Tomorrow’s All-Americans Today
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Click here for the Offense.
The rules for this team: all players are second or third-year guys -- no incoming freshmen or JUCOs -- set to start for the first time this year, or otherwise to contribute heavily after a redshirt year or a season (or two) as a backup; in other words, their move into the lineup should be less like a patient adjustment period and more like shooting a cannon. No one on the team was feted with awards or freshman all-America notices, and none has more than five career starts; many have none. Because they weren’t instant impact beasts, you won’t find many of these guys near the top of the preseason position lists, but you should expect to be well-acquainted with all of them by this time next year.
If your team’s budding star was left off, it’s probably because we know too much about him already. And what’s the fun in that?
DE: Allen Bailey Miami
Burned a redshirt year on special teams and spot duty in an injury-racked linebacker corps, but moved down to replace Calais Campbell at end in the spring and allegedly left coaches’ eyeballs lying on the practice field. His strength coach called him "freakish as they come ... a big Willis McGahee," and if he helps Miami turn the ship around at all, expect at least one soft-focus-y feature on his obscure island upbringing, and killing alligators with shovels, etc.
Griffen: Bring on the hype, children. Bring it loud.
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DE: Everson Griffen Southern Cal
It’s almost unfair to include him here, since Griffen was too hyped coming in to be "under the radar" and lived up to the ink by starting the first game against Idaho and eventually logging 5.5 sacks in a crowded rotation of ends. But he only started one more game the rest of the year, and if that performance (three sacks against Oregon State) is any indication -- or his multifaceted performance in spring practice -- his absence from all-America teams this summer is shortsighted.
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Honorable Mention: Carlos Dunlap Florida • Ben Martin Tennessee
DT: Torrey Davis Florida
Along with Dunlap, Justin Trattou and John Brown, Davis was one of the gems of Florida’s absurdly rich defensive line class last year, and though Trattou played the most of that quartet, Davis got on the field enough to drag down a couple quarterbacks (including Chad Henne in the bowl game) and has the higher ceiling. The only way he doesn’t break out if healthy is if fellow VHTs Brown, Trattou, Javier Estopinan or incoming Omar Hunter and/or Troy Epps also force their way onto the field. You can’t double team them all.
DT/DE: Eddie Jones Texas
Jones could have made this list last year as a redshirt freshman, based on his recruiting hype, but he limped through an injury and was lost in yet another of these impossibly stacked front line shuffles. He finished with 28 tackles, two sacks, but got a lot of attention in the process and should pass sometime-starter Aaron Lewis on the first team, cementing his nightmare status in the process.
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Honorable Mention: Al Woods LSU • Justin Trattou Florida • Dexter Larimore Ohio State
LB: Martez Wilson Illinois
Logged a couple sacks from defensive end as a true freshman, but plans to slide back to linebacker to take over J Leman’s "all over the field" role. Another "workout warrior" guy that Zook compared to Jevon Kearse.
LB: Chris Colasanti Penn State
The direct beneficiary of Sean Lee’s debilitating spring injury: his role starts a year earlier than expected, Colasanti is the heir apparent to the Posluszny-Connor-Lee line of deceptively fast, Caucasian linebacking terrors, and should not cede any ground to Lee if the latter returns for a sixth year in ‘09.
Kindle: Hanging on, biding his time.
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LB: Sergio Kindle Texas
Observant Texas fans like Peter Bean spent all last season wondering why the nation’s top incoming linebacker of 2006 couldn’t surpass just-okay Rashad Bobino as the starter in the middle, and after seeing him in person against Nebraska, I sympathize with their frustration. One play stood out, an overlooked burst of dominance that helped turned the game for the Longhorns: with Nebraska leading 17-3 late in the third and facing a 3rd-and-1, Kindle ran through a much bigger blocker like he wasn’t there in pursuit to the ball and leveled the runner behind the line of scrimmage. Texas got the ball back and scored 25 unanswered points. For the year, Kindle added another 37 tackles, three for loss, off the bench. He’s still listed as a backup by most accounts coming into the season, behind either Bobino or Jared Norton on the strongside, but it would be a major upset -- or else a total lack of judgment -- if Kindle finished there for the third year in a row. It’s now or never to shed the looming "bust" tag.
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Honorable Mention: Ross Homan Ohio State • Quan Sturdivant North Carolina • Chris Galippo Southern Cal • Luke Lambert Missouri
CB: A.J. Wallace Penn State
One of the top-rated corner prospects of ‘06 moved into the starting lineup opposite Justin King over the last four games last year and should ease the transition from King’s early departure. Wallace is a little bigger than King (6’1", 190) and if he’s not a weak link, the Lion defense probably won’t have one.
CB: Jordan Bernstine Iowa
Like Wallace, an elite prospect moving into the lineup for the first time, although Bernstine only sat one year at Iowa instead of two. Bernstine -- who we can say pretty definitively is not of Hebrew descent, despite the name -- is replacing Adam Shada, and should be an immediate upgrade, athletically.
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Honorable Mention: Domonique Franks Oklahoma • Deon Beasley Texas
S: Chad Jones LSU
Jones returned punts, picked off André Woodson and made one the biggest plays of the year by blitzing and stripping John Parker Wilson to set up the winning touchdown at Alabama, so he’s already known as much for his play as for his considerable hype. But unlike fellow freshman star Eric Berry at Tennessee, he didn’t start a game, so his ascension won’t really begin until he takes over for Craig Steltz at strong safety this fall.
S: Reshad Jones Georgia
Jones started a couple games last year as a redshirt freshman, and played enough to get some impressive photos onto Google Images, at least. Recruiting gurus set the bar high here: Georgia fans are already expecting Jones to contend for all-SEC in his first year as the full-time free safety. It’s a crowded field, with Berry, Chad Jones, Derek Pegues, Rashad Jackson, Major Wright, Emmanuel Cook, Curtis Taylor and his own teammate, C.J. Byrd, but not necessarily unrealistic.
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Honorable Mention: Chykie Brown Texas • Mike McNeil Auburn • Stevie Brown Michigan