ESPN's college football midseason All-America team

ByChris Low and Mark Schlabach ESPN logo
Thursday, October 17, 2019

How can you choose among record-setting quarterbacks such as LSU's Joe Burrow, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa? Certainly, all of them are worthy, but we could choose only one.

How can you choose the best receiver from LSU or Alabama? Or the best pass-catcher in the Big 12? Our midseason All-America team tries to answer those challenges.


QB: Joe Burrow, LSU

Burrow gets the edge over others because of where he's doing his work. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady has helped the Tigers completely transform the way they play. LSU already has 31 touchdown drives of less than three minutes. The Tigers rank third in the FBS in yards per play, at 8.01. They ranked 84th in that statistic last season. Burrow leads the FBS with a 79.6% completion rate for 2,157 yards with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. In three games, he completed better than 85% with more than 20 attempts.

RB: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Taylor is on pace for his third consecutive season with at least 1,700 rushing yards. He ranks third among FBS players with 825 rushing yards and had 100 or more in five of six games this season. With 4,996 rushing yards, Taylor needs only 4 more to join Georgia's Herschel Walker (5,596), Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (5,091) and Oregon's LaMichael James (5,082) as the only FBS players to run for 5,000 yards or more in their first three seasons. Taylor has also become much more versatile in his third season. He has 15 catches for 136 yards with four TDs; he had eight receptions with zero scores in each of the previous two seasons.

RB: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

It took FBS coaches a while to learn about Hubbard, but now they know all about the world-class sprinter from Alberta, Canada. He leads the FBS in rushing yards (1,094), carries (162) and rushing yards per game (182.3) and is second in rushing touchdowns (13). He's on pace to finish the season with 2,188 rushing yards, which would set a Big 12 record (OSU was in the Big Eight when Barry Sanders ran for 2,628 yards in 11 games in 1988) and would be the eighth-highest total in FBS history. According to TruMedia Networks, Hubbard has 594 yards before contact and 500 yards after contact, both No. 1 among FBS players.

WR: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Former Texas coach Charlie Strong never offered Lamb a scholarship, and by the time his replacement, Tom Herman, did, Lamb was already headed to Oklahoma. The Richmond, Texas, native has been making the Longhorns pay for the slight ever since. Lamb had 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns -- breaking seven tackles in the process -- in a 34-27 win over Texas on Saturday. Lamb is tied for the FBS lead with 11 touchdown receptions and has scored at least once in eight straight games.

WR: Justin Jefferson, LSU

This pick could easily have been Jefferson's teammate, Ja'Marr Chase, who has 30 catches for 578 yards and eight touchdowns. But Jefferson was huge in both of LSU's biggest games to date. He had nine catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-38 win at Texas. Then he had 10 receptions for 123 yards and one score in a 42-28 victory over Florida. In six games, he has 40 receptions for 670 yards and eight scores. According to TruMedia data, Jefferson doesn't have a drop in 46 targets, which is tied for best among FBS players.

WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Jerry Jeudy might be the best player in the deepest receiver corps in the FBS and a potential top-five pick in next spring's NFL draft, but Smith has been the most productive Tide target so far this season. Smith has 38 catches for 636 yards and nine touchdowns. In the previous two games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, he had 18 receptions for 373 yards and six scores. He set Alabama records with 274 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in a 59-31 rout of Ole Miss. Smith's 444 yards after the catch are tops among FBS players.

T: Penei Sewell, Oregon

Last season, Sewell became the first Oregon freshman to start on the offensive line in 11 years. This season, he leads the team with 27 knockdowns in 396 snaps. Even more impressive, he has allowed only one sack and committed only one penalty in 846 career snaps. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the top-rated tackle in the FBS, with an overall grade of 94, which would break the single-season record grade for the position.

