backseat to Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton (19 catches for 238 yards) on the box score, but when Christian Hackenberg was in trouble, James was still his favorite target.

    What's more, he did a functional job blocking when asked to stay in, helping a depleted Penn State offensive line keep Hackenberg upright. The group as a whole needs to work on run blocking, but James at least helped it look promising in one facet of the game.

    Was there more he and the Penn State offense could have done? Sure. But for the most part, James showed an all-around skill set that few (if any) tight ends in the country can boast. There's a reason he was my preseason choice to win the Mackey Award.

     

    Second Team: Connor Hamlett, Oregon State

    Stats: Five receptions, 86 yards

    For obvious reasons, Connor Hamlett will not be the long-term replacement to Brandin Cooks in Oregon State's offense. But, for at least one week, the 6'7" senior took Cooks' old spot atop the receiving box score, finishing a surprisingly competitive win over Portland State with team highs in receptions (five) and yards (86).

     

    Third Team: AJ Derby, Arkansas

    Stats: Four receptions, 40 yards, one TD

    AJ Derby is squarely the No. 2 tight end behind Hunter Henry, but he played well when Henry had to leave the game against Auburn, finishing with four catches, 40 yards and a touchdown. The former quarterback will have a big role in Arkansas' offense, which prefers to run the ball and can't rely on much from its receivers.

Offensive Line: LT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M

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    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    Why He Stood Out

    Too much love for Texas A&M's offense?

    Is there any such thing? 

    If South Carolina's defensive line proves hapless throughout the season, this showing might look less impressive in hindsight. But for now, Cedric Ogbuehi validated his status as a potential top-five NFL draft pick by completely dominating the Gamecocks in every facet of the game: run blocking, pass blocking—all of it.

    Ogbuehi moves in space like No. 2 overall draft pick Greg Robinson, but he's even better than Robinson in pass protection. Following in the footsteps of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, he might be the best left tackle Kevin Sumlin has ever coached. Seriously.

     

    Second Team: LG Chad Slade, Auburn

    Arkansas' defensive line did a decent job against Auburn's tackles in the pass rush, but up the middle and against the run, it was totally overmatched. The biggest reason for that was guard Chad Slade, who passed his first test on the left side after playing last year on the right with flying colors. He was particularly good getting into space on a screen pass to Cameron Artis-Payne on the Tigers' first possession.

     

    Third Team: LT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

    Yes, it was "only Rice," but Notre Dame appears to have found a new left tackle in Ronnie Stanley, who did an admirable job filling Zack Martin's shoes in Week 1. According to Josh Norris of Rotoworld, the 6'5", 315-pounder looked "very comfortable" in his new role and has a chance of sneaking into the first-round NFL draft discussion.

Defensive End: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats

    Six tackles (two TFL), two sacks, two pass breakups

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Going against an offensive line that (a) was one of the best in the country last season, (b) returns four starters and (c) starts five seniors, Emmanuel Ogbah continually found his way into the backfield and made things happen for Oklahoma State's defense.

    Ogbah played well in a rotation role as a freshman last season, but he looked like a different player entirely against Florida State, delivering a square hit to Jameis Winston on one of his two sacks and almost recording an interception on one of his two pass breakups.

    "It felt great," said Ogbah of sizing up Winston, per Cody Stavenhagen of The Daily O'Collegian. "Not a lot of people get to say they hit a Heisman Trophy winner because most of them leave to the NFL, so I felt great that I did what I did."

    With Bryce Petty and Trevor Knight still on the schedule, Winston might not be the last star QB Ogbah punishes this season.

     

    Second Team: Nate Orchard, Utah

    Stats: Eight tackles (2.5 TFL), 2.5 sacks

    It was only Idaho State, but so what? Nate Orchard had 2.5 sacks in his first game of the season—and he had them in the first 17 minutes. Even against the scout team, that would be mighty impressive.

    Orchard is a converted wide receiver who has slowly added muscle and has rare athletic gifts for a lineman. In the offseason, I mentioned him as an under-the-radar draft prospect to keep an eye on.

