Quality assurance is at an all-time low here at SB Nation, if the angry messages I’ve received from Pod Katt are any indication. But worse than my proclivity for creative typos, somehow the Mothership gave this blog TWO ballots for the SB Nation All-American team.
Billy and I, of course, took this task very seriously and not at all as an excuse to cram as many LSU players as we could onto the team. Here’s our ballots, listing Billy’s selections second and mine first:
Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Lamar Jackson is sort of a no-brainer here. His numbers did taper off a bit towards the end of the year, but the fact remains he threw for over 3000 yards and rushed for over 1500. That’s just stupid. Hell, he would have merited consideration or the All-American list as a running back had we thrown out all of his passing stats. My second pick went to Mayfield, who is near to setting an NCAA record for passing efficiency. His 197.75 rating practically breaks the scale, primarily due to his 71.1% accuracy. He’s the top reason Oklahoma pulled out of its nosedive and went undefeated in conference play.
Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
Jackson is ridiculous — the most no-doubt Heisman winner that I can remember. I went with Mahomes second, because while Mayfield may have been more efficient, Mahomes just absolutely carried a whole offense doing everything, and he threw for 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns doing it. Just an amazing season, and after losing his best two weapons from 2015.
D’Onta Foreman (Texas)
Don’t worry, we’ll have more than one slot. There’s more to come down the ballot. Foreman averaged 184.4 yards/game, nearly 30 yards better than his closest competitor. He ended up rushing for 10 more yards on 7 less carries than Pumphrey, so it’s pretty close. But what I like about Foreman is that there’s no real stat padding here. It’s not like Texas had a huge lead and was running the ball to milk the clock a lot. They were a mediocre at best team, trying to score however they could to the last minute. That usually precludes having a 2000-yard rusher, but here we are.
Donnel Pumphrey (SDSU)
This was a pick’em between Pumphrey and Foreman, and I included both overall, but Pumphrey gets the top spot for me with his whole career as a tiebreaker. He may still yet catch Ron Dayne to be the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history with his bowl game coming against Houston. Yes, he’s benefited from having bowl games, but 6,000-plus yards is an achievement that deserves recognition, and Pumphrey hasn’t gotten enough to me.
Zay Jones (East Carolina)
This was an easy call. His 158 catches led the nation by 34. His 1746 yards led the nation by 160. And his 145.5 yards/game was the league’s best by 20.6 yards. He destroyed the field, statistically.
Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma)
Westbrook averaged nearly 20 yards a catch and caught 16 touchdowns this season. He was the most consistent big-play threat in the country this season.
Evan Engram (Ole Miss)
Do you understand how good an Ole Miss player has to be to get unanimous votes from the LSU blog? Engram’s 65 catches for 926 yards and 8 TD nearly lapped the field of tight ends. Ole Miss may have disappointed, but Engram didn’t. He delivered a huge year.
Evan Engram (Ole Miss)
Ole Miss asked Engram to take over for Laquon Treadwell as the No. 1 target for their team and the guy that kind of set the board for their offense, and he stepped into that role exceptionally well. It’s a joke that he wasn’t a finalist for the Mackey Award.
Dalvin Cook (Florida St.), Donnel Pumphery (SDSU), Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
Pumphery was just shy of Foreman’s marks, so he gets a slot here. There’s so little separating the two. Watson might be the most exciting player in the country, and I’ll remind you that he won his duel with Lamar Jackson. We’ve almost lost the capacity to be impressed by dual threat quarterbacks, but Watson put up some great numbers, too. And my last slot goes to Dalvin Cook, the only one of the preseason running back’s to live up the hype. He quietly went for 135 a game on 6.04 yards/carry. He totaled 1620 yards and 18 TD’s. He is the rarest of things, an underrated Seminole player.
D'Onta Foreman (Texas), Corey Davis (Western Michigan), John Ross (Washington)
It was really tough for me to leave Watson and Cook off of this, but I felt that Foreman, Davis and Ross all deserved the recognition. Foreman is obvious, but Davis practically carried Western Michigan’s offense, and Ross did something that nobody else can say this season — he made Adoree Jackson look mortal.
Pat Elfein (Ohio St.)
He’s going to run away with the Rimington and he’s the rare center up for the Lombardi. Ohio St has the best line in the country according to Adjusted Line Yards, and he’s the best player on that line. He’d also get my vote for the lineman of the year.
