As a member of the Football Writer’s Association of America, I get to cast a ballot for the FWAA All-American team. This year I wanted to be sure that my ballot was made public for anyone to see how I voted if they were interested. The ballots for offense were due Sunday, so I am aware that there are still games to be played. However, I feel comfortable my selections here would hold up after the completion of the regular season and various conference championship games where needed.
Today I’m revealing my All-American offense and explaining some of my picks. Next week I will do the same with my ballot for defense.
Quarterback: Derek Carr, Fresno State
I have been vocal recently about how I believe Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch should be considered for the Heisman Trophy before Alabama’s AJ McCarron, so it may surprise you that I placed another option on the top of my quarterback depth chart on my All-American team. While I suspect Florida State’s Jameis Winston will be the likely First Team All-American, I cast my vote for Fresno State’s Derek Carr and I will tell you why.
Getting carried away with big passing numbers is very easy to do. Often times a quarterback with the kind of numbers Carr has is a product of the pass-happy system he is in, and for Carr that is true to an extent. Sometimes a system builds around the talents they have to work with, and Carr is a gifted individual that Fresno State has been wise to work around. Look at Fresno State’s passing trends as an example. In 2009 Fresno State ranked 79th in passing offense. Carr was a back-up freshman that year. Since then Fresno State’s passing game has improved each season and it is not a coincidence that Carr has been improving along the way. As the ballots for offense were due, Carr led the nation in touchdowns with 39 to just four interceptions and he was fourth in the nation in pass completion percentage (69.7) on 502 attempts.
As the season has progressed the Heisman narrative has focused solely on quarterbacks, but Boston College’s Andre Williams has made it impossible to ignore him as a worthy Heisman candidate. This past weekend Williams passed the 2,000-yard mark to become just the 16th player in the history of college football to do so. The best part about his achievement is he did it in 11 games, a truly remarkable feat the most old school fans of the game should appreciate. He has one more regular season game and a bowl game to continue to add to those numbers. The single season rushing record held by Barry Sanders should be safe for one more year, but Williams is fully capable of passing names like Ricky Williams, Mike Rozier, LaDainian Tomlinson and Marcus Allen before the season is in the books.
Meanwhile, Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs is having a special season as well that is flying under the radar. Bibbs has rushed for 25 touchdowns this season, second most only to Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (26). He will not put up the big rushing totals other running backs will, but there is something to be said about his production and I felt it was worth honoring along with Williams.
This was an easy choice for me, and I have no hesitation with these picks. I took the best wide receiver from the SEC (Mike Evans) and the best wide receiver from the Big Ten (Allen Robinson) and went with it. Let’s start with Evans. Some of the plays Evans has made this season have been nothing short of remarkable. Using his size to his advantage has at times been unfair for opposing defenses, as Evans has time and time again come down with a football thrown up for grabs by quarterback Johnny Manziel. The 6′ 5″, 225 pound receiver is difficult for any defense to cover, and his hands have not disappointed this year. Evans is the SEC’s leading receiver with 1,314 yards and 12 touchdowns when the FWAA offensive ballots were due. Some believe Evans should be worthy of some Heisman publicity, and maybe that will come in 2014, but for now he is a lock for an All-American roster spot.
Robinson made a name for himself last year as Penn State’s evolved under Bill O’Brien’s new schemes. I had some doubts he would be able to have the same kind of production he had last year, with a freshman quarterback taking over for an experienced veteran gone to the NFL, but perhaps that was misguided. Robinson will fall shy of his 2012 touchdown total, but he more than made up for it with 300 more receiving yards and some incredibly clutch catches at various points this season to put Penn State in a position to win some games (Michigan, Illinois). When the ballots were due, Robinson was easily on track to lead the Big Ten in receiving yards for a second season in a row, and he continues to rewrite the record books for receivers at Penn State. Penn State fans are watching the best wide receiver in school history.
Tight End: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
No tight end is having quite the year Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro is. When the ballots for offense were due Amaro was the nation’s 10th leading receiver with 1,157 yards and six touchdowns. For the sake of comparison, the next tight end on the list was North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, who was 65th in the nation with 774 yards and three touchdowns. You might think Amaro’s numbers are inflated because of a pass-heavy attack used by Texas Tech’s offense, and you are partially correct, but Amaro is also the top target and leading receiver for the Red Raiders, and that does not happen by accident or because of a system. Amaro is a 6′ 5″, 260 pound monster in the field who will give opposing defenses the fits trying to stop him. Amaro is one of three 1,000-yard receivers in the Big 12 at the time ballots were due.
My All-American offensive line includes two finalists for the Outland Trophy in Baylor’s Cyril Richardson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews. Florida State’s Bryan Stork was a semifinalist as well. These were pretty easy picks to make and I would love to have them on the same offensive line if possible. I also added Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort and Alabama’s Anthony Steen to my list. There may be other offensive tackles with a better pro outlook than Mewhort, but what I look for in offensive line play is consistency. To me, Mewhort has been a rock in the trenches all season, although he was recently banged up a little.
The same can be said for Steen, although his pro potential is generally more optimistic based on scouting reports and rankings I have seen so far. The reason Alabama has been so successful the past few years is largely because of the advantage they have on the line on both sides of the football. Alabama’s Steen has adjusted to a vital leadership role and has been dominant in protecting AJ McCarron.
Photos: Getty Images via Zimbio