Star power: The On3 2021 college football All-America team

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Star power: The On3 2021 college football All-America team

Mike Huguenin12/10/21
Article written by:Mike HugueninMike Huguenin


(Photos of Bryce Young, Tyler Linderbaum, Aidan Hutchinson and Devin Lloyd/Getty Images)

We’re week from the bowl season getting started — and, yes, with 43 games spread over 24 days, it’s OK to call it a “season” — so to give you something to mull over and talk about for the next seven days, here is the On3 2021 All-America Team.

A handful of the selections are of the “no duh” variety. Some others might be a cause for surprise or maybe even indignation.

The team was picked by On3 national writers Mike Huguenin, Ivan Maisel, Charles Power and Matt Zenitz.

A player’s class designation is how it’s listed by the school.


The backfield
Bryce Young, sophomore, Alabama
Kenneth Walker III, junior, Michigan State
The buzz:
A lot was expected of Young — and he has, incredibly, over-delivered. Last season’s Alabama offense was historically good, and while this season’s version isn’t as productive, that’s not on Young. He leads all Power 5 quarterbacks with 43 TD passes (against just four interceptions) and has completed 68 percent of his throws for 4,322 yards (third among Power 5 quarterbacks). Young has nine 300-yard games, including two of at least 421 yards. He also has led Alabama back to the College Football Playoff. Walker was a revelation this season after transferring from Wake Forest. He leads all Power 5 backs with 1,636 yards and has 18 rushing TDs. He leads the nation with 21 carries of at least 20 yards, four more than anyone else. Walker also averages 6.22 yards per carry, which leads the 32 running backs with at least 200 carries. How was this guy not a Heisman finalist?

The receivers
WR Jordan Addison, sophomore, Pitt
WR Jameson Williams, junior, Alabama
WR Garrett Wilson, junior, Ohio State
TE Brock Bowers, freshman, Georgia

The buzz: Addison benefited from Kenny Pickett’s big season; he has 93 receptions for 1,479 yards (15.9 per catch) and 17 TDs, figures that ranked seventh, third and first, respectively, nationally. Addison had seven 100-yard outings and caught multiple TD passes in four games. Williams famously left Ohio State for greener pastures, then turned into a big-play machine for Alabama. He has 68 receptions for 1,445 yards (21.3 yards per catch) and 15 TDs. Williams leads the nation with nine receptions of 50-plus yards, with six of 60-plus and with four of 70-plus. He has seven 100-yard outings and four games with multiple TD catches. Wilson is part of a deep and talented receiving corps at Ohio State. While he didn’t lead the Buckeyes in catches, receiving yards or TDs, he still has an impressive stat line: 70 receptions, 1,058 yards and 12 TDs. Wilson has five 100-yard games. Bowers was a revelation as a true freshman; he put up monster numbers, especially considering his senior season of football at Napa (Calif.) High was canceled because of COVID. Bowers led Georgia in receptions (47, 19 more than anyone else), reception yards (791) and receiving TDs (11). The TD total led all tight ends nationally, while the yardage total was third. Bowers also was a member of the On3 True Freshman All-America team.

The line
T Ikem Ekwonu, sophomore, NC State
T Evan Neal, junior, Alabama
G Kenyon Green, junior, Texas A&M
G Zion Johnson, senior, Boston College
C Tyler Linderbaum, junior, Iowa

The buzz: Iowa’s offensive line struggled at times this season, but that mostly was on the outside, not in the middle. Linderbaum is an expert technician and a heady mauler at center, and draws raves from his coaches, opposing coaches and NFL scouts. Ekwonu’s nickname is “Ickey,” but his play has been anything but. His parents are from Nigeria and his full first name is Ikemefuna, which translated means “my effort will not be in vain.” Indeed, his effort is a big reason NC State is 9-3 — and a big reason he’s considered a sure-fire first-round pick. Neal is a man-mountain (he’s listed at 6 feet 7, 350 pounds) who moved from right tackle to the left side this season, and the Tide has been so much better when it runs left than when it runs right. Green played every position along the line except center for the Aggies this season, and they were at their best once he settled in at left guard. He is a high-caliber pass protector inside and can mash in the running game. Johnson is a five-year starter in college: He spent his first two seasons as a tackle at FCS member Davidson, then became a three-year starter for BC. He played guard for BC in 2019, moved to tackle in 2020, then moved back inside this season and had a standout campaign.