Ethan Pocic (LSU)
Bit of a homer pick on my part. Elfein is outstanding, but Pocic was an absolute rock for LSU’s offense this season, and a big reason the Tigers led the SEC in yards per play.
Cody O’Connell (Washington St.)
I’m not going to pretend I’m a huge expert on line play and I’ve been breaking down film, but he was a finalist for the Lombardi, and Wazzu came out of nowhere to compete this year. That’s good enough for me to give him the nod at the position. I’m deferring a bit on this one, as guards are hard to notice.
Braden Smith (Auburn)
Smith was the rock for Auburn’s offensive line this year, and that unit got the Gus Bus back in gear before Sean White’s injury.
Cam Robinson (Bama)
More than any other player, Cam is the recruiting loss that hurts the most. He was a huge LSU target, and he spurned us for the Tide. And he’s made us regret every single second since he stepped foot on that campus. Bama’s line is incredible, but none more so than Robinson. He dominates games.
Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)
He was impressive from week one and helped pave the way for a pretty solid offense for the Badgers this season.
Chad Wheeler (USC), Ethan Pocic (LSU), Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)
If you hadn’t noticed, USC is playing better than just about anyone in the country right now, and a lot of that has to do with the sudden revitalization of their line. Wheeler is the stud of Pac-12 After Dark. We’re familiar with Raczyk’s work at Wisconsin, as their line bullied LSU pretty well all day. For my last slot, I gave the vote to Pocic. LSU ended up with a pretty effective line, and I admire the way that Pocic has moved all over the line his entire career, plugging up whatever hole needed to be fixed.
Cam Robinson (Bama), Pat Elflein (Ohio St), Brian O'Neil (Pitt)
Whether I gave them the dedicated spot or not, both Robinson and Elfein are fantastic players and deserving of every accolade they get. As fr Brian O’Neil, he was the rock of the Pitt line that has every LSU fan pining for Matt Canada. He even caught a pair of touchdowns this season. That deserves some recognition.
Ed Oliver (Houston)
I watched a lot of Cougar football this year for two reasons: Posette is an alum and more importantly, to scout Tom Herman. Well, the big takeway I got from watching Houston was this: Ed Oliver is an inhuman force of nature. He was far and away the best player on the field in any game he played. That includes the game he played against the future Heisman winner.
Ed Oliver (Houston)
Jonathan Allen (Bama)
This just in. He’s good. That sack in the A&M game will live on in highlight reels forever. You know the one.
Jonathan Allen (Bama)
Allen should be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He’s that damn good.
Haason Reddick (Temple), Harold Landry (Boston College), DeMarcus Walker (Florida St.)
First off, I tried very hard to squeeze Barnett on to my ballot as a lifetime achievement award. I feel bad for leaving him off. He did have 12 sacks this year, giving him 32 on his career, and three consecutive 10-sack seasons. As a career award, he’s a slam dunk. But I treated this as a one-year award, and I took the co-sack leaders, each with 15, Landry and Walker. Landry also cleared 20 tackles for a loss. But Haason Reddick was amazing this year. His 21.5 TFL’s led the NCAA, and most importantly, he came up big in their biggest games. He had 4.5 TFL in two games against ranked teams, and another 5 in the game against Memphis. Temple is built on defense, and that defense is built on Reddick.
Derek Barnett (Tennessee), Carl Lawson (Auburn), Arden Key (LSU)
Barnett just wrapped up one of the best careers in SEC history, and it’s easy to chalk this up to a career honor, but the guy also played through injuries both to himself and the rest of his front seven and STILL had 12 sacks in carrying Tennessee’s defense to an 8-4 season despite all of the disappointments on offense. And yes, Landry and Walker were studs. But to me, Lawson and Key made their entire front sevens work — they were the tone setters and force-multipliers that allowed every other lineman to succeed.
Reuben Foster (Bama), Jabrill Peppers (Michigan), Jimmie Gilbert (Colorado), TJ Watt (Wisconsin), Tim Williams (Bama)
Here’s where I cop to a mistake. We don’t look at each other’s ballots until they were already submitted, and I have to admit, my snub of Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt is inexcusable. Instead of giving a vote to yet another Bama linebacker, I should have given it to the best Vandy player in quite some time, and they have had some good ones recently. I will go to the box and feel shame.
Foster is a monster and Peppers is one of the most dynamic players in the country. They were easy calls. Gilbert anchored a terrific Colorado defense, and he forced six fumbles on the year. As always, there’s an excellent Wisconsin linebacker out there.
