The 2018 season is seven weeks old, and while we haven’t seen a changing of the guard among college football’s elite teams, a new wave of star players has risen up to provide a steady steam of highlight plays and game-changing performances. From home-run threats to elite defensive stoppers, the midseason All-America team highlights the best of 2018 (so far). Our writers and editors have cast their ballots, and now the results are in.
Captions written by Will Ragatz and Eric Single. An asterisk(*) next to a player’s name denotes that he was a unanimous selection.
QB: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, So.
Tagovailoa still hasn't thrown a pass in the fourth quarter this season, but he's done enough to prove he's an exceptional talent. He is averaging 14.3 yards per attempt and has thrown for 21 touchdowns without a pick. He finally struggled a little against Missouri, losing a fumble and suffering a minor knee injury on a slide, leaving the game early and in victory but not before his passer rating dropped from 258.4 to 248.1. No one has ever cracked a 200 rating for a full season.
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson, So.
Etienne leads all Power 5 running backs in yards per carry at 9.2, and more importantly, he has stepped up when Clemson needed him most. With backup Chase Brice in at quarterback against Syracuse after Trevor Lawrence went down late in the first half, Etienne carried the Tigers to a crucial win, finishing with 203 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
RB: Darrell Henderson, Memphis, Jr.
Henderson’s ridiculous numbers speak for themselves: 1,133 rushing yards, 10.3 yards per carry, 15 total touchdowns. He has run for 174 yards or more in five of Memphis's seven games, most recently dropping 199 against UCF in the Tigers' near-upset. Henderson has been the most productive running back in the country, outpacing the next names down the leaderboard by much more than the quality of Memphis opponents' defenses can't be the sole explanation.
WR: Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado, So.
While some players on the midseason first team were expected to be here before the season, no one foresaw Shenault’s rise to becoming one of the nation's best receivers. He has scored 11 touchdowns in six games, including four against Arizona State, and leads Power 5 players with 780 receiving yards. Shenault’s talent and versatility have propelled him into the Heisman conversation.
WR: Marquise Brown, Oklahoma, Jr.
Brown racked up 1,092 yards catching passes from Baker Mayfield as a freshman a year ago and has taken on an even bigger role this year with tight end Mark Andrews gone from the Sooners' pecking order of pass catchers. Take out a catchless outing against Army in which the Sooners only had the ball for 15 minutes of game clock, and it makes it all the more impressive that Brown's 675 yards and seven scores have come in only five games. He's the perfect deep threat to pair with quarterback Kyler Murray’s electric arm.
TE: Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M, R-Jr.
After early-season indications that he might be a main beneficiary of Jimbo Fisher's offensive philosophy, Sternberger was the best player on the field in the Aggies’ win over South Carolina last weekend, finishing with seven receptions for 145 yards, dominating the middle of the field and at one point dragging a defender for 30 yards. He also scored his sixth touchdown of the year, most in the country among tight ends.
OT: Andrew Thomas, Georgia, So.
One year after starting every game at right tackle for the national runner-up as a true freshman, Thomas has continued to be a reliable force on the Georgia offensive line. He’s been outstanding in both run-blocking and pass protection for the Bulldogs, who remain a playoff contender despite losing to LSU.
OT: Jonah Williams*, Alabama, Jr.
Alabama has no shortage of elite players, but Williams has to be considered one of the most important. His contributions towards Tagovailoa’s success should not be overlooked; Williams has allowed just four pressures in 192 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle this season, according to PFF.
G: Terrone Prescod, NC State, R-Sr.
NC State is 5–0 and No. 16 in the country through seven weeks, and a big part of that success is Prescod, who along with center Garrett Bradbury powers one of the best interior line groups in the country. Prescod’s 89.5 PFF grade is the best mark of any offensive lineman this season.
G: Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin, R-Sr.
Another year, another dominant Wisconsin offensive line. Benzschawel is one of multiple Badgers upperclassmen who get a large chunk of the credit for sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor's 950 yards in six games.
C: Michael Jordan, Ohio State, Jr.
Jordan has started 34 straight games for the Buckeyes, moving from guard to center after his freshman season without missing a beat. He’s been a stabilizing force as Dwayne Haskins has stepped into the starting quarterback role in Columbus and found immediate success.
DL: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, Sr.
Notre Dame's fearsome defense starts up front with Tillery, who dragged down Shea Patterson on the game-clinching forced fumble that sealed the Irish's win over Michigan. That was the first of three forced fumbles registered by the 6'7", 305-pound Tillery in the first half.
