Bleacher Report's 2015 College Football Preseason All-American Team

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2015

Bleacher Report's 2015 College Football Preseason All-American Team

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    B/R Media Lab

    College football has a wonderful knack for never running out of superstars, regardless of how many great players move on to the NFL. 2015 is no different, as you'll see in our selections for the Bleacher Report Preseason All-American team.

    The team was selected by 19 members of our college football staff—writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Justin Ferguson, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh, video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates—who each cast a ballot for the 28-man team. The top vote-getters at each position made our list, with the second team compiled of the runners-up at each position.

    Some of our writers have also provided insight as to why some players have risen to the level of being considered an All-American and why you should be watching their every move this season.

    Check out our team and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Quarterback: Trevone Boykin, TCU

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    Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 14 (out of 19)

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 205 lbs

    Trevone Boykin has become the poster child for TCU football, the man who prior to 2014 was bouncing around several positions while his team struggled to get its footing in the Big 12. Then, once the Horned Frogs installed a new, uptempo offense and Boykin was entrusted to be the pilot, they both took off.

    Last year Boykin had more than 4,600 yards of total offense and accounted for 42 touchdowns, helping TCU rank second in the country in scoring at 46.5 points per game after averaging only 25.1 the season before. He also was heavily responsible for the Frogs going 12-1 and sharing the conference title.

    "The amazing part about Boykin is he can get even better," Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval said. "His improvement from 2013 to '14 was among the most dramatic in college football, which leads me to believe he can continue to grow in that area."

    Boykin is currently the Vegas front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, according to OddsShark.com, and he'll be the determining factor in whether TCU can contend for a national title this season.

    Second Team: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Votes received: 17

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'0", 225 lbs

    For all the attention Ohio State's unique quarterback situation got last season—not to mention throughout the offseason—the real hero of the Buckeyes' run to a national championship was Ezekiel Elliott. A productive player during the first 12 games of 2014, Elliott kicked it into high gear in the postseason and essentially carried OSU past three top-tier opponents.

    Elliott ran for 696 yards and eight touchdowns against the trio of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and Alabama and Oregon in the playoffs. He had 246 yards and four scores in the championship game against the Ducks.

    And all of that was done despite Elliott having little use of his left hand, due to a broken wrist suffered prior to the 2014 season.

    OSU's quarterback use will again get most of the headlines during the title defense, but Elliott figures to be the one who will drive the Buckeyes toward a possible second consecutive championship.

    Second Team: Royce Freeman, Oregon

Running Back: Nick Chubb, Georgia

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 12

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 5'10", 220 lbs

    We had an idea Nick Chubb was going to be a pretty darn good player, but we didn't expect to see it so prominently so soon. Not when Georgia already had a superstar running back in Todd Gurley.

    But when first an NCAA suspension (and then a season-ending knee injury) knocked Gurley out of action midway through 2014, the Bulldogs turned to Chubb in hopes he could fill the void. Instead, he created his own identity that Georgia will build around for the foreseeable future.

    Despite limited action in Georgia's first five games last year, Chubb ran for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns. That tied for the fourth-most yards in a season in program history and saw Chubb top 100 yards in all eight of his starts, including a 266-yard effort in the Bulldogs' bowl win over Louisville.

    Chubb figures to be just as productive this season, helping to take the pressure off a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator who both know they have a sure thing to turn to in the backfield.

    Second Team: Leonard Fournette, LSU

Wide Receiver: Rashard Higgins, Colorado State

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Votes received: 12

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 190 lbs

    Rashard Higgins wasn't a very well-known receiver outside of the Mountain West Conference before last season, but after he led FBS in receiving yards (1,750) and touchdowns (17) he's become impossible to ignore. And now he even has a nickname to fit his sudden stardom, going by "Hollywood" Higgins.

    Last year saw Higgins become one of the deadliest deep threats in the country, particularly during a stretch when he became the first receiver since Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree in 2007 to top 175 receiving yards in three consecutive games. In the fourth game, he had only 174 yards.

