The 2013 college football season has given us a fair share of dazzling breakout performances. Unfortunately, though, it’s also featured a few disappointing campaigns from highly touted stars.
Players like Florida State QB Jameis Winston, Misouri DE Michael Sam and Boston College RB Andre Williams have all captured the attention of the college football world with fantastic breakthrough seasons. But there were also let-down showings from big-name stars such as South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, USC WR Marqise Lee and Georgia RB Todd Gurley—three players who were bit hard by the injury bug this year.
Still, even though the likes of Clowney, Lee and Gurley failed to live up to their preseason hype, there were still plenty of great individual performances that deserve appreciation.
So who really was college football’s true cream of the crop this year?
Here’s a look at the standout performers of 2013 who deserve All-American honors.
All-American Team: First-Team Offense
MVP: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
QB: Jameis Winston, Florida State
After losing 11 players who were selected in the 2013 NFL draft, Florida State’s hopes for winning a national championship weren’t nearly as high coming into this season as they were at the start of the 2012 campaign. Luckily, however, the Seminoles found an elite playmaker in QB Jameis Winston, who has helped energize the program and lead the team back to the top of the college football food chain.
After taking a redshirt season last year and sitting on the sidelines, watching and learning from EJ Manuel, Winston took the offensive reigns this season and he certainly turned out to be worth the one-year wait. The former heralded 5-star recruit from Hueytown, Alabama has been the biggest breakout star in college football, and he’s emerged as the clear-cut favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
The 6’4”, 228-pound redshirt freshman has displayed a knack for creating explosive plays in the passing game. He’s completed 68 percent of his passes for over 3,400 yards, averaged over 11 yards per throw and hit 35 touchdown passes compared to just eight interceptions.
The sexual assault allegations levied against the star signal-caller has obviously raised plenty of questions. But if you’re just strictly judging the young man by his on-the-field performance in 2013, there’s simply not another quarterback in college football who can compare to him this year.
RB: Andre Williams, Boston College
After averaging just 19 points per game and finishing the season with a dismal 2-10 record in 2012, Boston College desperately needed a spark to rejuvenate the offense this season. Thankfully, the Eagles got just that from RB Andre Williams.
Williams has been one of the sport’s most surprising success stories of 2013. After rushing for just 584 yards on 130 carries last year, the 6’0”, 227-pound senior has proven that he’s got what it takes to be a true workhorse back. The big, bruising downhill runner has carried the ball 329 times and rushed for 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s played a key role in leading BC to a resurgent 7-5 record.
Not only is Williams the only player in the FBS ranks to break the mythical 2,000-rushing yard threshold this year, he’s the first player to top that total since 2008.
RB: Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
After putting together a breakout season as a sophomore in 2012, in which he led the nation with 1,929 rushing yards, Ka’Deem Carey had built up plenty of momentum going into the offseason. Unfortunately, the offseason turned out to be a bit of a rocky road for the star rusher. After serving a one-game suspension for the season-opener, Carey returned to the field and ran with the same type of precision and grace we saw last season.
The 5’10”, 197-pound junior racked up over 100 rushing yards in every single game he played in, totaling 1,716 yards on the ground and scoring 18 total touchdowns.
Carey has proven to be a perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez’s unique offensive attack. This year, he proved just how valuable he is. After losing QB Matt Scott to graduation and WR Austin Hill to injury, the Wildcats needed a reliable rusher like Carey to carry the offense, and he stepped up and did just that.
WR: Allen Robinson, Penn State
You only need to watch one of Allen Robinson’s fantastic catches from the 2013 season to realize just how great he was this year. That catch is of course Robinson’s 36-yard sensational leaping sideline grab against Michigan with just seconds remaining, which gave Penn State the chance to tie Michigan and ultimately beat the Wolverines in overtime.
Though that remarkable game-saving reception was Robinson’s most memorable play of the season, he had plenty of other catches that made defenders look foolish. Though he had to deal with an inexperienced freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the 6’3”, 210-pound junior still managed to haul in 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns.
Robinson showed that he was much more than just the big, possession receiver that he was labeled as, coming out of high school. His 10 catches of over 40 yards is tied for the most in the nation.
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Alabama and Auburn may be the two best teams in the SEC this year. But Mike Evans didn’t seem to be very impressed or afraid of either of their defenses. Evans torched both the Tide and the Tigers’ secondaries, totaling 18 catches for a whopping 566 yards and five touchdowns in those two meetings.
Those weren’t the only defensive backfields that Evans eviscerated this season, though. The 6’5”, 225-pound redshirt sophomore totaled 65 catches for 1,322 yards, averaging over 20 yards per reception, and scored 12 touchdowns.
