Can’t the 2020 college football season go ahead and get here already?
We aren’t even to the start of spring practice and we are desperately in need of a college football fix. While we wait, ESPN has you covered with the way-too-early All-America team for the 2020 season.
Some of the selections were no-brainers. In fact, eight were on our All-America team to cap the 2019 season.
But there will always be players who burst onto the scene when nobody saw them coming. We all had Joe Burrow going from 16 touchdown passes in 2018 to 60 this season and winning the Heisman Trophy, right?
So with that in mind, here’s what we came up with for 2020.
QB: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
In the grim aftermath of the 42-25 national championship loss to LSU, Lawrence vowed that Clemson would be back. And with Lawrence and his NFL-ready right arm returning for his junior season, the Tigers are as good a bet as any to be right back on the big stage. Lawrence didn’t have his best stuff in the loss to LSU, but he’s still the most talented quarterback in college football and will once again be surrounded by great players in 2020.
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson
Etienne was perhaps the biggest surprise among the players who spurned the NFL draft to return for another year of college football. He’s about as complete as it gets as a running back. He became a weapon in the passing game for the Tigers, rushed for 1,614 yards and averaged 7.48 yards per carry. He leads all returning FBS players with 64 plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or longer last season. Safe to say that Clemson is going to be lights out on offense again in 2020.
RB: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had to be pinching himself when Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace both chose to return to school for another season. Hubbard had a sensational redshirt sophomore season. He led the country with 2,094 rushing yards and scored 21 touchdowns. His 15 rushing plays of 30 yards or longer leads all returning FBS players, and he was incredibly consistent. He rushed for 150-plus yards seven times a year ago. Clearly, he’s a lot more than just a track guy playing football.
WR: Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
The number of talented players leaving LSU is indeed staggering, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers will be hurting for playmakers in 2020. Chase, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football in 2019, is back after leading the country with 20 touchdown catches last season and averaging 21.2 yards per reception. He’s as good after the catch as he is at blazing past defenders and hauling in the deep ball.
WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Don’t feel too sorry for the Crimson Tide on offense, even though Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are all gone. After all, Smith led Alabama with 14 touchdown catches in 2019 and has the kind of speed that torments opposing defensive coordinators and cornerbacks. Smith thought about turning pro, but he returns for his senior season as one of the most feared big-play receivers in college football.
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
Even though he was a true sophomore, Freiermuth was eligible to make himself available for the NFL draft because he was three years removed from high school. (He did a postgraduate year in Massachusetts after graduating.) The 6-foot-5, 256-pound Freiermuth will be a major part of the Penn State offense in 2020 after catching 43 passes a year ago, including seven for touchdowns. He’s equally effective as a run-blocker, making him a tough matchup for any defense.
T: Penei Sewell, Oregon
Sewell has been so good that you’d swear he’s going into his sixth season at Oregon. The reality is that he’ll be a junior and will anchor from his left tackle position a Ducks offensive line that should again be one of the best units in college football. The 2019 Outland Trophy winner, Sewell has been a starter since the day he arrived on campus and is the kind of player who instantly makes everybody around him better.
G: Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
From the time he was pressed into a starting role as a redshirt freshman during the Buckeyes’ stretch run in 2018, Davis has been a huge piece of the Ohio State offense. He returns for his third season after earning first-team All-America honors a year ago as the Buckeyes’ right guard. He’ll do so with two other talented underclassmen up front who decided to return to school, center Josh Myers and tackle Thayer Munford, which ought to make returning Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields mighty happy.
C: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
The quarterbacks and skill players have come and gone at Oklahoma over the past two seasons, but the rock in the middle of that offensive line has been Humphrey, and he will be back in 2020 as a redshirt junior after considering leaving early for the NFL draft. He has made 26 consecutive starts at center and was one of three finalists a year ago for the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the top center in college football.
G: Trey Smith, Tennessee
One of college football’s best comeback stories, Smith overcame blood clots in his lungs to return to form as one of the nation’s top interior offensive linemen. Even though he had only two full-contact practices going back to preseason camp, he was dominant the last half of the season from his left guard spot. Smith thought about turning pro and is optimistic that he’ll be able to practice even more next season, which won’t be good news for opposing defensive linemen who have to face him.
T: Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
The Crimson Tide won’t be searching for a new left tackle in 2020. The 6-6, 310-pound Leatherwood elected to come back for his senior season after receiving first-team All-America honors as a junior and showing up in some mock drafts as a potential first-round pick. Leatherwood’s versatility makes him all the more valuable. He was Alabama’s starting right guard as a sophomore in 2018 and moves extremely well, no matter where he lines up.
All-purpose: Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
As the cliché goes, Gainwell is just a football player — one who truly can do it all. A quarterback in high school, Gainwell was the FBS’ only member of the 1,000/500 club last season. He finished with 1,459 rushing yards and 610 receiving yards in what was an electric redshirt freshman season for the 5-11, 191-pound speedster. He had 24 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or longer; the only returning FBS player with more was LSU’s Chase.