G: Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

Any of four Buckeyes linemen might have been good enough to make the team, and Wyatt has been among the most consistent guards this season. PFF ranks him as the second-best guard, with a grade of 83. According to TruMedia data, Davis has missed only one block in 172 pass blocks and four in 200 run blocks. He's a big reason the Buckeyes rank fourth in scoring (49.3 points) and third in rushing (288.5 yards).

C: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

The Sooners have a new quarterback and had to replace four starting offensive linemen from 2018. Because of injuries, they used five combinations on the offensive line in the first five games. Along the way, there was one constant: Humphrey. The former three-star recruit uses his wrestling background and 6-foot-5, 316-pound frame to leverage opponents and push them around.

G: Michael Onwenu, Michigan

Known as "Big Mike" among his teammates, Onwenu lost 25 pounds before this season to improve his mobility and athleticism. He is still a load to move at 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds. Although Michigan's offense has struggled at times under first-year coordinator Josh Gattis, Onwenu has been a rock in the interior. He has the third-best guard rating from PFF, at 81.8.

T: Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Thomas is the best NFL prospect on the biggest offensive line in UGA history: The five starters average 6-foot-5 and 328.6 pounds. The Bulldogs had allowed only one sack in five games before last week's loss to South Carolina, and Thomas has done a fantastic job protecting Jake Fromm's blind side. PFF ranks Thomas the No. 3 tackle, with a grade of 91.5.He had 23 knockdowns and allowed only three pressures in 364 snaps in the first six games.

AP: Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky

Bowden was one of the sport's most versatile players, even before injuries forced him to start at quarterback in last week's 24-20 win over Arkansas. Bowden has 295 rushing yards, 348 receiving, 53 yards on punt returns and 200 yards on kick returns. After injuries to three quarterbacks forced Bowden under center, the former high school QB completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown while running 24 times for 196 yards and two scores. He joined Antwaan Randle El and Julian Edelman as the only FBS players since 2000 with at least 20 rushing attempts, 10 passes and one punt return in a game.


DE: Chase Young, Ohio State

The Buckeyes just keep churning out great pass-rushers, and the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Young, who bulked up from a year ago, is making a case to be the best one yet. Even when teams have shifted extra protection his way, he has found a way to make plays or open opportunities for his teammates. Young is tied for second nationally with 8.5 sacks. He has forced three fumbles and blocked a kick. His combination of size, athleticism, power and length make him one of the most feared defenders in college football.

DT: Derrick Brown, Auburn

There isn't a better or more disruptive interior defensive lineman in college football than the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Brown, who demonstrated both his strength and his athleticism two weeks ago in a 24-13 loss at Florida. He had two fumble recoveries, including one on which he destroyed multiple blockers, forced the fumble and then returned it 11 yards. Auburn's defensive line is one of the best in the country, and Brown is the enforcer of that unit. He has five tackles for loss, including three sacks, despite facing constant double-teams.

DE: Jonathan Greenard, Florida

The Gators suffered a huge blow early in the loss to LSU when Greenard left the game after injuring his ankle and was unable to return. A graduate transfer from Louisville, Greenard has been a perfect fit for the hybrid "Buck" position in Florida's defense. He's a relentless edge rusher and leads the team with four sacks and seven quarterback pressures. He also has an interception and a forced fumble. The Gators really need him to get healthy because he's the guy who makes Todd Grantham's defense go.

LB: Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Yes, that's the same Oklahoma team locking people down on defense that in the past was known for being ravaged on defense. Every time you turn around, Murray seems to be making a key play. The 6-foot-2, 234-pound junior leads Oklahoma with 42 total tackles, including six tackles for loss. Beyond stats, Murray has set the tone for a defense that's playing fast, physical and with the kind of confidence we haven't seen from an OU defense in a long time.

LB: Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

The quintessential hybrid linebacker, Simmons has done a little bit of everything for Brent Venables' defense. The junior leads the team with 46 total tackles, including 40 solo stops. He has eight tackles for loss, including four sacks. The beauty of having Simmons on your defense is that he can line up just about anywhere and be a force, and it's obvious when you watch him play that he was once a safety and still has the skill set to play that role.