Zach Cunningham (Vandy), Kendell Beckwith (LSU), Ben Boulware (Clemson), Reuben Foster (Bama), Duke Riley (LSU)
Likewise, I feel weird not having Peppers here, but then again, its kind of hard to think of the guy in terms of just a linebacker, and I think all of these linebackers had fantastic seasons. Cunningham was an animal for Vanderbilt, and practically beat Georgia single-handed, as a linebacker. Foster, likewise, is deserving of every accolade he gets for Alabama. LSU really just didn’t have an answer for him, even when they had him blocked. As for the rest, I went with players that were real glue guys for two of the best defenses in the country.
Adoree Jackson (USC), Tre White (LSU)
Here’s the crazy thing: I thought this was the single easiest vote of the ballot. There are a lot of quality corners in college football this year, but Jackson and White were simply a cut above, and near appointment television. They were dominant players who looked like NFL guys killing time against amateurs. Yet Billy didn’t vote for either of them. I’m genuinely curious as to what I’m missing here.
Desmond King (Iowa), Quincy Wilson (Florida)
It wasn’t easy leaving Jackson off, but I thought King played a bigger role in a defense with less help from a pass-rush. Likewise, Wilson lit up the advanced stats this year, and probably deserves the plaudits that Jalen Tabor got for Florida.
Malik Hooker (Ohio St), Budda Baker (Washington)
Another fairly easy call. Hooker has been widely praised as the best player on one of the nation’s best defenses, and Baker is probably the guy most responsible for Washington making the playoff. Safety is a hard position to evaluate, as it’s the kind of job you tend to get noticed only when you screw up. Jamal Adams was right on the cusp of my ballot here, but I went with the playoff guys. Sorry, Jamal. Don’t hurt me.
Malik Hooker (Ohio St), Jamal Adams (LSU)
Hooker is a gimme, and I felt bad for Budda Baker, but Adams, to me, was simply better. Call it a homer pick if you want, but I think Adams does more than any other safety in the country.
Jourdan Lewis (Michigan)
He had a high number of PBU’s (10) for a top corner that teams are supposed to be throwing away from. Michigan’s defense was arguably the best in the country, and it wasn’t just Peppers. The whole unit could bring it, and part of that was because of the comfort of top tier corner play.
Tre White (LSU)
White got my extra spot here, because to me, that’s where he was at his best, in the nickel role. He was a great edge-setter in the running game when asked, and just erased slot receivers, something that has become harder and harder to do in the modern era.
Daniel Carlson (Auburn)
He tied for the national lead in field goals made, but he did have one extra attempt. So why not punish the Auburn kicker for his accuracy? Because the kid was clutch all year. More than anyone else, his kicks mattered. His field goals provided the margin of victory against LSU (18 points, 4 point margin), Ole Miss (12 points, 11 point margin), and Vanderbilt (9 points, 7 point margin). He’s the difference between Auburn struggling to make Shreveport and going to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.
Daniel Carlson (Auburn)
Once again, easy choice for me. Carlson is a stud, and was asked to be that by Auburn with their red zone issues.
Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah)
It was neck and neck between Wishnowsky and Townsend, as they were separated by the narrowest of margins. Townsend punted for 4 more total yards on the exact same number of punts. That was worth .07 yards on average. The difference is this: Townsend had 6 touchbacks to Wishnowsky’s 2. That’s 80 more yards he gave away by putting it past the end line, and just enough to edge Wishnowsky ahead of the line. Utah led the nation in net punting as a result.
Johnny Townsend (Florida)
Townsend made up for the Gator’s offense being complete booty, because damn is it hard to drive on that defense.
Dante Pettis (Washington)
I almost voted for Kirk, but he didn’t return the ball that often, just 11 times in 12 games. Instead, I went with Pettis, who had 2 touchdown returns to Kirk’s 3, but had the highest average return for guys with multiple scores (except Adoreee, who is already on the team). More importantly, his punt return against Utah was the most important play of the year, and he put the Huskies in the playoffs. Without his return, the Huskies are on the outside looking in. No one else had that kind of impact.
Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)
True, Kirk didn’t have that many returns, but that’s because he was that damn dangerous and just didn’t get the opportunities. Pettis is a complete stud as well, but Kirk meets every bit of the hype. I don’t know that there is a better first-step in the game.
Nick Saban (Bama)