Texas A&M was the only BCS school that took a chance on Evans’ potential back when he was a lightly recruited prospect, who had only played one year of football at Texas’ Katy High School. The Aggies’ gamble on the once highly gifted, yet highly raw recruit has paid off in a huge way. Not only has Evans asserted himself as the favorite to win this year’s Biletnikoff Award, he’s also put himself in position to be a top-15 pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
The legitimacy of the Mackey Award—an honor which is annually presented to the most outstanding tight end in college football—has been put into question this year. That’s because the clear-cut best tight end in the nation—Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro—wasn’t even named as one of the three finalists for the 2013 award.
Amaro has distanced himself from every other tight end in the sport this season. He’s totaled 98 catches—which ranks sixth overall in the country—for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6’5”, 260-pound junior is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body, which makes him an absolute nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. Amaro is latest standout player to emerge in the new generation of big, athletic pass-catching tight ends, which has taken the NFL by storm in recent years.
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Texas A&M didn’t need to panic this offseason after losing All-American left tackle Luke Joeckel—last year’s Outland Trophy winner and the No. 2 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. That’s because the Aggies were lucky enough to have an equally as talented tackle, Jake Matthews, who could fill Joeckel’s shoes.
This year, Matthews has made a seamless switch from the right side to the left side and been a valuable blindside bodyguard for star QB Johnny Manziel. The 6’5”, 305-pound senior has been just as impressive as his former teammate Joeckel. He’s been able to step out of Joeckel’s shadow and prove to NFL scouts that he’s also worthy of being a top-10 draft pick.
The son of legendary hall-of-famer Bruce Matthews possesses all the skills to be a perennial pro-bowler at the next level, just like his father was. Before he gets to the pros, though, Matthews will be looking to bring home a second consecutive Outland Trophy to College Station.
OL: Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Iowa has had a rich tradition of producing standout offensive linemen during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. Since Ferentz took over in 1999, the Hawkeyes have had 13 offensive linemen selected in the NFL draft.
OT Brandon Scherff is the team’s latest linemen who has caused a big-time buzz in the scouting community.
After suffering a severe leg injury, which cut his 2012 season short, Scherff returned to the lineup and looked better than ever in 2013. The 6’5”, 315-pound junior displayed the type of power, nastiness and flawless fundamentals that you would expect from an Iowa lineman.
OL: David Yankey, Stanford
In an era dominated by new-age spread offensive systems, it’s refreshing to see the power-based pro-style attack that Stanford runs have so much success. The heart of the Cardinal offense isn’t a speedy jitterbug playmaker or a superstar quarterback. No, it’s the team’s intimidating offensive line.
David Shaw has assembled one of the most formidable front-fives that we’ve seen in college football in the last decade. The leader and face of that veteran group is OG David Yankey.
After a tremendous performance at left tackle last season, Yankey selflessly did what was best for the team, switching back to offensive guard to allow former 5-star recruit Andrus Peat to prove himself on the outside. The 6’5”, 313-pound junior has continued to dominate in the interior, using his size, agility and strength to overwhelm opposing defenders.
Shaw has already said that Yankey is “good enough to go pro.” If he does declare for the 2014 draft, the versatile three-year starter will undoubtedly be one of the first offensive lineman selected.
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
The dynamic trio of QB Bryce Petty, RB Lache Seastrunk and WR Antwan Goodley are the three biggest stars of Baylor’s high-powered offensive attack. However, the unsung hero who has been doing all the dirty work in the trenches for the Bears is OG Cyril Richardson.
Richardson has been the main man up front, who has been opening up huge holes for Seastrunk and giving Petty the proper protection and time he needs to create those big explosive passing plays to Goodley. The 6’5”, 340-pound senior has been the leader of a line which has allowed just 18 total sacks and has helped provide the blocking for the 12th ranked rushing attack in the country.
The 2012 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year has proven himself at both tackle and guard during his three years as a starter in Waco. Richardson’s quietly yet consistently handled his business while deferring the spotlight to the team’s talented offensive skill-position players.
OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
For three straight seasons, Oregon has ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense. During that time, the Ducks offense has featured plenty of explosive skill-position players. However, the true mainstay has been center Hroniss Grasu.
After putting together a solid debut performance as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Grasu has steadily grown into college football’s premier center over the last two years. The 6’3”, 297-pound junior is the type of agile, intelligent and technically-sound lineman who’s a perfect fit for Oregon’s zone-blocking scheme.
Grasu’s consistency and dependability in the interior have been a big reason why Oregon has managed to have such incredible sustained success on the ground during his time as a starter.
All-American: First-Team Defense
MVP: LB Trent Murphy, Stanford
DL: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
At just 6’0”, 285-pounds, Aaron Donald certainly isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in college football. However, no other tackle in the country has made as big of an impact as Donald has this season. The undersized, yet relentless tackle has been a dominant defensive force in the interior.
