With the College Football regular season winding down and championship week ramping up, the stage is being set for an epic 2019-20 bowl season and another entertaining College Football Playoff. Paving the way to the stretch run are a hefty number of talented players and teams. There is so much talent in the sport that it can often be difficult to vote on award winners. With that said, it is time to talk about the players that deserve to headline the 2019 College Football All-America team.
The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) had its deadline to submit votes for its 2019 All-America team a few weeks back. As a long-time member of the FWAA, I am fortunate and honored to get to vote for key College Football awards, including its All-America team, which has been a fixture in the sport dating back to 1944.
Specifically, here are some of College Football’s biggest stars on defense, with some honorable mentions and potential future award winners peppered into the mix. For what it’s worth, keep in mind that these votes had to be submitted prior to championship weekend (and prior to rivalry weekend).
2019 College Football All-America Team: Defense
DL: Chase Young, Ohio State
Many consider Young to be the best overall player in college football. It’s hard to argue that fact, considering the impact he makes in the trenches. Young has posted gaudy numbers despite the drama surrounding the 2018 loan from a “family friend”, which resulted in a suspension and two missed games against sub-par opponents in Maryland and Rutgers. His 16 1/2 sacks are the most in college football, despite playing two fewer games than most players. Young also has 19 1/2 tackles for a loss, good for sixth in the nation. A three-sack performance against Penn State and four-sack game against Wisconsin showed just how much he can really impact a game. NFL scouts are already salivating.
DL: Derrick Brown, Auburn
Brown is another monster in the SEC conference. Look no further than his impact in the trenches during Auburn’s thrilling Iron Bowl victory. He is considered by many to be a first round lock in the 2020 NFL Draft. The numbers include 12 1/2 tackles for a loss, including 7 1/2 against AP ranked opponents. The sacks (4 total) are lower than others to be voted in, but all were against teams that were ranked at the time (LSU, Florida and Texas A&M).
DL: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Last season, I listed Yetur Gross-Matos as “overlooked and underrated by too many voters”. My gut says that still applies this season, but it shouldn’t. While Gross-Matos doesn’t have the gaudy numbers that other D-Linemen have (14 TFL, 8 1/2 sacks), he makes a major impact on games. His two-sack performance against Ohio State kept the Nittany Lions within striking distance. His heartbreaking backstory outlines just how strong a kid he really is and when it’s his time, he is sure to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
DL: Curtis Weaver, Boise State
A defensive end and linebacker for the Broncos, Weaver is a handful for opponents. While Boise State’s competition may not be at the same level as other standouts, Weaver still has 13 1/2 sacks on the season (5th in the nation) and 17 tackles for a loss (T-14th). He is a big time player.
Alex Highsmith, Charlotte – The senior has 21 1/2 TFL (T-2nd) and 14 sacks (T-2nd) for the 49ers, plus eleven more sacks than he tallied in 2018
Bradlee Anae, Utah – 12 1/2 sacks for a Utes team that was battling for a playoff spot – that is, until faltering versus Oregon in the conference championship
The Future (Freshmen)
Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL) – 14 sacks and 18 TFL for the redshirt freshman that was a key piece to a defense that returned just six starters this season
George Karlaftis, Purdue – 7 1/2 sacks and 17 TFL on the season, he was one of many young Boilermakers that made a positive impact
LB: Evan Weaver, California
Weaver’s 173 tackles are 26 more than any other player in college football. He averages nearly fifteen a game and has 95 solo tackles. He’s everywhere on the field and pops on film. He also has three games of 20 tackles or more, including a 22 tackle performance at Utah back on October 26.
LB: Dele Harding, Illinois
The Illini are a bowl win away from posting its first non-losing season since 2011. Headlining the defense is Harding, who is second to Weaver in total tackles, with 147. On the year, Harding also has 13 TFL, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. Talk about a playmaker.
LB: Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Statistically, the numbers are not there, but blowout results can do that. Simmons has a major impact on the field. To further highlight his talent level, Simmons was also listed as Phil Steele’s top OLB entering the season. In Clemson’s closest game of the season (a 21-20 win over North Carolina), Simmons had 10 tackles and a sack.
LB: Micah Parsons, Penn State
It was difficult to leave him out of the top three (above). Consider Parson’s overall impact and athleticism, for one. He doesn’t get enough credit for just how good he is – or maybe he is, because B1G awards are coming in and he’s rightfully being included. Secondly, look at his stretch run, including a few games after the voting deadline. Parsons has double-digit tackle performances in five of his last six games, including ten at Ohio State, eleven at Minnesota and fourteen in Penn State’s whiteout win over Michigan.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State – 14 sacks (T-2) for the Beavers this season
Zach Baun, Wisconsin – Another DE/LB, Baun fills up the stat sheet. He’ll hope to add to his 11 1/2 in this weekend’s Big Ten Championship versus Ohio State.
DB: Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota
The NFL is in his blood, so the talent is not surprising. Statistically, the numbers are great, too, including seven interceptions and one defensive TD for the surprising Gophers that managed ten wins and just missed out on representing in the Big Ten championship.
DB: Douglas Coleman III – Texas Tech
Eight interceptions on the season, which is tied for the most in college football, battling through a power conference with a lot of high-flying offenses. Add in 63 total tackles and two games with multiple interceptions, including one against a ranked Oklahoma State team.
DB: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Take your pick in the LSU secondary. Safety Grant Delpit deserves heaps of praise, too. Stingley Jr. is one of the most impactful in the SEC, as the Tigers are knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff and a potential national championship.
DB: Trevon Diggs, Alabama
It’ll be odd not seeing Alabama in the College Football Playoff. That doesn’t mean the Tide don’t have their share of star players. Diggs is one of the standouts. Three interceptions, a defensive TD and eleven passes defended are just some of the stats, but his overall impact is much greater than the numbers state.
Verone McKinley III, Oregon – The Ducks have returned as contenders. One reason why was the play of McKinley, the freshman with four INT’s and many big plays.
Grayland Arnold, Baylor – Six INT’s and plenty of big plays has helped put the Bears in playoff contention
Kolby Harvell-Peel, Oklahoma State – Five interceptions and among the leaders in passes defended
Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State – The Buckeyes have been dominant in all phases this year
Ar’Darius Washington, TCU – Five picks for the Horned Frogs
Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame – Four INT’s and ten total passes defended
What about the All-America teams voted on?
*Stats pulled from cfbstats.com and updated as of December 5, 2019
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