Rivals.com's 2015-16 All-Bowl Team: Offense
Another college football bowl season is in the books. Rivals.com takes a look back on the bowls, big and small, and names its own All-Bowl teams, starting with the offense (defense will be released Friday), and where these players began as recruits.
Jared Goff, Cal | Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic (four-star, 2013)
The skinny: No. 140 overall, the No. 8 pro-style quarterback and the No. 15 recruit from California, Goff quickly committed to Cal after the Golden Bears became his first offer. Playing in what would be his final game at Cal due to his departure for the NFL, Goff left a lasting impression with 467 yards passing and six touchdowns during a 55-36 victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Farrell’s take: I liked Goff a lot coming out of high school and this bowl game showed a lot of the reasons why. I really liked the way he carried himself on and off the field, especially at the Elite 11, where I got to see how his relaxed personality would help him in stressful situations like the 1-11 freshman season. His accuracy was on point. Goff has emerged as a potential No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and this performance will be watched again and again by scouts.
Leonard Fournette, LSU | New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine (five-star, 2014)
The skinny: Fournette was No. 4 overall, the No. 1 running back and the No. 1 recruit from Louisiana. After a somewhat disappointing end to his regular season, Fournette made an early push for the 2016 Heisman Trophy after he rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns, plus added a fifth touchdown on a reception during a 56-27 Texas Bowl victory over Texas Tech.
Farrell’s take: There was praise heaped on Fournette as the lock for the Heisman and then the Bama game occurred, which provided the blueprint to stop him. However, Texas Tech didn’t have the talent to do so. We were obviously taken with Fournette as he was the highest-ranked running back since Bryce Brown was No. 1 in 2009. Stardom was expected, but I was a bit turned off by some comparisons to Adrian Peterson in the industry because I wasn't sure he had the top-end speed to be in the same ballpark. Okay, that question has been answered and the Peterson comparisons have turned to Herschel Walker. Are we watching a once-in-a-decade running back?
Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech | Strong (Ark.) Huttig (three-star, 2012)
The skinny: Dixon was the No. 8 recruit in Arkansas. He was not ranked nationally or at his position. While he may not be a household name to most, Dixon put together a fantastic collegiate career at Louisiana Tech. He finished it off in style by rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, plus had 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns on six receptions during a 47-28 victory over Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl.
Farrell’s take: We had Dixon as a three-star despite zero Power Five interest because we liked the way he ran but also the way he caught the ball out of the backfield when given a chance. He was a scrappy, physical runner for a guy with average speed and he was effective at bouncing off hits. It was surprising to us he didn’t get at least one bigger offer, but that was a good thing for Louisiana Tech.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford | Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian (four-star, 2014)
The skinny: No. 77 overall, the No. 3 all-purpose back and the No. 1 recruit from Colorado, McCaffrey surprised no one by committing to Stanford, where his father, Ed McCaffrey, was a star receiver. Having already had a Heisman Trophy-caliber season in 2015, McCaffrey set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards during Stanford's 45-16 win over Iowa. He rushed for 172 yards on 18 carries, had four receptions for 105 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and scored on a 63-yard punt return.
Farrell’s take: We loved McCaffrey's versatility out of high school, but we expected him to be more of a slasher/third-down guy instead of the workhorse he has been on the ground. Instead of a lesser Reggie Bush, we got a record-setting player who eclipsed Barry Sanders. He's not big, but he's sneaky strong, super quick and has smarts and vision, so I'm proud of our ranking here of a kid from Colorado who played against average competition but had that "it" factor as a winner, a leader and a gritty kid.
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech | Mesquite (Texas) Horn (three-star, 2011)
The skinny: Grant was the No. 99 wide receiver in 2011. He was not ranked nationally or in Texas. While the game did not turn out the way the Red Raiders had hoped, Grant does not deserve any of the blame. Finishing with 125 yards and three touchdowns on 10 receptions, Grant provided a majority of Texas Tech’s offense during the 56-27 loss to LSU in the Texas Bowl.
Farrell’s take: Grant was a very small but quick receiver that we liked well enough to include in our national top 100 at wide receiver and make a mid-level three star. Remember, this was a 5-foot-7, 157-pounder coming out of high school, so I’m proud of this ranking because we knew what he could do and that’s take over games at times. He was always stronger than you expected and he had hops, so it’s not a shocker to see him overcoming size issues.
Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech | Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian (three-star, 2014)
The skinny: Ford was the No. 67 wide receiver and the No. 61 recruit from Florida in 2014. While Virginia Tech’s offense was far from explosive during a majority of the 2015 regular season, Ford led the charge during a 55-52 Independence Bowl victory over Tulsa. He finished with 227 yards receiving and a touchdown on 12 receptions.
Farrell’s take: Ford was a guy who was in the four-star discussion a few times as he had good size and a frame to fill out and very good hands. Speed was a bit of an issue as he separated in high school, but we wondered if he could run away from people in college. His hands and ability to make plays in traffic have really shown out his first couple of years and he’s off to a career start that will make us re-think that ranking. He was very dominant in the bowl win against Tulsa in a shootout.
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss | Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee (five-star, 2013)
The skinny: No. 5 overall, the No. 1 wide receiver and the No. 1 recruit from Illinois, Treadwell committed to Ole Miss after taking official visits to Oxford, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. After a devastating leg injury in 2014, Treadwell’s impressive return in 2015 was culminated during the Rebels' 48-20 victory over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl when he had six receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed a 45-yard pass during the game.