The line
E Aidan Hutchinson, senior, Michigan
L Devonte Wyatt, senior, Georgia
E Kayvon Thibodeaux, sophomore, Oregon
The buzz: Hutchinson was a big beneficiary of the coordinator change at Michigan, as he has the freedom to make more plays in Mike Macdonald’s scheme. He set a school single-season record with 14 sacks, third-most nationally; he was especially dominant in big wins over Ohio State and Penn State. Hutchinson also has 58 tackles, 12 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Wyatt was sort of an unsung hero in a talented front seven. Still, Wyatt certainly did his part by eating up space and taking on two blockers. He has 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal. Thibodeaux is a havoc-wreaker and difference-maker who requires extra attention from every offensive line he faces. He missed two games and most of another, but still has seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and eight quarterback hurries.

The linebackers
OLB Will Anderson Jr., sophomore, Alabama
LB Leo Chenal, junior, Wisconsin
LB Nakobe Dean, junior, Georgia
LB Devin Lloyd, junior, Utah
The buzz: Anderson leads the nation in sacks (15.5) and tackles for loss (31.5); the NCAA single-season TFL record is 32, set by USF’s George Selvie in 2007. Anderson carries a streak of seven consecutive games with a sack into the CFP semifinal, and he’s had a tackle for loss in every game but one — the game the Tide lost to Texas A&M. Chenal stands out on a dominant Badgers defense; despite missing two games, he leads Wisconsin with 106 tackles, and he’s 10th nationally with 17 tackles for loss. Dean’s individual stats might not be “wow” numbers (he has 61 tackles), but he is the emotional and physical leader for that unit. And he does have two picks (including one returned for a TD), 8.5 tackles for loss and five pass breakups. Speaking of being a leader of a unit, Lloyd is just that for a physical Utes defense. He has 106 tackles, eight sacks, 22 tackles for loss, four interceptions (including two returned for TDs) and six pass breakups for the Pac-12 champs. His TFL total is second nationally.

The secondary
CB Andrew Booth Jr., junior, Clemson
CB Ahmad Gardner, junior, Cincinnati
S Jaquan Brisker, senior, Penn State
S Jalen Pitre, senior, Baylor
The buzz: Booth played at a high level all season for a Clemson defense that did the same; the Tigers’ defense was championship level even if the offense was mediocre. Despite playing against some of the most productive QBs in the nation (Clemson played against three quarterbacks who threw 35-plus TD passes), the Tigers surrendered just 10 TDs in the air, tied for fifth-fewest nationally. Gardner got a ton of preseason hype, then made the hype merchants look smart. He is a legit cover corner who seems destined to go in the first round; he has three interceptions and has helped the Bearcats hold opposing quarterbacks to a 53.5 completion percentage, the fourth-lowest in the nation. Brisker set a physical tone in a good Nittany Lions secondary, not surprising considering the playing style of his grandfather, ABA legend (for on- and off-court stuff) John Brisker. Brisker did a nice job stuffing the stat sheet: 64 tackles, six tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, two interceptions and five pass breakups. Pitre was named the Big 12’s defensive player of the season; he is eighth nationally with 17.5 tackles for loss (one-fourth of his 70 tackles have resulted in lost yardage) and also has two interceptions, seven pass breakups and three forced fumbles.


K Harrison Mevis, sophomore, Missouri
P Matt Araiza, junior, San Diego State
KR Marcus Jones, senior, Houston
The buzz: Mevis’ older brother, Andrew, kicks for Iowa State, but the younger brother had the better season. Harrison Mevis is 20-of-22 on the year, including 11-of-13 between 40-49 yards and 3-of-3 beyond 50, with a long of 56. No one in the country has made more field goals of 40-plus yards than Mevis’ 14. Araiza has been extremely busy this season, serving as the Aztecs’ punter, kicker and kickoff specialist. And because the Aztecs’ offense was spotty, he punted a lot: His 76 punts are second-most nationally. No matter: He leads the nation by averaging 51.4 yards per punt, and more than half his attempts (39 of them) have traveled at least 50 yards, including one of 86. Araiza also dropped 36 inside the 20. Only one punter in NCAA history has averaged 50 yards per punt in a season: Texas A&M’s Braden Mann averaged 51.0 yards per attempt in 2018. (In addition, Araiza has kicked 17 field goals and had touchbacks on 56 of his 67 kickoffs.) Jones, who was a second-team All-AAC cornerback and also saw time at wide receiver, has four return TDs this season — two on punts and two on kickoffs. He averages 34.0 yards on 15 kickoff returns and 14.4 on 26 punt returns. His 100-yard kickoff return with 17 seconds left was the game-winning TD against SMU.