AP All-America Watch: Michigan masher; Love blooms on Farm
The Associated Press has been honoring college football’s best with an All-America team since 1925. This season, the AP released its first preseason All-America team and will also weigh-in with a midseason team before the full, three-team All-America selections are unveiled in December. The third installment of the weekly All-America watch features the next Michigan defensive star, Christian McCaffrey’s replacement at Stanford and Florida’s special weapon:
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Chase Winovich grabbed some weekly awards with a three-sack performance against Purdue, but Bush is quickly becoming the leader of Michigan’s top-rated defense. The sophomore leads the team in tackles with 32, including 5.5 tackles for loss (4.5 sacks).
What they are saying: “You haven’t seen the best of him yet. That is the crazy part.” — Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary.
Outlook: The eighth-ranked Wolverines head into their off week unbeaten and still working out kinks in their offense, but it is clear that Bush and the defense can carry them a long way. He will be back on a prime-time stage against rival Michigan State on Oct. 7.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Love has been even better than expected in his first season as the centerpiece of the Cardinal offense. He showed he was capable of big things last season while filling in for Christian McCaffrey on the Farm. This season, Love is looking like a Heisman Trophy contender. He leads the nation in rushing at 196.75 yards per game and is averaging 10.78 yards per carry. In each game this season, Love has broken off a run of 50 yards or more.
Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
The preseason Heisman favorite has been pretty meh through four games. That meh has come with some sensational moments, especially against Texas. But Darnold ranks 42nd in the country in passer efficiency rating (148.35), with seven interceptions and nine touchdown passes.
ON THE LINE
(Former Auburn offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic identifies an O-lineman worth watching)
Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
While the Tigers’ offense has it some rough patches so far, Smith, a second-team preseason All-American, has been a road grader. He moves opponents at the point of attack, and has shown versatility this season, being used at multiple spots on the line. Last week, he helped pave the way for five rushing touchdowns against Missouri.
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL
Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
The Gators’ offense is showing signs of improvement — at least when opponents make egregious coverage mistakes. Still, having a stud punter is big deal for Florida and Townsend is a field-flipper. He led the nation in punting last season, but was squeezed out of an All-America selection. Townsend is back atop the national leaderboard in yards per punt at 50.81.
GOT MY EYE ON
(Members of the AP’s All-America voting panel on players worthy of attention)
Scott Hamilton from WCOG-AM in Greensboro, North Carolina: Duke Ejiofor, DL, Wake Forest.
The senior is the leader of a defense that ranks 20th in the nation in yards per play and has been a key to a 4-0 start for the Demon Deacons. Ejiofor has seven tackles for loss, including two sacks, and will likely be handful for Florida State’s sketchy offensive line at home on Saturday.
Brian Howell from BuffZone.com in Boulder, Colorado: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado.
Oliver has shut down two elite WRs this season — Colorado State’s Michael Gallup and Washington’s Dante Pettis. Pettis was targeted four times when Oliver was in coverage and only one pass was completed for 25 yards. Going into the Washington game, the junior had allowed 11 completions on 30 passes thrown his way.
A.J. Brown, slot receiver, Mississippi vs. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Brown is the Southeastern Conference’s leading receiver with 389 yards, and he’s averaging 24.3 yards per catch. The sophomore is 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, so he is not the usual shifty little slot guy. Fitzpatrick was an All-American last year and a preseason All-America heading into this season. His depth chart position is safety, but Fitzpatrick can play anywhere in the secondary and often lines up on slot receivers. Brown is nursing a strained knee and coach Matt Luke called him a game-time decision coming off a bye week. Cross fingers that Brown can go full speed and challenge one of the very best players in college football.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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