2023 College Football Midseason All-America Team: Michael Penix Jr., Dallas Turner and more

2RRB2Y9 Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner (15) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

• Michael Penix Jr. is the first-team quarterback: The sixth-year senior leads the way with a 93.7 grade this season.

• Two LSU receivers make the first team: Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. are top-three wide receivers in college football at the midway point.

• Laiatu Latu leads the defense: The senior leads all FBS defenders with a 93.7 grade in 2023.

Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes

We’ve now made it to the midway point of the 2023 college football season, so it’s time to recognize the nation’s top players at every position so far this season.

From quarterbacks to long snappers, PFF is in a unique position to evaluate every player in the country with grades and advanced statistics unavailable anywhere else. Using that data, we present to you PFF’s midseason All-American team.

Quarterback: Michael Penix Jr., Washington Huskies

  • Second Team: Caleb Williams, USC Trojans
  • Third Team: Jayden Daniels, LSU Tigers
  • Honorable Mention: Shedeur Sanders, Colorado Buffaloes

Penix has been the best quarterback in college football. He leads the nation in both overall grade (93.7) and passing grade (93.4) while placing second in passing yards. The only player ahead of him, Colorado's Shedeur Sanders, has just 15 more passing yards on 121 more dropbacks.

Running Back: Audric Estime, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Second Team: MarShawn Lloyd, USC Trojans
  • Third Team: Ray Davis, Kentucky Wildcats
  • Honorable Mention: Jo'Quavious Marks, Mississippi State Bulldogs

Estime is a bruising back at 227 pounds but still ranks second in the Power Five with 19 runs of 10-plus yards. He also paces all Power Five backs with 38 forced missed tackles, and his 89.0 grade leads the country at the position.

Running Back: Jonathon Brooks, Texas Longhorns

  • Second Team: Emani Bailey, TCU Horned Frogs
  • Third Team: Kimani Vidal, Troy Trojans
  • Honorable Mention: Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines

After losing superstar running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson tp the 2023 NFL Draft, Texas’ run game was expected to take a step back. Brooks has proved them wrong, leading the Power Five with 725 rushing yards this season. His 463 yards after contact and 37 forced missed tackles rank second among that same group.

Wide Receiver: Luther Burden III, Missouri Tigers

  • Second Team: Rome Odunze, Washington Huskies 
  • Third Team: Tory Horton, Colorado State Rams
  • Honorable Mention: Xavier Restrepo, Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Burden was the No. 3 overall recruit coming out of high school in 2022 and is showing exactly why as a true sophomore at Missouri. He leads the nation in receiving grade (93.0), receiving yards (784) and yards after the catch (484), and he paces the Power Five in yards per route run (4.36). The fact that he still has to play another year of college football should have SEC defensive coordinators waking up in cold sweats.

Wide Receiver: Malik Nabers, LSU Tigers

  • Second Team: Xavier Legette, South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Third Team: Roman Wilson, Michigan Wolverines
  • Honorable Mention: Troy Franklin, Oregon Ducks

Only Burden has more receiving yards than Malik Nabers this season (774). The junior is also the best deep threat in college football, leading the nation with a 97.3 receiving grade on 20-plus yard throws. His 38 receiving first downs plus touchdowns also tops the FBS.

Wide Receiver: Brian Thomas Jr., LSU Tigers

  • Second Team: Malik Washington, Virginia Cavaliers
  • Third Team: Caullin Lacy, South Alabama Jaguars
  • Honorable Mention: Jerjuan Newton, Toledo Rockets

Many expected Ohio State to have the best receiver duo this season. In fact, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka were our two best receivers in college football entering the year. So far in 2023, LSU owns that title.

Thomas’ nine receiving touchdowns are tied for the most in the nation and he ranks seventh with 603 receiving yards. The junior also possesses a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted.

Tight End: Brock Bowers, Georgia Bulldogs

  • Second Team: Mitchell Evans, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Third Team: Cade Stover, Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Honorable Mention: Dallin Holker, Colorado State Rams

This one isn’t even close. Brock Bowers leads all tight ends in the following statistics: receiving grade, receptions, receiving yards, yards after the catch, receiving yards after contact, receiving first downs plus touchdowns, forced missed tackles on receptions and yards per route run. He also places ninth in the nation with a 75.2 run-blocking grade.

Bowers also leads all Power Five tight ends in most of those statistics since PFF College’s inception in 2014. That’s despite playing only two-and-a-half years of college football. The question isn’t whether he’s the best tight end in the nation right now. It’s whether he’s the greatest tight end college football has ever seen.