Donald leads the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and is tied for 10th in the country with 10 sacks. He’s also totaled 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and racked up 41 solo tackles.
The one-man wrecking crew has certainly made a name for himself in Pitt’s first season in the ACC, and he’s definitely boosted his draft stock with a sensational senior performance.
How many other defenders can say they had a “double tackle” this year?
DL: Michael Sam, Missouri
Before the start of the 2013 season, it seemed like DE Kony Ealy was the player who many were predicting would follow in the footsteps of players like Sheldon Richardson and Aldon Smith and emerge as Missouri’s next breakout star defensive lineman. Though Ealy has put together a solid season this year, he’s been largely overshadowed by fellow end Michael Sam.
After totaling just 9.5 sacks in his first three seasons in Colombia, Sam has taken his game to another level this year. The 6’2”, 255-pound senior has totaled 10.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. He’s been the MVP of an 11-1 Missouri squad that has been one of the most improved teams in college football this year.
The former lightly recruited 2-star prospect from Hitchcock, Texas has been the type of leader that the Tigers needed in order to take the next step and compete in the SEC. Not only has Sam helped guide the Tigers to the conference championship game, he’s also drastically improved his draft stock and solidified his status as one of the top pass-rushing prospects in the 2014 class.
DL: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Clemson is a program that has produced its fair share of notable defensive ends in recent years such as Da’Quan Bowers, Andre Branch, Ricky Sapp, Phillip Merling and the late Gaines Adams. The latest Tiger pass-rusher that has everyone buzzing is DE Vic Beasley.
After opening eyes with an impressive 2012 campaign, in which he led the team with eight sacks as just a first-year starter, Beasley has really broken onto the national scene with a brilliant performance in 2013. The explosive edge-rusher has totaled 12 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and forced four fumbles.
Though the 6’2”, 235-pound junior obviously doesn’t possess the prototypical size you expect from a 4-3 defensive end, Beasley has just been too fast for many opposing offensive tackles to handle.
DL: Trevor Reilly, Utah
Now that hybrid multiple-look defensive fronts are becoming all the rage in football, versatile edge-rushers who can line up at both defensive end and outside linebacker are becoming incredibly invaluable. The perfect example of that kind of hybrid player is Utah’s Trevor Reilly.
Reilly has proven that he can make a huge impact, whether he’s got his hand in the dirt as a defensive end or he’s standing up and roaming around at linebacker. No matter where’s he’s lined up this year, the 6’5”, 255-pound senior has always found a way to be an effective defensive playmaker. He’s totaled nine sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 56 solo tackles.
After being overshadowed by former teammate: DT Star Lotulelei for the past two years, Reilly has finally been able to rise up in 2013 and show that he truly is one of the top defenders in the country. The versatile edge-rusher will be one of the most coveted 3-4 rush linebacker prospects in the 2014 draft class.
LB: Trent Murphy, Stanford
During David Shaw’s three years at Stanford, the Cardinal have managed to rank in the top 10 nationally in run defense each and every season. This year, not only does the defense rank third nationally in run defense, allowing just 87 yards on the ground per game, the unit is also tied for 10th in the country with 35 sacks.
The player who has played the biggest role in helping to make Stanford’s defense one of the strongest and most stout units in the country is LB Trent Murphy.
Murphy was one of former coach Jim Harbaugh’s last great recruiting finds before his departure to the NFL. Though Harbaugh never got the chance to develop the former 3-star prospect from Phoenix, luckily, current defensive coordinator Derek Mason has done a great job of making the most of Murphy’s outstanding skills.
After totaling 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss last year, the 6’6”, 261-pound senior has somehow found a way to top those totals in 2013, as he’s racked up 13 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and totaled six pass breakups.
After flourishing in Mason’s 3-4 defense over the past two seasons, the big, powerful and physical outside linebacker has put himself in the first-round conversation for the 2014 NFL draft.
LB: CJ Mosley, Alabama
It’s obviously tough to stick out when you play for the most talented team in college football. But that hasn’t stopped Alabama LB CJ Mosley from making a name for himself and gaining a reputation as one of the top defensive players in the country.
Mosley has embraced his role as the Tide’s defensive leader and he’s excelled in the middle of Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense. Following a breakout 2012 campaign, in which he led the team with 107 tackles, including 66 solo stops, the 6’2”, 232-pound senior has once again been Alabama’s most productive defender of 2013, totaling 102 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and 57 solo stops.
Scouting legend Gil Brandt has compared the highly productive four-year starter to former Bucs star Derrick Brooks. It’s certainly high praise, but considering how consistent and dependable Mosley has been during his time in Tuscaloosa, it’s definitely warranted.