    Higgins will again be the go-to weapon for a Colorado State team that went through some major changes during the offseason. Mike Bobo has replaced Jim McElwain (now at Florida) as head coach while quarterback Garrett Grayson is now in the NFL and sophomore Nick Stevens has taken over the starting job.

    "Even with a new coach and new quarterback, he will have no issue destroying box scores and the unfortunate corners who try to slow him down," Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer said.

    Second Team: D'haquille Williams, Auburn

Wide Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Votes received: 12

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 210 lbs

    To understand just how big a part of Ole Miss' offense was lost when Laquon Treadwell suffered a major leg injury on Nov. 1, just compare the Rebels' numbers before and after the standout receiver was lost for the season.

    With Treadwell in the lineup, Ole Miss was 7-2 and averaged 31.8 points and more than 425 yards per game. In the three games against FBS opponents after his injury, the Rebels managed just 322 yards per game and were held to three or fewer points twice.

    Getting Treadwell back at full strength is huge for Ole Miss' 2015 hopes, and while he hasn't tested the broken leg in a real game yet, all signs point to Treadwell being back to his old self for this season. If that's the case, look for the Rebels to again have one of the best receivers in the country at their disposal.

    Second Team: Mike Williams, Clemson

Wide Receiver: Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

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    Sharon Ellman/Associated Press

    Votes received: 11

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 200 lbs

    Having a reliable go-to receiver is something every quarterback longs to have, and Pittsburgh's Chad Voytik learned last year how valuable Tyler Boyd can be. Boyd hauled in more than 41 percent of the Panthers' receptions in 2014 and accounted for more than 52 percent of the receiving yards along with eight of the 17 touchdown catches.

    Boyd figures to be a lock to be one of the first receivers taken in the 2016 NFL draft if he turns pro after this season, and if that's the case he'll head to the next level having topped several records that former Pitt great (and longstanding NFL star) Larry Fitzgerald previously held.

    New Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has a strong trio of skill players with Fitzgerald, Voytik and junior running back James Conner. Of that group, Boyd is the one who will be turned to most for big plays as the Panthers look to do more than just get to six wins.

    Second Team: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Tight End: Evan Engram, Ole Miss

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: Nine

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 227 lbs

    Every team uses its tight ends in a different way, but the ideal contribution from the position would be one that helps the offense move the ball in any way possible. With Evan Engram, that involves him advancing Ole Miss' offense on his own as a very reliable receiving target.

    Built more like a large wide receiver than someone who is an extension of the offensive line, Engram is faster and more elusive than most tight ends and took advantage of that athleticism last year. His 662 receiving yards and 17.42 yards-per-catch average were both second-best on the team and served as the top numbers by an SEC tight end.

    "Evan Engram isn't so much a tight end as he is a wide receiver in a tight end's body," Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee said. "He has tremendous ball skills and speed to burn, and his versatility allows head coach Hugh Freeze to line him up all over the field. There's no way to stop him."

    Combined with wideout Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss has the makings of a very dangerous passing game that just needs to find its quarterback to be complete.

    Second Team: Jonnu Smith, Florida International

Center: Max Tuerk, USC

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: Nine

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'6", 285 lbs

    The center position is unique to the offensive line because of its one-on-one interaction with the quarterback, but also because the player needs to make sure the blockers on either side know what's going on. Max Tuerk has become very accomplished at all of this after having spent time at various other spots on the line.

    Tuerk started all 13 games at center in 2014 but before that played 14 games at left guard, five at left tackle and one at right tackle. His true calling seems to be in the middle, though, as last year USC had one of the most efficient offenses in the country with his snapping to quarterback Cody Kessler.

    "Watching him play really is a treat as he has the versatility, the athleticism and the experience to truly do anything you ask of a center," Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said. "Tuerk is a hell of a center—a guy who has the athleticism to pull around after the snap and track linebackers to spring a runner for a big play and a guy who is stout enough to still be an anchor on the interior."

    Second Team: Jack Allen, Michigan State

Offensive Guard: Pat Elflein, Ohio State

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 12

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 300 lbs

    Pat Elflein spent his first two seasons at Ohio State developing into the player he has become, which is one of the most dependable interior blockers in the game.