Offensive Tackle: Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Second Team: Patrick Paul, Houston Cougars
  • Third Team: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Honorable Mention: Aireontae Ersery, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Joe Alt's 91.4 overall grade in 2022 led all tackles in college football. He is once again pacing FBS tackles this year with an 88.6 grade. His 91.1 pass-blocking grade ranks third in the nation, while his 81.1 run-blocking grade is eighth. The junior is the only tackle to rank in the top 20 in both metrics.

Offensive Tackle: Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State Beavers

  • Second Team: Javon Foster, Missouri Tigers
  • Third Team: Ajani Cornelius, Oregon Ducks
  • Honorable Mention: Josh Fryar, Ohio State Buckeyes

Taliese Fuaga is right behind Alt with an 86.4 grade this season. The junior is the best road-grader in college football. His 90.1 run-blocking grade is nearly four points higher than the next-closest FBS tackle, and his nine big-time blocks (PFF’s highest-graded blocks) also lead the way.

Offensive Guard: Cooper Beebe, Kansas State Wildcats 

  • Second Team: Michael Jurgens, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
  • Third Team: Tanner Miller, Oregon State Beavers 
  • Honorable Mention: Clay Webb, Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Beebe is demonstrating why he began the year as our top interior offensive lineman in the country. He’s the only FBS guard who ranks in the top five in both pass-blocking (fourth) and run-blocking grades (second). The senior hasn’t allowed a sack since the 2020 season. 

Offensive Guard: Christian Haynes, UConn Huskies

  • Second Team: Zak Zinter, Michigan Wolverines
  • Third Team: Matthew Jones, Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Honorable Mention: Elijah Klein, UTEP Miners

Haynes was one of our top-five interior offensive linemen entering the season and is proving why thus far. His 88.8 grade leads all guards, and he is the only FBS guard with 85.0-plus grades as both a pass-blocker and run-blocker. The redshirt senior’s 89.8 run-blocking grade is five points higher than that of Beebe, the next-closest guard.

Center: Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon Ducks

  • Second Team: Duke Clemens, UCLA Bruins
  • Third Team: Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia Bulldogs
  • Honorable Mention: Matt Lee, Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Powers-Johnson is the only FBS center who has earned 80.0-plus grades as both a pass-protector and run-blocker this season. His 88.4 pass-blocking grade leads all Power Five centers, as he has surrendered just one pressure and no sacks on 183 pass-blocking snaps.

Interior Defensive Lineman: Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Second Team: T'Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns
  • Third Team: Byron Murphy II, Texas Longhorns
  • Honorable Mention: Tyler Davis, Clemson Tigers

Newton was PFF's top defensive tackle entering the season because he led all Power Five interior defensive linemen last year with 59 pressures. His 30 run-defense stops tied for second in the nation, as well. 

In 2023, Newton is once again second among FBS interior defensive linemen with 19 run-defense stops, while his 24 pressures are the most in the country at his position.

Interior Defensive Lineman: Howard Cross III, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Second Team: Rylie Mills, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 
  • Third Team: Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • Honorable Mention: Deone Walker, Kentucky Wildcats

Cross’ 89.4 grade this season ranks second among interior defensive linemen. His 20 pressures are tied for second, while his 16 run-defense stops are tied for third.

Edge Defender: Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins

  • Second Team: James Pearce Jr., Tennessee Volunteers
  • Third Team: Jonah Elliss, Utah Utes
  • Honorable Mention: Mohamed Kamara, Colorado State Rams

While at Washington, Latu missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons after being forced to medically retire with a neck injury. He then transferred to UCLA and posted a 91.0 pass-rushing grade that ranked fourth among Power Five edge defenders.

His 91.3 pass-rushing grade this season leads all Power Five edges this season, while his 24.3% pressure rate places third in the FBS. The senior’s 93.7 grade also doesn’t just lead all edge defenders in the country; it’s tied with Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. for the best among all FBS players.

Edge Defender: Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Second Team: Princely Umanmielen, Florida Gators
  • Third Team: Ashton Gillotte, Louisville Cardinals
  • Honorable Mention: Chris Braswell, Alabama Crimson Tide

Turner was expected to fill the massive shoes left behind by Will Anderson Jr. and has done so admirably. The junior’s 32 pressures are tied for the most in the country, while his 23.4% pressure rate ranks fifth.

Linebacker: Payton Wilson, NC State Wolfpack

  • Second Team: Power Echols, North Carolina Tar Heels
  • Third Team: Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M Aggies 
  • Honorable Mention: Jay Higgins, Iowa Hawkeyes

Wilson is the only Power Five linebacker who has earned 75.0-plus grades as a run defender, pass-rusher and coverage player. He ranks second among that same group with 46 plays of making first contact with the ball carrier and nine tackles for loss or no gain.