DE: Gregory Rousseau, Miami
There wasn’t much to celebrate about Miami’s 2019 season, as the Hurricanes lost their last three games and finished 6-7. But the 6-6, 251-pound Rousseau was an absolute monster on that defense and should be even better as a redshirt sophomore. He was second only to Chase Young nationally in sacks with 15.5 and led all FBS freshmen with 19.5 tackles for loss. Teams won’t be able to load up on Rousseau next season, with Temple grad transfer Quincy Roche stepping in at the other end.
DT: Marvin Wilson, Florida State
One of the biggest wins for first-year FSU coach Mike Norvell this offseason was Wilson’s decision to return for his senior season. The Seminoles hope it works out as well as Derrick Brown‘s decision to come back this past season at Auburn. The 6-5, 311-pound Wilson would have been a first-round pick had he gone pro, but he said he had unfinished business at FSU. He returns as the top interior defensive lineman in college football and will be hungry after undergoing hand surgery and missing the final four games of 2019.
DT: Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
With the 6-2, 290-pound Twyman returning for his redshirt junior season, this should be the best and deepest defensive line Pittsburgh has fielded in a long time, especially with the Panthers getting some injured players back. Twyman is a relentless inside pass-rusher. He finished with 10.5 sacks in 2019, which leads all returning FBS interior defensive linemen. He was one of the country’s top breakout players last season but is poised to be one of the top players, period, in 2020.
DE: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Take a glance at what Oregon has returning on defense and it’s impressive, both in the front seven and secondary. Thibodeaux, the most prized recruit in Oregon history, more than lived up to his billing as a true freshman. He started only six games but still racked up 14 tackles for loss, including nine sacks — both team highs. In other words, we’ve seen only a glimpse of how good he can be, which should be on full display next season for the defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs.
LB: Micah Parsons, Penn State
At times, Parsons might have flown under the radar the past two seasons, but not any longer. He was everywhere in Penn State’s Cotton Bowl win over Memphis with 14 tackles (including two sacks) and two forced fumbles, and he returns in 2020 as one of the top all-around linebackers in college football. The 6-3, 245-pound Parsons is an impact player on every down and one of the surest tacklers in the game.
LB: Dylan Moses, Alabama
Moses suffered a knee injury during preseason camp, and no loss was more devastating for Alabama’s defense. Moses is a playmaker and knows Nick Saban’s defense inside and out. He’ll be flanked at inside linebacker by another veteran with Joshua McMillon getting a sixth season, which is music to the Tide’s ears after they were forced to play so many freshmen at linebacker a year ago.
LB: Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
No defender in college football was more productive a year ago than the 6-4, 236-pound Rashed. Getting him back as a fifth-year senior was a real coup for the Beavers, who will be looking for their first winning season since 2013. Rashed led the country last season from his outside linebacker position with 22.5 tackles for loss, including 14 sacks.
S: Richard LeCounte, Georgia
LeCounte’s versatility and experience are big reasons Georgia should be plenty salty on defense in 2020, and his decision to return for his senior season was huge for that Dawgs secondary. In his two seasons as a starter, LeCounte has forced nine turnovers, including four interceptions last season, and has a knack for making things happen on defense, whether he’s roaming as a center fielder and getting picks or coming up and making big hits to force fumbles.
S: Andre Cisco, Syracuse
In his first season at Syracuse in 2018, Cisco became the school’s first true freshman All-American and quickly established himself as one of the top safeties in college football. Now a junior, the 6-foot, 203-pound Cisco enters the 2020 season as the FBS active leader in interceptions (12) and No. 2 in passes defended per game (1.27). He has led the ACC in interceptions in each of his first two seasons, and his best may be yet to come.
CB: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
There has been no shortage of talented defensive backs to come through LSU’s program, and Stingley has a chance to be right at the top of that list by the time he’s finished in Baton Rouge. Stingley had a fabulous freshman season and has everything it takes to be even better as a sophomore with his ball skills, instincts, athleticism and zest to compete every time he steps onto the field.
CB: Shaun Wade, Ohio State
The Buckeyes were holding their breath that they wouldn’t lose both Jeff Okudah and Wade to the NFL draft. So when Wade elected to return for his redshirt junior season, it was a huge relief for the Ohio State defensive staff. The 6-1, 195-pound Wade has the size and versatility to play several different spots in the secondary and will now get a chance to be the Buckeyes’ lockdown corner after finishing second to Okudah last season with eight pass breakups.
PK: Nick Sciba, Wake Forest
We found out this past season that Sciba was mortal when he finally missed a field goal after making an NCAA-record 34 in a row. He finished the season going 24-of-25 and heads into his junior season having made 43 of 47 field goal attempts during his two seasons at Wake Forest. The Clover, South Carolina, product is about as automatic as it gets.
P: Max Duffy, Kentucky
The Ray Guy Award winner as the top punter in college football returns for his junior season looking to take it to another level. That’s saying something, considering that the talented Aussie led the country in punting with a 48.1-yard average. Only 10 of Duffy’s 47 punts were returned, and 23 landed inside the 20-yard line.
KR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
They don’t get much more explosive than Waddle as both a receiver and return specialist. He’ll be featured even more in Alabama’s passing game next season with both Jeudy and Ruggs gone. Waddle also returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns last season. Good luck to any team that chooses to kick the ball to him in 2020.