    Last year Elflein started all 15 games for the Buckeyes, the first three at left guard and then the final 12 on the right side. With his creating running lanes and cutting off pass-rushers, Ohio State averaged 44.8 points and 511.6 yards per game.

    Elflein has turned himself into one of the top pro prospects at his position, sitting second among guards on Bleacher Report NFL draft expert Matt Miller's early 2016 big board.

    Second Team: Vadal Alexander, LSU

Offensive Guard: Landon Turner, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Votes received: 10

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'4", 325 lbs

    North Carolina has one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines heading into the 2015 season, according to researcher Phil Steele. That group returns players with a combined 105 career starts, and 28 of those come from Landon Turner.

    A starter since late in his redshirt freshman season in 2012, Turner has been a fixture on the interior for the Tar Heels ever since. If not for an injury that kept him out of two games last year, Turner would be going into his final college season having started 30 straight games.

    Second Team: Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas

Offensive Tackle: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 18

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'5", 305 lbs

    With 20 starts in his first two seasons, Laremy Tunsil has established himself as a top-flight offensive tackle who should be one of the first players at his position off the board if he enters the 2016 NFL draft. He has injury and off-field concerns that must be addressed, but when healthy and in the lineup there's no denying how effective he's been.

    Tunsil started 11 games last year, missing two because of a torn biceps muscle and then suffering a broken leg during Ole Miss' Peach Bowl loss to TCU. He has also been under investigation by the NCAA this summer after a domestic violence arrest unveiled allegations of improper contact with agents.

    Despite those issues, Tunsil is projected by WalterFootball.com as the no. 4 pick in next year's draft.

    Second Team: Spencer Drango, Baylor

Offensive Tackle: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Votes received: Seven

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'5", 315 lbs

    Offensive tackles need to be big, strong and mobile in order to do all of the things that are expected of them as a corner piece of the line. Ronnie Stanley has been that and more in his two years starting for Notre Dame, first on the right side in 2013 and then serving as the quarterback's blindside protector last year.

    Stanley was only responsible for one of the 28 sacks Notre Dame allowed, according to his online bio, despite regularly being tasked with blocking some of the nation's top defensive linemen.

    Second Team: Taylor Decker, Ohio State

Defensive End: Joey Bosa, Ohio State

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    Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 19

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'6", 275 lbs

    The man with the shrug, Joey Bosa was the heart and soul of Ohio State's defense as it bulldozed opponents en route to a national championship in 2014-15. With his full-speed, no-holds-barred approach to rushing off the edge and his great athleticism, Bosa was nearly unstoppable en route to 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss.

    "He's the best player in college football," Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer said. "I love how complete of a player he is and the things he does even when the quarterback is not dropping back."

    Bosa's importance on the Buckeyes defensive line will be felt in the season opener Sept. 7 at Virginia, a contest he has to sit out after being suspended for one game for violating a team policy.

    Second Team: Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Defensive End: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: Seven

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'5", 262 lbs

    The top first-year defensive player in the country last year, Myles Garrett etched his name in the record books by breaking Jadeveon Clowney's SEC record for sacks as a freshman. Garrett had 11.5 sacks along with 14 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries, per CFBStats.com.

    Garrett was one of the few bright spots on a Texas A&M defense that ranked 104th in yards allowed and yielded more than 28 points per game. With a little more help around him, thus lessening the number of double- and triple-teams he faced, Garrett should have an even bigger season in 2015.

    Second Team: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Defensive Tackle: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 16

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'4", 312 lbs

    Alabama seems to always have studs up front on defense, but the group it has for 2015 could be the best yet. Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh wrote that the Crimson Tide will have the top defense in the country this season, with massive middle man A'Shawn Robinson a huge part of that unit.

    Robinson, who started twice up front as a true freshman, started 13 of 14 games last year and played the majority of defensive snaps. For the year he had 49 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three pass deflections, and he blocked an extra point in the loss to Ole Miss.