Linebacker: Jason Henderson, Old Dominion Monarchs

  • Second Team: Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma Sooners
  • Third Team: Lander Barton, Utah Utes
  • Honorable Mention: Dallas Gant, Toledo Rockets

Henderson’s 16 tackles for loss or no gain are five more than the next-closest linebacker this season. His 52 plays with first contact are also tied for the most in college football, while his 16 pressures are tied for sixth among FBS linebackers. The junior stands as the highest-graded linebacker in 2023 (88.2).

Cornerback: Denzel Burke, Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Second Team: Willie Roberts, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
  • Third Team: Kamal Hadden, Tennessee Volunteers
  • Honorable Mention: Terrion Arnold, Alabama Crimson Tide

Burke’s eight forced incompletions this season are tied for the most among Power Five cornerbacks. He has surrendered only 11 catches on 26 targets into his primary coverage this season, good for a 40.4 passer rating when targeted.

Cornerback: Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri Tigers

  • Second Team: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Third Team: Cooper DeJean, Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Honorable Mention: Beanie Bishop Jr., West Virginia Mountaineers

Abrams-Draine has been a ballhawk for Missouri this season. The junior’s 10 combined interceptions and forced incompletions are the most among Power Five cornerbacks. That’s even more impressive when considering that he’s allowed 11 catches all season.

Safety: Malaki Starks, Georgia Bulldogs

  • Second Team: Calen Bullock, USC Trojans
  • Third Team: Flip Dixon, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
  • Honorable Mention: Josh Proctor, Ohio State Buckeyes

After an impressive true freshman campaign, Starks has become the best safety in college football as a sophomore. His 90.6 grade leads the position, and he’s the only safety to place inside the top 10 for both coverage grade (second) and run-defense grade (tied for 10th). 

Safety: Jaylin Simpson, Auburn Tigers

  • Second Team: Tyler Nubin, Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Third Team: Jeremiah Cooper, Iowa State Cyclones
  • Honorable Mention: Peyton Bowen, Oklahoma Sooners

Simpson’s 91.3 coverage grade leads all safeties in college football. The senior’s four interceptions are also tied for the most among FBS safeties. He has surrendered just six catches for 32 yards.

Flex D: Alex Johnson, UCLA Bruins

  • Second Team: Sebastian Castro, Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Third Team: Alijah Huzzie, North Carolina Tar Heels
  • Honorable Mention: Mike Sainristil, Michigan Wolverines

Johnson has allowed just a 0.6 passer rating when targeted this season, which leads all Power Five cornerbacks. On 13 targets into his coverage, the redshirt senior has surrendered four catches while coming down with three interceptions and forcing an incompletion. 

Kicker: Will Reichard, Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Second Team: Graham Nicholson, Miami (OH) RedHawks
  • Third Team: John Hoyland, Wyoming Cowboys
  • Honorable Mention: Lucas Carneiro, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Of all the perfect kickers this season, Reichard has attempted the most field goals (12). Half of those kicks have come from at least 40 yards out. The redshirt senior has also nailed all 18 of his extra-point attempts in 2023.

Punter: Matthew Hayball, Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Second Team: Tyler Perkins, Iowa State Cyclones
  • Third Team: Tory Taylor, Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Honorable Mention: James Burnip, Alabama Crimson Tide

Hayball leads the nation with a 90.3 punting grade this season. He ranks third with a 50.1 yards-per-attempt average and is second with an average net of 46.5 yards.

Return Specialist: Zachariah Branch, USC Trojans

  • Second Team: Julian Gray, NC State Wolfpack
  • Third Team: Brashard Smith, Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • Honorable Mention: Drae McCray, Texas Tech Red Raiders

Branch is the only player in college football with two return touchdowns this season, one coming via kickoff and one coming on a punt return. The true freshman’s 90.3 punt return grade ranks first in the nation.

Special Teamer: Sam Matthews, Texas A&M Aggies

  • Second Team: Colson Yankoff, UCLA Bruins
  • Third Team: Rocky Beers, FIU Panthers
  • Honorable Mention: Emmanuel McNeil-Warren, Toledo Rockets

Matthews’ six tackles on special teams are tied for the most in the country. He also forced a fumble on one of those tackles.

Long Snapper: Byron Floyd, Pittsburgh Panthers

  • Second Team: Nick Barcelos, Nevada Wolf Pack
  • Third Team: Shei Fraibaum, Oklahoma State Cowboys
  • Honorable Mention: Ryan Wintermeyer, San Diego State Aztecs

Floyd’s 81.7 grade this season leads all FBS long snappers. Of his 41 long snaps on both punts and kicks, only one has been charted as slightly off-target. He has two tackles, as well, tied for fourth at the position.

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