    So far, so good.

     

    Third Team: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA

    Stats: Two tackles

    Owamagbe Odighizuwa didn't put up huge stats the way some of his Bruins teammates did, but he might have been the unit's best player. He got consistent pressure off the edge and earned the praise of CBS Sports' Dane Brugler (on more than one occasion).

Defensive Tackle: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats

    Three tackles, one pass breakup

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Robert Nkemdiche dominated Ole Miss' win over Boise State, but he did it in ways that do not show up in the box score—something that is starting to become the rule instead of the exception.

    His three tackles and one pass breakup do not jump off the page, but the way he played jumped off the screen. Instead of making his own tackles, he occupied blockers to free up the linebackers, and he tipped a pass that resulted in an interception.

    On a week reserved for power-conference linemen to run roughshod through FCS offensive lines, Nkemdiche consistently looked like the hardest player in the country to block. Unlike many of his peers, he did it against a respectable level of opponent.

    In the words of Bleacher Report's Michael Felder: "You cannot stop Robert Nkemdiche. Good lord, he's a bad man." 

     

    Second Team: Danny Shelton, Washington

    Stats: 12 tackles (three TFL), two sacks

    One of the most underrated interior linemen in the country, Danny Shelton was the best player on the field in Washington's tight win over Hawaii. He used his size (6'2", 339 lbs) to great effect and got to any spot he wanted against the Rainbow Warriors. Even once the Pac-12 schedule starts, he's going to be a menace to block all season.

     

    Thirds Team: Anthony Zettel, Penn State

    Stats: Six tackles (three TFL), one sack, one pass breakup

    Along with Hackenberg and his young stable of pass-catchers, Anthony Zettel was the breakout star of Penn State's win over UCF. Granted, it came against a rebuilt offensive line, but his final tally of six tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and one pass breakup was an impressive way to start the season.

Outside Linebacker: Leonard Floyd, Georgia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats

    Seven tackles (two TFL), two sacks, one forced fumble

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Debuting his role in Jeremy Pruitt's defense, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd looked like he's ready for an All-America-type season.

    He made Clemson right tackle Joe Gore—among others—look like he didn't belong on the field Saturday night, getting into the backfield whenever he pleased and making Cole Stoudt's first start at quarterback a forgettable one.

    Gurley was the story after Georgia's impressive win—and rightfully so. He earned it. But the Bulldogs' defense shut down Clemson's offense, too, and Floyd was its best player throughout.

     

    Second Team: Myles Jack, UCLA

    Stats: 13 tackles, two pass breakups

    Myles Jack was all over the field against Virginia. His 13 tackles and two pass breakups hardly do justice to how good he looked, especially in pass coverage, where he might be (and probably is) the best linebacker in the country. He was exactly as good as advertised.

     

    Third Team: Darron Lee, Ohio State

    Stats: Seven tackles (two TFL), one fumble recovery (return for a TD)

    Don't merely look at the stats; as nice as they are, linebackers always put up inflated numbers against a triple-option offense such as Navy's. Instead, pay attention to the film—chief among it this crushing hit that he, Darron Lee, laid on quarterback Keenan Reynolds. That and his 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown encapsulate how good Lee was on Saturday. He looked very much like a star in the making.

Inside Linebacker: Henry Coley, Virginia

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats

    14 tackles (2.5 TFL), two sacks, one forced fumble, one pass breakup 

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Henry Coley was the best inside linebacker on the field on Saturday, which is remarkable considering the next name on this list.

    Virginia's defensive captain was on the vanguard of its dominant pass rush, finishing with two sacks, and he also flew around the field creating negative plays in run defense and in coverage.

    "Their linebacker did an excellent job of timing his blitzes up the middle, and he was physical," said UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. of Coley's performance (via Ed Miller of The Virginian-Pilot).

    But "physical" is a bit of an understatement.

    Coley was an absolute wrecking ball.

