AP All-America Watch: Sooner Heisman hopeful, FSU sackmaster
The Associated Press has been honoring college football’s best with an All-America team since 1925. The full three-team AP All-America selections will be unveiled in December. The sixth All-America watch of the season features Oklahoma’s latest Heisman Trophy contender, Florida State’s hot pass rusher and an All-America matchup that could help decide an SEC East showdown.
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
When the AP midseason All-America team was released last week, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was the first-team quarterback and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins was second team. Had there been a third team Murray would have been on that and there is still time for him to make up ground. Murray trails only Tagovailoa in passer efficiency rating (224.90) and yards per attempt (12.7). The junior has 25 touchdown passes and three interceptions, plus he’s run for 428 yards and six more scores. Murray replaced a Heisman Trophy winner in Bake Mayfield and is now a Heisman Trophy contender.
What they are saying: “Numbers at the end, that’s all well and good. He’s getting better, I thought he learned some things, just — I don’t want to say emotionally — but I thought he handled the ups and downs of this game as good as he has in any of the games this year. I’m proud of him.” — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley after the Sooners beat TCU.
Outlook: The eighth-ranked Sooners are still very much in the College Football Playoff race. Murray will have some high-profile games, including at Texas Tech and at No. 13 West Virginia, where he will likely have to play well for Oklahoma to outscore other potent offenses with talented quarterbacks.
Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
The Seminoles are starting to turn their season around, with three victories in the last four games. The defense has been particularly disruptive and Burns is leading the way. The junior has nine sacks on the season and 7½ in the last three games. According to Pro Football Focus, Burns leads the nation in quarterback pressures with 46 on the season.
Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
Gary was a second-team preseason All-American and is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. He was playing well before a shoulder injury sidelined him the last three games. The Wolverines’ defense continues to shine without him, and his status is uncertain for the rest of the season. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Gary practiced last week leading up to the Michigan State game but then decided he could not play. That’s led to speculation Gary might take the same route as Ohio State star Nick Bosa, who had surgery on a core muscle injury and has decided to leave school and focus on preparing for the draft. Stay tuned.
GROUP OF FIVE STAR
Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts
UMass is an independent, but outside the Power Five, so Isabella qualifies for recognition here. Especially with numbers as good as any receiver in the country. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior has 64 catches for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns. UMass is having another rough season at 2-6, but Isabella has made his way onto the Biletnikoff Award (best receiver) watch list and is doing his best to keep the Minutemen competitive.
ON THE LINE
(ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic, a former guard at Auburn, identifies an offensive lineman playing at an All-America level)
Clemson, OT, Mitch Hyatt.
The four-year starter passed up a chance to be a high NFL draft pick last year and has put together an excellent senior season.
“Hyatt has great feet. His quickness and flexibility help him win consistently. He is the leader of the group and has been solid all year.” —Cubelic.
Jachai Polite, DE/OLB, Florida vs. Andrew Thomas, LT, Georgia
Polite has been one of the Southeastern Conference’s breakout stars this season, averaging a sack a game with seven overall. Thomas has moved over from right tackle, where he started as a freshman for Georgia’s SCE championship team, to protect quarterback Jake Fromm’s blind side. Thomas was performing well, but an ankle injury sidelined him for a couple games. Georgia coach said Thomas was not quite 100 percent two Saturdays ago against LSU, when the Bulldogs lost and Fromm was sacked three times. Both teams had off last week to prepare for a crucial SEC East game.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast