No year in college football will be more memorable than the one we are experiencing now, as the impact of COVID-19 has forced most colleges to cancel the 2020 fall football season with the hope of trying to play in the spring.
We aren't here to give you our opinion on whether they should or should not have played in the fall, nor are we going to do that with their attempt to play in the spring. Instead, we want to shine a light on the players who deserve credit for the performances they have put forth over their college careers.
Without further ado, we present to you what would have been the 2020 PFF College Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
FIRST TEAM: DILLON GABRIEL, UCF
It’s rare to see such strong decision-making from a player as young as Gabriel. He had just a 1.6% turnover-worthy play rate in 2019, ranking fourth in the FBS. He has nice touch downfield, evidenced by his FBS-high 21 big-time throws on 30-plus yard passes.
Second Team: Shane Buechele, SMU
Third Team: Brady White, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
FIRST TEAM: KENNETH GAINWELL, MEMPHIS
There isn’t a more true dual-threat running back in the country than Gainwell. He was the only FBS back to produce 85.0-plus grades as a runner and a receiver in 2019. Overall, Gainwell was responsible for 37 gains of 15-plus yards (second-most by a running back). With Antonio Gibson now on to the NFL, Gainwell has the opportunity to put up even bigger numbers. The Heisman is a quarterback's award to win in this day and age — and rightfully so — but Gainwell is a dark horse candidate in our eyes.
Second Team: Re’Mahn Davis, Temple
Third Team: Otis Anderson, UCF
Honorable Mention: Darrian Felix, USF
FIRST TEAM: BENTAVIOUS THOMPSON, UCF
Thompson may have had only 86 carries in 2019, but that was enough for him to make himself known as one of the top backs in the country. He earned a 90.2 rushing grade on the year, which tied now-Colts running back Jonathan Taylor for the fourth-best mark in college football. Thompson is a patient ball-carrier, and that helped him pick up a 10-plus yard gain on nearly 21% of his carries.
Second Team: Amare Jones, Tulane
Third Team: Greg McCrae, UCF
Honorable Mention: Cameron Carroll, Tulane
FIRST TEAM: REGGIE ROBERSON JR., SMU
Shane Buechele and Roberson form one of the best deep-ball connections in the country. Last year, Roberson hauled in 13 deep targets (tied 11th) for 561 yards (eighth) en route to a receiving grade on such targets that tied for first in the FBS with LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.
Second Team: Jadan Blue, Temple
Third Team: Keylon Stokes, Tulsa
Honorable Mention: Blake Proehl, East Carolina
FIRST TEAM: DAMONTE COXIE, MEMPHIS
Coxie is an explosive play waiting to happen — he’s had 69 receptions result in a gain of 15-plus yards since 2018, which is five more than any other FBS receiver in that span. He has exceptional balance and will rack up missed tackles after the catch (37 since 2018, fourth in the FBS).
Second Team: Marquez Stevenson, Houston
Third Team: Branden Mack, Temple
Honorable Mention: Rashee Rice, SMU
FIRST TEAM: C.J. JOHNSON, EAST CAROLINA
Press coverage is nothing for the 6-foot- 2, 229-pound Johnson. He handles physical corners with ease. As a true freshman last year, Johnson was the most productive receiver in the FBS against press coverage, averaging 4.4 yards per route on such plays.
Second Team: Tyler Snead, East Carolina
Third Team: Marlon Williams, UCF
Honorable Mention: Sam Crawford Jr., Tulsa
FIRST TEAM: MITCHELL BRINKMAN, USF
USF landed a big-time transfer in Brinkman, who comes over from Northern Illinois after producing a 90.5 receiving grade in 2019, which ranked second in the FBS. He is exceptional after the catch, as he broke 10 tackles on 34 receptions and averaged 7.6 yards after the catch in 2019.
Second Team: Christian Trahan, Houston
Third Team: Kylen Granson, SMU
Honorable Mention: Jacob Mathis, USF
FIRST TEAM: JAYLON THOMAS, SMU
Some of the better pass-rushers in the AAC gave Thomas fits last year (like against Temple and Tulane), but he still performed at an exceptional level over the course of the 2019 season. Thomas produced an 80.1 pass-blocking grade on the year, ranking 15th among Group of Five tackles.
Second Team: D’Ante Smith, East Carolina
Third Team: Isaac Moore, Temple
Honorable Mention: Obinna Eze, Memphis
FIRST TEAM: PARKER BOUDREAUX, UCF
It was a bumpy start for Boudreaux to kickoff 2019, as his two worst games as a pass-blocker came within the first three weeks of the season. But starting with the menacing Pitt defensive line in Week 4, Boudreaux turned on the jets and was stout in pass protection the rest of the year. In that span, he earned an 83.8 pass-blocking grade that tied for eighth in the FBS, allowing only three pressures (all hurries) on 338 pass-block snaps.
Second Team: Vincent Picozzi, Temple
Third Team: Demetris Harris, USF
Honorable Mention: Hayden Howerton, SMU
FIRST TEAM: DYLAN PARHAM, MEMPHIS
Parham has anchored the left guard starting spot for Memphis the past two seasons and has been an all-around top-tier player at the position. In that span, he was the 10th-most valuable guard in all of college football in regard to PFF WAA.
Second Team: Adam Klein, Temple
Third Team: Gerald Wheeler, Tulsa
Honorable Mention: Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane
FIRST TEAM: PETER NESTROWITZ, NAVY
Nestrowitz matters as much as anyone in Navy’s triple-option offense. Rarely does he commit a mistake when run blocking — his rate of negatively graded run blocks in 2019 ranked in the 91st percentile among FBS guards.