    Second Team: Anthony Zettel, Penn State

Defensive Tackle: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Votes received: 12

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'4", 296 lbs

    Robert Nkemdiche was recruited to Ole Miss as a defensive end, yet his entire college career has been spent in the middle of the line where the Rebels felt he'd be able to make more of an impact. While that's resulted in lower numbers than someone of his status, Nkemdiche remains a central part of what Ole Miss has built on defense the past two years.

    The Landsharks led FBS in scoring defense last year, at 16 points per game, and Nkemdiche was a big reason for that. He prevented opponents from doing anything in the middle of the field, plugging up running holes and destroying pockets from straight ahead.

    Second Team: Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA

Linebacker: Scooby Wright, Arizona

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Votes received: 18

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 246 lbs

    The game's most decorated defensive player in 2014, Scooby Wright won the Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards (yet somehow didn't win the Butkus, which is given to the nation's top linebacker) after leading the FBS in tackles (163), tackles for loss (29) and forced fumbles (six).

    Wright kept Arizona's defense from having a much worse year than it ended up with. The Wildcats allowed 28.2 points and 451 yards per game, but Wright still managed to save some wins, such as when he strip-sacked eventual Heisman winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon to sew up an upset victory on the road in October.

    Second Team: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

Linebacker: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Votes received: 16

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 240 lbs

    The last time Notre Dame had a linebacker as well regarded as Jaylon Smith, it went unbeaten in the regular season and played in the BCS title game. But Smith has a higher overall ceiling than former Fighting Irish standout Manti Te'o, and even after two amazing years he's primed to do even bigger things in 2015.

    He became Notre Dame's first true freshman starter at outside linebacker since 1995, and he's never left the lineup. In those 26 games Smith has 179 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss.

    Second Team: Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Linebacker: Myles Jack, UCLA

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Votes received: 14

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 245 lbs

    If there are things Myles Jack cannot do, it might be only because he hasn't tried. Whatever UCLA has needed from him to this point, the versatile athlete has come through immensely. Whether it be filling in on offense as a hard-as-nails running back or anchoring the defense, Jack has succeeded.

    "Jack is a freak athlete," Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval said. "This was on display when he moonlighted as a running back. But head coach Jim Mora and Jack know his future is at linebacker.  This is the year when UCLA's defense can truly be his to lead."

    Jack has scored 11 touchdowns in his career—10 as a running back, including seven as a true freshman in 2013. On defense, he has tallied 163 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and three interceptions.

    Second Team: Darron Lee, Ohio State

Linebacker: Su'a Cravens, USC

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Votes received: Nine

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 225 lbs

    Su'a Cravens' career at USC has been one that's seen near-constant change, but always in a manner that's helped the Trojans and furthered the strong likelihood that Cravens will be among the next crop of star players from that school to have a big pro impact.

    A two-way star in high school, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety as a true freshman and earned numerous freshman All-American honors. Last year, though, a lack of depth at linebacker prompted USC to shift him to a hybrid position that split time between linebacker and the secondary, and he thrived in that role to the tune of team highs in interceptions (three) and tackles for loss (17).

    Now Cravens is a full-fledged linebacker and from that spot will anchor a defense that will be among the best in the Pac-12 in 2015.

    Second Team: Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Votes received: 17

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 5'11", 199 lbs

    Florida has had a lot of ups and downs the past two seasons, including a woeful offense and a coaching change. The defense has been far more stable, mostly due to how effective Vernon Hargreaves III has been at protecting his side of the field on pass plays.

    In two seasons starting for the Gators, Hargreaves has intercepted six passes and broken up another 24. Those numbers would be much higher if more opponents threw his way, but most realized how unwise that was.

    "Vernon Hargreaves is everything a coach wants in a cover corner," Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote. "He burst onto the scene as a freshman and demands as much respect as any corner in the country. Teams are simply scared to throw his way."

    Second Team: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Cornerback: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: 10

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'0", 196 lbs

    The Fuller family is one of the most accomplished at the game of football in recent memory, and Kendall Fuller might be the best of the lot from a group that includes three older brothers who starred at Virginia Tech and have played in the NFL.

