With the help of PFF grades and advanced statistics — which are now available to PFF’s CFB Premium Stats+ Subscribers — we present to you the PFF 2020 All-American team.
First-Team: Carson Strong, Nevada
Strong has been one of the handful of big-time breakouts at quarterback in the Group of 5, and it’s all thanks to his deep ball. Strong and the Wolf Pack have taken a bit more aggressive approach this year, and it has paid dividends. The second-year starter rose his deep (20-plus yard) passing grade from 62.7 in 2019 to 91.5 this season and more than doubled his deep completions, passing yards and touchdowns. And Strong didn’t just throw it 20 or 25 yards downfield most of the time. He threw more 40- and 50-yard passes than anyone this season, and unlike most on those throws, Strong still found success. He had four passing touchdowns on throws over 50-yards downfield this year. The rest of the entire FBS combined has just eight.
First-Team: Tyler Nevens, San Jose State
Even with a lowly day in the Spartans conference title win over Boise State — mostly due to being contacted behind the line of scrimmage on 75% of his runs — Nevens is still the highest-graded back in the conference at 90.8. He has busted off several big runs after contact with 7.6 yards after contact per attempt on 59 carries and has also broken a whopping 27 tackles on those.
First-Team: Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
Rivers has been a key contributor to the Bulldogs rushing attack since stepping foot on the field as a freshman back in 2017 and is coming off his best year yet. The Fresno State back posted career-high marks in rushing grade (90.3), percentage of carries to pick up a 10-plus yard gain (18%) and percentage of carries to pick up a first down or touchdown (34%).
First-Team: Khalil Shakir, Boise State
Shakir went from playing predominantly in the slot in 2019 to mostly out wide in 2020, but his production didn’t skip a beat. His strong receiving grade last year of 88.2 bumped up to 89.5 this season, the fifth-best in the FBS. Regardless of alignment, though, Shakir was uber-productive. He joined DeVonta Smith and Elijah Moore as the only FBS wide receivers to generate over 3.2 yards per route run in both the slot and out wide.
First-Team: Dante Wright, Colorado State
Wright only played in three games, but he garnered 29 targets and was the most productive wide receiver in the entire conference. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound slot receiver racked up a conference-best 3.54 yards per route run. He showed off his run after catch ability on a few screens and slides but also smoked single coverage on a handful of vertical routes for 144 deep receiving yards.
First-Team: Romeo Doubs, Nevada
Carson Strong’s top deep target was junior wideout Romeo Doubs. He was a starter his first two years with the team in 2018 and 2019 but didn’t find nearly the same deep success. Doubs matched his combined deep reception total from 2018 and 2019 in 2020 (10), and he also had nearly double the amount of deep touchdowns (seven). The latter figure actually tied with DeVonta Smith and Jaelon Darden for the most of the FBS.
First-Team: Trey McBride, Colorado State
McBride was the best tight end in the Mountain West conference, and it wasn’t particularly close. He posted a 90.8 receiving grade in four games, leading all tight ends in the MWC by over 20 grading points. “Wait, four games? Isn’t that a small sample?” For most it would be, but not when you average over eight targets a game like McBride. He was the second-most targeted tight end in the conference and came away with 2.60 yards per route run (ninth in the FBS).
First-Team: Jack Snyder, San Jose State
The highest-graded tackle in the Mountain West conference in both pass-block and run-block grade is none other than Jack Snyder of San Jose State. Even with the quick game San Jose State runs, Snyder has still seen quite a few true pass sets this season, and his pass-protection has been stout. His pressure rate allowed among all FBS left tackles is the third-best.
First-Team: Nolan Laufenberg, Air Force
Laufenberg's run-blocking was instrumental in Air Force’s triple-option attack in 2019, and this year has been no different. He ranks in the top 10 among all FBS guards in positively graded run-block rate and has a run-block grade that’s nearly 20 grading points higher than any other left guard in the conference.
First-Team: Tyler Orisini, Nevada
It wasn’t a pretty year overall for Orisini, but he earns the first-team spot for being the most balanced center in the Mountain West. He was the only one in the conference to rank in the top three in both pass- and run-block grade. Considering the fact that he was coming off a 29.2 pass-block grade on 184 such snaps in 2019, this was a great year for Orisini.