LB: Zack Baun, Wisconsin

No defense in college football has been more dominant midway through the season than Wisconsin's, and the chief disrupter on that unit has been Baun. What hasn't the senior outside linebacker done? He has 10.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks. He has forced two fumbles, and he returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown last week in the 38-0 rout of Michigan State. As effective as Baun has been rushing the passer, he's equally good in coverage and is making a strong case as the most irreplaceable defender in college football.

LB: Evan Weaver, Cal

Yet another senior linebacker who's playing lights-out this season, Weaver leads all FBS players with 84 total tackles and ranks second nationally with an average of 14 tackles per game. Weaver is the nation's only player with 18 or more tackles in two games, and one of those outings came in the 20-19 win over Washington the second week of the season. He had 11 or more tackles in five of the Bears' six games this season.

CB: Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

As good as the Buckeyes have been up front defensively, they've been just as impressive on the back end. Okudah, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior, is the leader back there with his sticky press coverage and physical nature against the run. Increasingly, he's drawing comparisons to some of the best cornerbacks Ohio State has produced in recent years, collecting three interceptions, breaking up three passes and forcing a fumble. He's also tied for third on Ohio State's team with 14 solo tackles and has more than lived up to his billing as the nation's top cornerback prospect when he came out of high school.

S: Douglas Coleman III, Texas Tech

The nation's leader with six interceptions, Coleman has had all six of those in the past four games, including two picks in the 45-35 win over Oklahoma State. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior also showcased his versatility in the 33-30 double-overtime loss to Baylor last week by tying for the team lead with eight tackles. Coleman has played the nickel spot and safety for the Red Raiders and ranks up there this season among the top breakout players in college football.

S: Xavier McKinney, Alabama

Injuries and early defections to the NFL have taken a toll on Alabama's defense, but McKinney has been a rock for the Crimson Tide. The junior leads the team with 47 total tackles, which top all SEC defensive backs, and 30 of those are solo stops. McKinney also has an interception to go with a forced fumble and fumble recovery, and one of his most important contributions this season has been his ability to help clean up mistakes.

CB: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

One of only two true freshmen on our midseason All-America team, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Stingley has been everything (and then some) the Tigers hoped they were getting in the nation's No. 1 CB recruit. He has three interceptions, which leads the team, and his nine pass breakups are tied for fourth nationally. Florida went after him last week, and at times Stingley gave up a few plays. But when the fourth quarter rolled around and the Tigers needed their talented freshman to come through, he did just that, with a key interception to thwart a Florida drive in LSU's 42-28 victory.


P: Max Duffy, Kentucky

Duffy is the latest Australian punter to invade college football, and the 26-year-old has been one of the best from down under. Duffy leads the FBS with a 50.4-yard average on 26 punts. The Wildcats are No. 1 in net punting, with only 30 return yards. Against South Carolina, Duffy averaged 51.1 yards on nine punts with four downed inside the SC 20. He averaged 54 yards against Toledo and had a 63-yarder against Florida.

K: Brandon Talton, Nevada

The true freshman from Vacaville, California, has two walk-off winners in six games. He made a 56-yarder as time expired in a 34-31 win over Purdue -- and then coach Jay Norvell awarded him a scholarship in the locker room afterward. Last week, Talton made a 40-yarder on the final play of a 41-38 victory over San Jose State. He's a perfect 12-for-12 on field goal tries and made four against Weber State, the most by a Nevada kicker in a game since 2008.

KR: Jaylond Adams, Southern Miss

The sophomore receiver opened the 2019 season by returning a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown against Alcorn State. He added an 80-yard punt return for a score in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win, becoming the first Golden Eagles player to return a kickoff and a punt for scores in a game. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD in a 47-42 win at Troy. Adams ranks sixth in the FBS in kickoff returns (32.2 yards) and 23rd in punt returns (11.1).

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