DL: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, R-Jr.
For the second year in a row, Ferrell is the statistical leader of the Tigers' stellar defensive line, leading the team with six sacks and eight total tackles for loss in six games.
DL: Ed Oliver, Houston, Jr.
Oliver outshined Khalil Tate in a Week 2 meeting of Heisman sleepers, and his disruptive presence in the trenches has Houston poised to play for its first AAC title since 2015. He sits third in the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.9) and wreaked havoc on East Carolina last week, with two sacks and a forced fumble.
DL: Montez Sweat, Mississippi State, Sr.
Last year's SEC leader in sacks and tackles for loss is at it again, with 7.5 sacks and 10 TFLs in the Bulldogs' first six games, including three sacks and a forced fumble in a dominant win over Auburn. The combination of Sweat and fellow end Jeffery Simmons has been as terrifying as advertised for opposing offensive lines.
LB: Josh Allen*, Kentucky, Sr.
An anomalous athlete off the edge with the speed and power he generates at 6'5" and 260 pounds, Allen was impossible to block during the 3–0 start to SEC play that put the Wildcats on the map. He has helped set the identity of one of the year's surprise teams and given Kentucky a defensive star to pair with lead back Benny Snell Jr.
LB: Joe Dineen Jr., Kansas, Sr.
It's been another bleak season in Lawrence, but Dineen has been a refreshing constant. His 53 solo tackles through seven weeks are tied with Cal's Jordan Kunaszyk for the most in the country.
LB: Devin White, LSU, Jr.
The super-athletic tackling machine at the center of LSU's defense shows up all over the stat sheet when the Tigers are at their best. Case in point: White's 13 tackles, half-tackle for loss, fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors in LSU's dominant win over Georgia.
CB: Deandre Baker, Georgia, Sr.
Offenses have learned to look elsewhere for downfield yardage rather than try Baker's side of the field. The third-year starter has earned that respect with a pair of interceptions and seven pass breakups this season.
CB: Julian Love, Notre Dame, Jr.
Love is relentlessly physical, following up a sophomore season in which he led the Irish in every notable statistical category for a defensive back by coming up with 12 pass breakups in the first seven games of 2018.
S: Deionte Thompson, Alabama, Jr.
Thompson has proven to be a lethal centerfield safety since winning a starting job in the offseason, starting 2018 fast with an interception in two of Alabama's first three games.
S: Brad Stewart, Florida, So.
Stewart has made an early impression in his first season as a defensive starter and came up with the signature play of Florida's season so far, a last-minute pick-six that helped spoil LSU's hopes of a comeback in The Swamp.
K: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse, Fr.
College kickers aren’t supposed to be this good, especially not true freshman walk-ons. Szymt is a remarkable 16-for-17 on field goals—including 3-for-3 from beyond 50 yards—and hasn’t missed an extra point.
P: Braden Mann*, Texas A&M, Jr.
Perhaps the easiest choice on this entire list, Mann is on pace for the best punting season in college football history. His average of 54.4 yards per punt would be the highest ever, and he’s going to shatter the record for the most 60-yard punts in a season. No one else is even close to being as good as Mann is right now.
All-Purpose: Rondale Moore, Purdue, Fr.
Moore announced his presence to the college football world in his first career game, the Thursday night season opener against Northwestern. He caught 11 passes, including a 32-yard touchdown, and also out-ran everyone on a 76-yard end-around score. Since then, he has continued to be a game-breaker as Purdue’s No. 1 receiver while also returning kicks.
Returner: Greg Dortch, Wake Forest, So.
Dortch is the only player in the country with two punt returns for touchdowns—and he did it in one game. Dortch scored on returns of 70 and 60 yards against Towson, and has a solid 21.4-yard average on kick returns, too.
QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State; RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; RB Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky; WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford; TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston College; OT Greg Little, Ole Miss; OT Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon; G Bunchy Stallings, Kentucky; G Shane Lemieux, Oregon; C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin.
DL Jachai Polite, Florida; DL Quinnen Williams, Alabama; DL Christian Wilkins, Clemson; DL Chase Young, Ohio State; LB Devin Bush, Michigan; LB Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington; LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma; CB Byron Murphy, Washington; CB Greedy Williams, LSU; S Ugo Amadi, Oregon; S Caden Sterns, Texas.
K Cole Tracy, LSU; P Will Hart, Michigan; All-Purpose Michael Walker, Boston College; Returner Isaiah Wright, Temple.