First-Team: William Dunkle, SDSU
Dunkle has been good in pass-protection, but the key reason why he lands on the first-team is because of the impact he had in the run game. He came in at No. 2 among all FBS guards in run-block grade at 90.4, well above his 70.3 mark from his first year starting in 2019.
First-Team: Zachary Thomas, SDSU
Like his teammate William Dunkle, Thomas is on here for his run-blocking. Those two formed a potent right side and routinely opened up holes for the ball-carrier. Anchored by the fourth-best positively graded run-block rate among FBS tackles this season, Thomas recorded a 90.1 run-block grade.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
First-Team: Cameron Thomas, SDSU
Thomas came out of nowhere in 2019 in his first season seeing the collegiate field and was the clear-cut best interior defensive lineman in the conference. He easily maintained that honor in 2020 with a conference-best 81.4 PFF grade. Thomas came away with 37 pressures this season, 11 more than any other interior defensive linemen in the Mountain West.
First-Team: Jonah Tavai, SDSU
We knew Cameron Thomas was going to be a force on the interior for San Diego State, but the breakout of his teammate Jonah Tavai alongside him was less expected. Tavai played only 174 snaps in his 2019 freshman campaign, and the results weren’t all that great with a 61.9 PFF grade. This year, he was a true run-stuffer, edging out Thomas for the highest run-defense grade in the conference at 85.9.
First-Team: Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State
Fehoko’s run-defense was night-and-day from 2019 to 2020. He raised his 54.8 run-defense grade from last season by over 25 grading points this year. That, paired with the second-best pass-rush win rate in the Mountain West, made him a clear-cut first-teamer in our book.
First-Team: Scott Patchan, Colorado State
Patchan transferred to Colorado State this past offseason after five years with the Miami Hurricanes, and he made a lot of noise in his four games as a Ram this year. He won on 24% of his pass rushes and secured a pressure on 19%. Each of those two rates led all edge rushers in the conference by over 3.5 percentage points.
First-Team: Chad Muma, Wyoming
Muma’s coverage was pretty spotty this season, but in every other facet he was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to showing off his blitzing prowess with 13 pressures on 42 rushes, Muma recorded the ninth-best run-defense grade among off-ball linebackers at 87.8. His tackling was nearly perfect as well with just five misses on 70 attempts.
First-Team: Michael Shawcroft, SDSU
This was a close one, but ultimately the second first-team All-MWC off-ball linebacker spot went to Michael Shawcroft, who entered 2020 with only seven career snaps to his name. Shawcroft was the only off-ball linebacker in the Mountain West this year to record a grade above 70.0 both in coverage and against the run.
First-Team: Berdale Robins, Nevada
After three years as a reserve, Robins finally earned a starting role in 2020 and impressed right away. He may only be 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, but Robins isn’t easy to go toe-to-toe with in single coverage. The Wolf Pack corner recorded the eighth-highest coverage grade among FBS outside corners in single coverage this season.
First-Team: Darren Hall, SDSU
Hall emerged as one of the top zone coverage corners in the conference last season, and this year he went from one of the best to the best. No MWC cornerback earned a higher zone coverage grade than Hall, who also cracked the top 15 in the FBS in that metric.
First-Team: Tariq Thompson, SDSU
Thompson has been one of the top defensive backs in the Mountain West ever since he stepped foot on the field as a freshman in 2017. He earned a 78.4 coverage grade this season, making it four straight years of eclipsing a 78.0 mark. Thompson ranked second among MWC defensive backs in passing stops with nine. That brought his career total to 54 — 19 more than anyone else in the conference since 2017.
First-Team: Tre Jenkins, San Jose State
Jenkins entered 2020 with just 40 career snaps and was exceptional for the Spartans in his first taste of starting action. He was the only safety in the conference to earn grades above 70.0 in coverage and against the run, leading to the best PFF overall grade among MWC safeties.
First-Team: Marshaun Cameron, Colorado State
Cameron may have played in only four games, but he still managed to make more plays than most of the corners in the conference. He came away with 13 defensive stops in those four games, the third-most among Mountain West cornerbacks. That paved the way to a 76.9 coverage grade that trailed only fellow first-teamers Berdale Robins and Darren Hall.