Farrell’s take: Treadwell is the feel-good story of the year, having fully recovered from the gruesome injury he suffered a year ago. He's proven to be a dominant receiver whether it's over the middle, to the sidelines or down the field. His size-speed combination is rare as we saw in high school and he's the go-to guy for the offense when they need a first down or big play. Ole Miss was up and down all year, but Treadwell has been consistently good and capped it off with a stellar game.
O.J. Howard, Alabama | Autauga (Ala.) Autuaga Academy (five-star, 2013)
The skinny: Howard was No. 16 overall, the No. 1 tight end and the No. 2 recruit from Alabama. Howard’s commitment to Alabama came during the summer before his junior season. It can be said that his career with the Crimson Tide had been somewhat uneventful, until the national championship victory over Clemson. Bursting onto the national scene, Howard finished with five receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him the Offensive MVP trophy.
Farrell’s take: Howard was the most freakishly athletic tight end I've ever scouted, and that's saying something. Howard never got utilized much in the Bama offense and that has hurt him because he's not a natural in-line blocker, but that all changed on the biggest stage. His strength is as a flex option in the passing game and he could be freaky in the NFL. His amazing performance in the title game allows us to stop questioning what we saw out of high school once and for all.
Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss | Lake City (Fla.) Columbia (five-star, 2013)
The skinny: No. 14 overall, the No. 1 offensive tackle and the No. 2 recruit from Florida, Tunsil surprised some by committing to Ole Miss over Alabama, Georgia and Florida after taking a late January official visit to Oxford. He missed several games this season due to a leg injury, but came back at full throttle. In a 48-20 victory over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, he helped pave the way for 554 total yards of offense and even scored on a 2-yard run in the win.
Farrell’s take: Tunsil was an elite talent out of high school, showing good arm extension, excellent footwork and the ability to be effective in pass protection as well as the run game. There was little doubt he was going to be a star if he continued to develop and it's been fun to watch that happen - unless you're a Georgia fan, as he appeared to be a lock for the Dawgs for a while. His athleticism was highlighted with his touchdown run and he’s clearly an elite pass protector as he showed against sack specialist Emmanuel Ogbah at times in the game.
Cameron Robinson, Alabama | West Monroe, La. (five-star, 2014)
The skinny: Robinson was No. 17 overall, the No. 1 offensive tackle and the No. 3 recruit from Louisiana. Robinson, who committed to Alabama over LSU, has been everything you would think a five-star offensive lineman would be. He was a key part of Alabama’s national championship season this year and should be back even bigger and better next year.
Farrell’s take: Robinson is an elite talent and we saw that in high school as evidenced by his lofty ranking. The fact that he's in the discussion for best offensive tackle in the country already as a sophomore is a bit ahead of schedule and his technique, raw in high school, is textbook in college. He is a very good run-blocker and his pass protection has improved steadily. His performance in the playoffs was very good as any sacks he gave up were on his quarterback or a coverage sack if anything.
Eric MacLain, Clemson | Fayetteville (NC) Jack Britt (four-star, 2011)
The skinny: No. 59 overall, the No. 6 tight end and the No. 4 recruit from North Carolina, MacLain committed to Clemson during the spring following his junior season after a very early commitment to Tennessee. After gradually making the move to the offensive line, MacLain has flourished for the Tigers. Despite the disappointment of losing to Alabama in the national championship game, the offensive line, which was anchored by MacLain, was consistently one of the top groups in the country.
Farrell’s take: Maclain was one of three elite tight ends from North Carolina back in 2011 along with current NFLer Eric Ebron and Drew Owens, who hasn’t panned out in college. Ebron was the biggest of the bunch, but trimmed down between his junior and senior years out of fear of being made an offensive lineman. The once-Vols commit and huge Tennessee fan growing up has become a big-time NFL prospect, embracing his role as a mauler inside.
John Theus, Georgia | Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles (five-star, 2012)
The skinny: No. 23 overall, the No. 5 offensive tackle and the No. 3 recruit from Florida, Theus committed to Georgia during the summer prior to his senior year, but then gave Notre Dame a long look before sticking with the Bulldogs. Against Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Theus had a memorable performance as he held All-American defensive end Carl Nassib, who led the nation in sacks, without a single tackle during Georgia’s 24-17 victory.
Farrell’s take: Theus was a very talented prospect in the loaded 2012 five-star offensive line class that already boasts two NFL first-rounders in DJ Humphries and Andrus Peat. While he started off fast as a freshman, he’s had his ups and downs but finished his career on a high note for sure by keeping Nassib under control. A team captain and veteran of an impressive 48 starts, he will find a home in the NFL.
Joshua Garnett, Stanford | Puyallup, Wash. (four-star, 2012)
The skinny: No. 33 overall, the No. 2 offensive guard and the No. 2 recruit from Washington, Garnett committed to Stanford after taking official visits to Palo Alto, Notre Dame and Michigan. At Stanford, he has helped continue the recent trend of powerful Cardinal offensive lines. While the entire line was dominant against Iowa during a 45-16 Rose Bowl victory, Garnett was the most explosive out of the group.
Farrell’s take: Garnett was a national top 40 prospect and the highest-ranked non-five-star in 2012, so we liked him a lot. He was a kid with a tackle’s frame but a guard’s run-game mentality. Garnett probably could have received that fifth star, but this ranking appears to be right on the money. It took him a few years to develop as is usually the case with offensive linemen, but he's been crucial to the running and passing success for the Cardinal and has helped make Christian McCaffrey a household name.