LB: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Few other defenders in college football have been as active and as productive as Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier has been this season. No matter what his role has been, whether it’s a pass-rusher, a run-stopper or a cover man, Shazier has thrived and proven to be a versatile and valuable jack-of-all trades defensive playmaker.
The highly athletic 6’2”, 230-pound junior has amassed 123 total tackles, including 85 solo stops, 22 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and he’s forced four fumbles. Shazier’s performance is the main reason why the Buckeyes rank fifth nationally in run defense, even though they have four new starting defensive linemen from a year ago.
Possessing the speed, instincts and range to make plays all over the field, Shazier has constantly been around the ball this season, and he’s made plenty of game-changing plays for the undefeated Buckeyes.
DB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Jameis Winston may be the Seminole star who’s received the majority of attention and publicity this season. However, you can easily make the argument that CB Lamarcus Joyner has been just as important to Florida State’s defensive success as Winston has been to the team’s offensive success.
After making the switch from safety to cornerback during the offseason, Joyner has looked like a natural at his new position. The undersized 5’8”, 190-pound senior may not intimidate any opposing receiver with his size or stature, but his toughness, coverage skills and natural playmaking ability will make any opposing offensive player take notice.
Joyner has found ways to make an impact in a variety of different ways in 2013, totaling 42 solo tackles, five sacks and forcing three fumbles. Say what you will about his size, but there’s simply no denying that Joyner is one of the top cover corners in the country, and he’s one of college football’s most instinctive defenders.
DB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Michigan State’s secondary is one of the top defensive backfields in all of college football. The Spartans are tied for first nationally, allowing an average of just 5.1 yards per pass, and they’ve allowed just 11 total passing touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions.
The star of the Spartans secondary is CB Darqueze Dennard.
Though quarterbacks have been wary of testing Dennard this season, the 5’11”, 197-pound senior has still found ways to make plays on the rare occasions when he has seen ball thrown his way. He’s picked off four passes, broken up another eight throws and totaled 31 solo stops.
NFL.com’s Charles Davis recently stated that he’s heard chatter from some NFL scouts who think Dennard is the best cornerback prospect they’ve seen since Deion Sanders. While he may not be the same type of rare athletic specimen that Sanders was, Dennard certainly possesses all the skills to develop into an elite lock down corner at the next level.
DB: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Back in 2011, Justin Gilbert earned the unique distinction of being the only cornerback in college football to intercept passes thrown by Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill—the three top quarterback picks in the 2012 NFL draft. What really helped Gilbert build a buzz, however, was his defensive MVP performance against Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
Unfortunately, he was unable to build on the momentum, as he ended up turning in a disappointing sub-par season last year.
After entering the 2013 season with lower expectations than he had the previous year, the speedy 6’0”, 200-pound senior has looked like a completely different corner this fall. Gilbert leads the Big 12 with six interceptions, he’s broken up another five throws and he’s been the centerpiece of a secondary that has allowed just 5.9 yards per pass and 13 touchdown throws.
Recently, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah said that Gilbert’s “stock is soaring in NFL circles” and it’s easy to see why, since he possesses the combination of size and explosive speed that scouts love to see.
DB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
Since Oregon’s high-octane offense usually garners most of the attention and generates most of the headlines, it can be tough for the Ducks’ defensive players to attain the type of respect that they truly deserve. However, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one Oregon defender who has had no trouble gaining respect from the opposing receivers that he’s blanketed in coverage this season.
Ekpre-Olomu has been a highly active and well-versed corner, who has shown that he can make plays against both the pass and the run with equal effectiveness. This year, the 5’10”, 185-pound junior has totaled 78 tackles, including 52 solo stops, picked off three passes and broken up another six throws.
Though he may not have elite size for the position, Ekpre-Olomu is a tough, physical and fearless corner, who possess top-notch ball-skills and coverage ability.
All-American: Second-Team Offense
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn
RB: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
WR: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson
TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OL: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
OL: Cameron Erving, Florida State
OL: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
OL: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
All-American: Second-Team Defense
DL: Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
DL: Leonard Williams, USC
DL: Randy Gregory, Nebraska
DL: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
LB: Khalil Mack, Buffalo
LB: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
LB: Shayne Skov, Stanford
DB: Jason Verrett, TCU
DB: EJ Gaines, Missouri
DB: Deone Bucannon, Washington State
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
All-American: Honorable Mention and Specialists
QB: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
WR: Davante Adams, Fresno State
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
DL: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
LB: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
DB: Nevin Lawson, Utah State
K: Anthony Fera, Texas
P: Tom Hornsey, Memphis
KR: Ty Montgomery, Stanford
PR: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina