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 its first midseason team. The full three-team All-America selections are unveiled in December. The 10th installment of the weekly All-America watch features a linebacker from Virginia Tech, Louisville’s forgotten Heisman Trophy winner and an All-America matchup that could decide the Iron Bowl.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The junior is one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the top linebacker in the country. The Hokies have been ranked in the Top 25 for most of the season with an offense that has played in fits and starts behind a first-year quarterback. The defense has been typically solid throughout, and Edmunds — along with cornerback Greg Stroman, another All-America candidate — has been the leader. Edmunds is imposing at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds and leads the Hokies’ “Lunch Pail” defense in tackles with 93, including 11.5 for loss.
What they are saying: “The guy is an eraser out there on the field.” — Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Outlook: Edmunds has another year left of eligibility but his college career could be winding down. The Hokies play in-state rival Virginia this week, a matchup of two of the nation’s best linebackers in Edmunds and the Cavaliers’ Micah Kiser.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Heisman Trophy winner has sorted of faded into the background as the Cardinals’ season has sputtered along, but Jackson is still the best show in college football. He has five straight 100-yard rushing games and is on pace to have more total yards this season (414 per game) than last (393). All that and he has done it with a largely new supporting cast of skill position players and an offensive line that struggles to protect him. Jackson is probably not going to accumulate the hardware he did last season, but his performance has been worthy of accolades.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk is a potential first-round NFL draft pick, but he has not put up the production to match. After catching 80 or more passes the past two seasons, he has 51 for 652 yards this year. The junior has only two 100-yard receiving games and one came against New Mexico State. Quarterback issues have a lot to do Kirk’s numbers being down. It’s unfortunate because he very well could be playing his final games in college.
ON THE LINE
(Former Auburn offensive lineman and SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic identifies an o-lineman worth watching)
Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon
Great quickness and speed at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. The senior is violent at the point of attack. He started nine games as a freshman in 2014 as the Ducks made a run to the national title game. Missed most of last year because of an injury, but has now developed into one of the best all-around tackles in the country.
GROUP OF FIVE STAR
Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
The American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2016, Griffin has not made quite as many impact plays this season, but he is still among the best players in the conference. Maybe his best game of the season came last Saturday at Temple. He had an interception, caused a fumble and harassed the quarterback all day.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama vs. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
Ridley’s numbers don’t exactly say All-America (52 catches, 858 yards and three touchdowns), but that has more to do with the nature of Alabama’s offense and the ease with which the Tide often dispatches opponents. He is still one of the most talented receivers around and in the Tide’s most competitive game so far he had five catches for 171 yards against Mississippi State. Auburn counters with Davis, a junior who tends not to get much work as teams shy away from throwing his way. It’s a matchup that could decide the Iron Bowl and the SEC West title.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More college football coverage: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.Twitter.com/AP_Top25