    Kendall Fuller has started 25 of 26 games in his career, registering eight interceptions, including six as a true freshman in 2013. He's also made seven tackles for loss and broken up more than two dozen passes, helping the Hokies have one of the better pass defenses in FBS the past two years.

    Second Team: Adoree' Jackson, USC

Strong Safety: Jeremy Cash, Duke

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Votes received: Seven

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 210 lbs

    Jeremy Cash could be pursuing an NFL career at this point and be the holder of a national championship ring as part of Ohio State's 2014 team. But instead he's finishing up a very successful run at Duke after transferring there from Columbus after the 2011 season.

    Cash has anchored an underrated secondary for the Blue Devils the past two years, serving as a pass defender with six interceptions and 11 pass breakups but also notching 5.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. For his career, Cash has 235 tackles, 232 in the past two seasons.

    Second Team: Vonn Bell, Ohio State

Free Safety: Quin Blanding, Virginia

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: Five

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'2", 205 lbs

    As the top-rated safety in the 2014 recruiting class, per 247Sports, Quin Blanding had the opportunity to play for a number of top programs in the country. Instead he chose to stay home and play for Virginia, and that decision paid major dividends for he and the Cavaliers last season.

    Blanding was the first true freshman to start the season opener at safety for the school since 1976, per his online bio, and he set a school freshman record with 123 tackles. Of those takedowns, 79 came on running plays, part of why Virginia ranked 18th in the country against the run.

    Second Team: Budda Baker, Washington

Kicker: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Votes received: 18

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 204 lbs

    Most of the nation's top programs are so explosive on offense that the need for a clutch placekicker isn't often an issue. Florida State's Roberto Aguayo is the exception that proves that rule, as last year he was as important to the Seminoles' push for a second straight national title as Jameis Winston or any of their other offensive weapons.

    Aguayo made 27 of 30 field-goal attempts in 2014, along with all 55 of his extra-point tries. That came a year after he amassed an FBS-record 157 points and nearly personally outscored FSU's opponents on his own.

    Second Team: Brad Craddock, Maryland

Punter: JK Scott, Alabama

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Votes received: 14

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'5", 195 lbs

    Where would Alabama's season have ended up in 2014 if not for the surprisingly strong and accurate right leg of punter JK Scott?

    The freshman led the nation in punting average at 48 yards per kick and also led FBS in net average at 44.67 yards thanks to his ability to nail the corners and prevent returns. Only five of his 55 punts went into the end zone, and another 19 resulted in fair catches with just 12 kicks returned for any yardage.

    In Alabama's win over then-unbeaten Mississippi State, Scott put five of his seven punts inside the Bulldogs' 20-yard line and had three end up inside the 10.

    Second Team: Tom Hackett, Utah

Kick Returner: Adoree' Jackson, USC

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Votes received: Nine

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 5'11", 185 lbs

    Adoree' Jackson is projected to be one of USC's starting cornerbacks this season, much like he was for 10 games as a true freshman, and he'll also get plenty of time on offense as a receiver after catching three touchdown passes in 2014.

    He might even be used in the kicking game in a pinch, as Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times tweeted that Jackson made a field goal in a training camp practice.

    But the greatest impact Jackson has had (and will continue to have) for the Trojans is in the return game. Last year he averaged 29.7 yards on kick returns, returning two for scores.

    Second Team: Alex Ross, Oklahoma

Punt Returner: Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Votes received: Six

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 5'8", 170 lbs

    Georgia hopes Isaiah McKenzie can be more of a factor in the receiving game this season after he had just six catches as a freshman. But whether that happens or not, the Bulldogs know they can turn to the speedy little man for big plays on special teams.

    In 2014 McKenzie had 19 punt returns and 11 kickoff returns and scored touchdowns on three of those. Two came on punts, where he averaged 12.1 yards per return, and against Kentucky he became the first Georgia player to ever score on both punt and kickoff returns.

    Second Team: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska

    All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

    All slides written by Bleacher Report featured columnist Brian J. Pedersen. Follow the author on Twitter at @realBJP.