     

    Second Team: Eric Kendricks, UCLA

    Stats: 16 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception (return for a TD)

    Eric Kendricks had the quietest 149-tackle season of all time in 2012, and he followed it up with another underpublicized 105-tackle season in 2013. This year, with UCLA squarely in the public discourse, he will be much tougher to ignore. He had 16 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception return for a touchdown against UVA.

     

    Third Team: Amarlo Herrera, Georgia

    Stats: 12 tackles (3.5 TFL), two sacks

    Ramik Wilson got most (if not all) of the love this offseason, but it was Georgia's other inside linebacker who stood out against Clemson. Wilson struggled a bit in pass coverage (and on the whole), but Amarlo Herrera picked up the slack in a big way, posting the gaudy stat line seen above as a smooth fit in Pruitt's scheme.

Cornerback: Jalen Collins, LSU

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats

    Six tackles, one pass breakup

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Here's a tip to guys who are trying to make this list: If you chase down Melvin Gordon from behind, you will automatically be considered. 

    Jalen Collins did exactly that on the first play of the second half against Wisconsin, but his impact went beyond one moment. He cemented his starting role over Rashard Robinson with good pass coverage (when called for) and outstanding support against the run.

    Against a Badgers team that struggled (to put it kindly) through the air but looked great on the ground, that was exactly what LSU's defense needed. Collins often looked like its most reliable tackler. 

     

    Second Team: Jacoby Glenn, UCF

    Stats: 11 tackles, two pass breakups, one interception

    Yes, the star cornerback on a team that allowed 454 passing yards has been included on this list. This is an instance where the team stats belie what happened on the field.

    Jacoby Glenn was all over the place in Dublin, breaking up two passes in addition to intercepting Hackenberg in the first quarter. When he stepped out for one play—one play—with cramps, Penn State scored a 79-yard touchdown on a blown coverage.

    Glenn was an FWAA Freshman All-American last season, and despite his team's performance, he built on that with his debut sophomore effort. He's one of the best cover cornerbacks in America.

     

    Third Team: P.J. Williams, Florida State

    Stats: Two tackles, two pass breakups, one forced fumble

    P.J. Williams got beat off the line, once, in press coverage by Jhajuan Seales on Saturday night, but that was his only mistake. And although it was ugly, it didn't even result in a catch: So no blood, no foul.

    Other than that, Williams was sensational, breaking up passes when he was challenged and making big plays in run support. The shining example, of course, was his upending tackle of J.W. Walsh that forced a fumble in the fourth quarter and essentially clinched the game.

Safety: Triston Wade, UTSA

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats

    Two tackles, two pass breakups, one interception

     

    Why He Stood Out

    Usually an in-the-box safety, Triston Wade and UTSA's secondary were forced to make adjustments against a pass-happy Houston offense.

    The results could not have been much better.

    Wade made only two tackles (after registering 94 last season), but he led UTSA's defense to perhaps the best overall performance of the weekend. The Roadrunners held Houston to 4.7 yards per pass attempt, forcing John O'Korn into a quarterback rating of 70.09 and four interceptions (one of which Wade recorded in the red zone).

    As good as Wade was individually, though, he is actually accepting this award by proxy for the entire UTSA defense, which proved it could hang with a quality opponent. 

    This team is a legit C-USA contender.

     

    Second Team: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

    Stats: Eight tackles (1.5 TFL), one interception

    Cody Prewitt was his usual, dominant self against Boise State on Thursday, validating his status as one of three returning players from the 2013 AP All-American team. His interception came on a floater, and he dropped what should have been a second pick later in the game, but he also took charge with a massive hit for NFL scouts to drool over this offseason. Ouch.

     

    Third Team: Karl Joseph, West Virginia

    Stats: 18 tackles (one TFL)

    Last year, Karl Joseph was a lone bright spot on a terrible, injury-ravaged West Virginia defense. This year, his teammates have caught up with him—or so it would appear—but that doesn't mean he's faded to the pack. His 18 tackles were tied for the most in Week 1.

     

    Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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