Second Team: Corey Dublin, Tulane
Third Team: Manuel Orona-Lopez, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Ben Knutson, Tulane
FIRST TEAM: BILLY HONAKER, NAVY
Just like Nestrowitz, Honaker is a key cog in Navy’s rushing attack with his run-blocking prowess. He struggled a bit last season in Navy's bowl game against Kansas State, but up until that point, he had produced a 77.1 run-blocking grade, placing him above the 86th percentile among FBS tackles.
Second Team: Donovan Jennings, USF
Third Team: Beau Morris, SMU
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, Tulsa
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FIRST TEAM: JAXON PLAYER, TULSA
Player is one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in the country. He played 81% of his total snaps in 2019 at 0-technique and recorded a 91.1 run-defense grade at that alignment, ranking first in the FBS.
Second Team: Kalia Davis, UCF
Third Team: Daniel Archibong, Temple
Honorable Mention: Khris Banks, Temple
FIRST TEAM: CURTIS BROOKS, CINCINNATI
Brooks always has been a run-stuffer when on the field in his three years with the Bearcats, and he showed some promising developments as a pass-rusher this past year. He produced an 11.3% run-stop rate in 2019 (tied for fourth-best in FBS among interior defenders with 150 run snaps) and a 73.5 pass-rush grade (fifth in AAC).
Second Team: Ifeanyi Maijeh, Temple
Third Team: Kenny Turnier, UCF
Honorable Mention: Kevin Kegler, USF
FIRST TEAM: MYJAI SANDERS, CINCINNATI
Consistency is an issue for Sanders, but he has proven he can dominate in any given game. We saw it against Houston and East Carolina in 2019 (PFF grades above 88.0). He has great hand usage and is a valuable piece on Cincinnati’s stout defensive line.
Second Team: Patrick Johnson, Tulane
Third Team: Payton Turner, Houston
Honorable Mention: Derek Parish, Houston
FIRST TEAM: ELIJAH PONDER, CINCINNATI
Ponder logged significant reps last year at every alignment on the line excluding nose tackle and stand-up outside linebacker and was productive in both facets of play. He earned an 83.0 run-defense grade for the season and is at his best as a pass-rusher when playing 6/7-technique (17% pressure rate at alignment was third in AAC).
Second Team: Cameron Sample, Tulane
Third Team: David Anenih, Houston
Honorable Mention: Malik Vann, Cincinnati
FIRST TEAM: ZAVEN COLLINS, TULSA
Collins has top-notch coverage ability. Over the past two years, he recorded nine combined pass breakups and interceptions. In 2019, in particular, he made very few mistakes in coverage en route to an 80.2 coverage grade.
Second Team: Aaron Ramseur, East Carolina
Third Team: Dwayne Boyles, USF
Honorable Mention: Xavier Cullens, Memphis
FIRST TEAM: DIEGO FAGOT, NAVY
Fagot has excellent awareness in coverage and pairs that with above-average agility and balance. That helped him pick up 16 stops in coverage last year, which was three more than anyone in the AAC and tied for 11th in the FBS.
Second Team: Joel Dublanko, Cincinnati
Third Team: Isaiah Graham-Mobley, Temple
Honorable Mention: JJ Russell, Memphis
FIRST TEAM: AHMAD GARDNER, CINCINNATI
Gardner had one of the more unheralded rises in college football this past year, starting as a three-star true freshman and ending as one of the best players in the country. He was incredibly sticky and rarely lost at the catch point; no cornerback had a higher PFF coverage grade in tight coverage than Gardner, and he allowed just six catches on his 35 targets while making 18 plays on the ball.
Second Team: Tay Gowan, UCF
Third Team: Damarion Williams, Houston
Honorable Mention: Ja’Quan McMillian, East Carolina
FIRST TEAM: AR’MANI JOHNSON, SMU
Johnson is one of the stickiest man corners in the country and a hidden gem. There were some clear nerves in Week 1 last year, but he soon became near-impossible to beat. From Week 2 and on, he was the fourth-highest graded cornerback in single coverage in the FBS.
Second Team: Jaylon Monroe, Tulane
Third Team: T.J. Carter, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Brandon Stephens, SMU
FIRST TEAM: ANTWAN COLLIER, UCF
Week in and week out last season, Collier was a top-tier player in coverage for UCF. He finished the season with an 85.6 coverage grade after racking up seven combined pass breakups and interceptions and allowing only six first downs.
Second Team: Davondre Robinson, East Carolina
Third Team: Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
Honorable Mention: Quindell Johnson, Memphis
FIRST TEAM: NICK ROBERTS, USF
You can count on Roberts being a playmaker in coverage wherever he is on the field — single-high, split-field or in the slot. He’s combined for 12 pass breakups and interceptions since 2018, and he blew up plays underneath from the slot in 2019 (seven stops from slot were fifth-most in AAC).
Second Team: Richie Grant, UCF
Third Team: Sanchez Blake Jr., Memphis
Honorable Mention: Amir Tyler, Temple
FIRST TEAM: K.J. SAILS, USF
After struggling a bit at North Carolina for a few years, Sails transferred to USF and immediately became the team’s best player and one of the AAC’s best cornerbacks. He posted an 82.1 coverage grade this past year, ranking third in the conference.