Building the Perfect College Football Offense in 2021
During the last two seasons, LSU and Alabama have proved that an elite offense can be overwhelming. Defense can still win championships, but offense does in the modern era too.
Previously, B/R handpicked the best defenders who are returning in 2021 to assemble the strongest unit possible. This offense, led by North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell and three Ohio State Buckeyes, is the counterpart to that defense.
We assembled this offense to excel in the passing game—the most important factor of success in the modern era—yet still have a reliable and explosive rushing attack.
Lincoln Riley and Steve Sarkisian would temporarily set aside a budding rivalry as head coaches of Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, to engineer this prolific offense.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Would you prefer Spencer Rattler? Sure! Oklahoma's quarterback will probably be my prediction to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
There's no wrong answer between Rattler and Sam Howell. Both players are quality downfield passers who have thrived in high-efficiency offenses and provide a mobile element. Howell earns the selection here because of his experience.
As a freshman, Howell threw for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns to seven picks. Last year, he registered 3,586 yards and 30 scores to seven interceptions while increasing his involvement on the ground. Excluding sacks, Howell rushed for more than 300 yards.
Rattler is the Heisman front-runner, but Howell is the early favorite for the No. 1 selection in the 2022 NFL draft.
Breece Hall, Iowa State
The nation's leading rusher in 2020, Breece Hall racked up 1,572 yards and scored 21 touchdowns for the Cyclones. While not overwhelmingly explosive, Hall is a high-volume back who runs efficiently, thrives in short yardage, can contribute as a receiver and is a decent blocker. Pair him with a big-play specialist, and this backfield has a well-rounded outlook.
Bijan Robinson, Texas
Washington State's Max Borghi and Kansas State's Deuce Vaughn deserve a shout, but it seems awfully foolish to ignore what Bijan Robinson contributed late in 2020. The freshman rushed for 522 yards and caught eight passes for 129 yards during the Longhorns' last four games. Robinson could have a huge 2021—and develop into the featured back on this roster too.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
WR: Chris Olave, Ohio State
Speed is great. Quickness is important. But some receivers flat-out get open, and that ability to create separation is an elite skill. Chris Olave is a refined route-runner who could've been a first-round NFL draft pick. Instead, he returned to Ohio State for a final season. Olave caught 49 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019 and posted a 50/729/7 line in 2020.
WR: Justyn Ross, Clemson
This assumes a clean bill of health, and that's not our call. Justyn Ross underwent spinal surgery and missed the 2020 season. At his best, though, Ross is adept at snatching a ball in tight coverage and has a remarkable catch radius. He reeled in 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 scores during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.
WR: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Not exactly fair for the Buckeyes to have two great receivers, right? Wilson can play on the outside, but he's a weapon in the slot. Wilson spent most of his snaps there in 2020 and finished the eight-game season with 43 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns.
TE: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Great hands, good blocker, elite red-zone threat. Check, check, check. Charlie Kolar is a key player for Iowa State's offense and would be an outstanding complement for this scoring attack. He's made 95 catches for 1,288 yards and 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
LT: Thayer Munford, Ohio State
Although he didn't earn AP All-America status last season, Thayer Munford played at that level. Ohio State's left tackle surrendered zero sacks in 2020, per PFF College. Munford secured All-Big Ten honors in both 2019 and 2020.
LG: Evan Neal, Alabama
Last year, the Crimson Tide moved Evan Neal to right tackle. As a freshman, though, he played left guard. In order to play the best five linemen, Neal—who's a sound pass-protector and potentially dominant run-blocker—returns to that interior role.
C: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
After an honorable mention All-Big Ten season in 2019, Tyler Linderbaum was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy last season. He's a two-year starter in the middle of Iowa's offensive line and an all-around elite blocker.
RG: Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
Similar to Neal, Jamaree Salyer opened his college career on the interior but shifted to tackle in 2020. But again, we want to play the best five linemen—and that means bringing Salyer back inside. Besides, he's more a tackle out of necessity for Georgia, which would almost certainly prefer to start the powerful 6'4", 325-pounder at guard.
RT: Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
Had he entered the 2021 NFL draft, Darian Kinnard might've been a second- or third-round selection. Kentucky, though, welcomes the return of the physical run-blocker who earned third-team AP All-America status last season.