With the regular season complete and the 2018-19 bowl season underway, it’s the right time to talk College Football All-America teams and awards.
Besides, it has been weeks since the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) had its deadline to submit votes for its 2018 All-America team.
As a long time member of the FWAA, I’m fortunate and honored to get to vote for a number of College Football awards, including its All-America team, which has been a fixture in the sport dating back to 1944.
Here are my selections for the defensive positions and specialists, with some honorable mentions peppered into the mix. I also add some future freshmen who could earn the award at some point in the near future. For what it’s worth, keep in mind that these votes had to be submitted prior to championship weekend.
2018 College Football All-America Team: Defense and Specialists
DL – Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
The senior for the Bulldogs is the anchor of a defense that pushed MSU to being ranked while playing in the brutal SEC. His 11 sacks are tied for 6th in the country.
DL – Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech)
Ferguson leads the nation with 17 1/2 sacks and is second with 26 tackles for a loss. The senior had 2 1/2 sacks versus Hawai’i in the SOFI Hawai’i Bowl.
DL – Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)
Overlooked and underrated by too many voters, Gross-Matos had a breakout season, posting 20 tackles for a loss. The sophomore also added eight sacks on the season.
DL – Kenny Willekes (Michigan State)
Willekes led the Big Ten in tackles for a loss, with 20 1/2 on the year. He also had 8 1/2 sacks for the Spartans. This includes an incredible 13 tackle, one sack performance against Ohio State.
- Christian Wilkins (Clemson) – Such an impact in the trenches, teams key in on him
- Ed Oliver (Houston) – Guaranteed to be a high draft pick in the NFL
- Quinnen Williams (Alabama) – 8 sacks for the sophomore
LB – Josh Allen (Kentucky)
Many project him to be a top five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Allen was an absolute force and a no-brainer All-America selection. Heading into the Citrus Bowl versus Penn State, Allen has 18 1/2 tackles for a loss (tie-11th in nation) and 14 sacks (4th).
LB – Ben Burr-Kirven (Washington)
The Washington standout leads the nation in tackles, with 165. He had a single-digit tackle total in just two games this season and posted 20 against Arizona State in September and 19 at Oregon back in October.
LB – Malik Fountain (Central Michigan)
His 155 tackles are good for third in the nation. Despite Central Michigan’s 1-11 season, Fountain had 13 tackles or more in 75% of his team’s games.
- Joe Dineen Jr. (Kansas) – 108 solo tackles (most in nation) and 147 total tackles
- Devin Bush (Michigan) – Key piece in one of the country’s top defenses
- Chase Hansen (Utah) – 22 TFL and anchor of Utah’s 4th ranked run defense
The Future (Freshmen):
- Micah Parsons (Penn State) – The future of Linebacker U has already made an impact
DB – Julian Love (Notre Dame)
Fifteen passes broken up and sixteen defended for an Irish team that relied heavily on its defense as it scratched and clawed its way through a tough schedule and into the playoff.
DB – Amani Oruwariye (Penn State)
Three interceptions and a number of impactful plays for the Penn State defense, Oruwariye has been overlooked, yet projects as a potential late first round pick in the NFL Draft.
DB – Hamp Cheevers (Boston College)
His seven interceptions are tied for the most in the nation. Cheevers was one of the key members of one of the most improved teams in the country.
DB – Adrian Frye (Texas Tech)
Five picks and thirteen passes broken up for the Red Raiders, Frye also returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown.
- Grant Delpit (LSU) – Mix and match all of LSU’s secondary talent
- Richie Grant (UCF) – Six picks for a very strong Central Florida team
- Brandon Watson (Michigan) – Two defensive touchdowns
The Future (Freshmen):
- Andre Cisco (Syracuse) – Seven interceptions as a freshman
Punter – Braden Mann (Texas A&M)
Mann averaged 51.15 yards per punt (47 total punts), the highest mark in the nation. He is the only punter to average more than 50 yards a boot and is nearly three yards more than any other punter in the country.
Kicker – Andre Szmyt (Syracuse)
The Syracuse freshman made 28 field goals on the year, three more than any other kicker. Better yet, he was 3-3 from 50+, including a 54-yarder, which was his long for the season.
Return Specialist – Maurice Ffrench (Pittsburgh)
Tough call at this slot, but at the time of the votes, Ffrench stood out. At this point in the year, he has averaged 27.35 yards and returned two kicks for touchdowns.
*Stats pulled from cfbstats.com and updated as of December 27, 2018
Who else lands on KP’s All-America team?
What about the FWAA All-Americans voted in? Here’s the 2018 FWAA All-America team.
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