- SI's preseason All-America teams are stacked, but there's a ton of talent across the country that was left on the outside looking in.
Every year when we make our preseason All-America list at SI.com, there’s a fun moment when I look and see how many of the players I voted for made the cut. On one hand, I’m happy to see many represented; my colleagues are smart, and if we all agree on a guy, I feel better in my assessment that he’s really, really good. But on the other hand, I like my wonky picks, even if they’re not that wonky, the ones who made the second team or didn’t get on the list at all. With that in mind, this week’s top 10 looks at the most notable snubs from our list—players we may have voted for or considered, players at stacked positions, players who you might see on the midseason edition of this very same compilation. Here goes:
Marcus Allen, S, Penn State
You might remember Allen from Penn State’s victory over Ohio State a year ago; he’s the guy whose blocked field goal led to the Nittany Lions’ game-winning touchdown. He’s a force in the run game, and he’s been starting since his freshman season. In 2016, he finished with 110 tackles, the most on Penn State’s team, and not only does he hit often, he also hits hard.
Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Adams will be a junior this year, and last season, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He has started consistently for his entire career at Washington at left tackle on an offense that’s evolved into one of the game’s better units, and he’s massive, standing 6' 7" and weighing just over 300 pounds. Also of importance: He’s had a phenomenal mullet for much of his college career.
Will Clapp, C, LSU
Clapp was probably the SEC’s best guard a season ago, blocking for both Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice as they became two of the game’s best running backs during the course of his career. Now, he’s moving over to center in LSU’s new offense, but he’s shown his versatile moving between the left and right side of the line. It seems unlikely the switch will be much of an obstacle at all for the 6' 5", 314-pound junior.
Clelin Ferrell, DL, Clemson
Clemson’s defensive line is stacked, and Dexter Lawrence made our first-team list; Christian Wilkins, our second. Ferrell, though, deserves credit as a cog in the country’s best line—which is one of the top position groups in college football. A redshirt sophomore, Ferrell posted 12.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks a season ago, pressuring the quarterback an impressive 24 times. Ferrell will get plenty of one-on-one matchups this season as Lawrence and Wilkins contend with double team after double team, and I expect him to dominate in those situations.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
As the reigning Heisman winner, Jackson is probably due more credit this preseason than he’s getting. Following up those accolades is never easy, but last year, he was in many ways a one-man offense, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to do it again in 2017. Sure, he thundered onto the scene last fall with eight touchdowns in the first half of Louisville’s first game, but Jackson has improved steadily over the course of his career, and he has a strong arm that may be even better in this, his third year of college ball. I’ll finish by taking a moment to remind you of his final statistics from a year ago: He threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
Early reports out of camp indicate that USC’s offense has struggled while its defense has dominated, and that’s in good part due to Marshall, who played opposite Adoree’ Jackson a season ago. Backing up a future first-round pick diverted the spotlight from Marshall in 2016, but he often looked just as talented as Jackson when the ball came his way. His size is impressive, too; he stands 6' 1" and weighs 200 pounds.
Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Sure, Alabama’s defense lost its best players to the NFL and will have to rebuild, but what else is new? Payne will anchor a younger unit, and so far at Alabama he’s shown the talent to lead the group as a run-stuffing nose guard. Last year, he had 3.5 tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery, which he ran back for a touchdown. His combination of size, strength and dexterity—he’s 6' 2" and weighs just over 300 pounds—is definitely enough for him to play at the next level, and he’ll be a name you’ll almost certainly be talking about by midseason.
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami
Richards was the best freshman receiver in the country a year ago, finishing with 934 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 19.1 yards per reception as well, and in the post-Brad Kaaya era at Miami, he’ll be a key piece of Mark Richt’s offense. If he picks up where he left off a season ago, Richards could be the best receiver in the ACC come season’s end.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Rudolph was one of four players to get a cover of this very magazine in our college football preview edition, so we’re certainly high on him. Still, he had to contend with the likes of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold and Jackson for a spot on our All-America teams. No matter what, there’s no denying he should be one of the most electric players in the game this season, and his NFL prospects are solid at worst. Remember: A year ago, Rudolph not only threw for more than 4,000 yards, and he also completed 28 touchdown passes compared with just four interceptions. Four.
Braden Smith, OL, Auburn
Smith has played mostly at guard over his career at Auburn, but this spring, he lined up at right tackle for the Tigers. It looks like he’ll likely settle back at guard for the season on a strong offensive line. He’s started 27 straight games, and he deserves a ton of the credit for the development of Auburn’s strong running game behind backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.