Rivals Preseason All-America Team: Offense
The college football season is only weeks away so this week Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney is releasing his Preseason All-America Team, starting today with a look at the offense and some remembrances of the players when they were in high school.
THREE-POINT STANCE: Ranking recent commits, LSU, Tennessee
FACT OR FICTION: No program will beat LSU for Shelton Sampson
Rated as the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2020 class, Young torched every opponent at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and his on-field talent was never in question. It was always his size that was a concern but he - and others - have proven that height isn’t as important as it once was at the QB spot. Young has been phenomenal as Alabama’s quarterback, showing the same coolness, moxie and lethal accuracy we saw for years in high school.
The former high four-star quarterback from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., surged late in the rankings cycle and finished as the third-best pro-style QB and No. 51 overall nationally. Looking back, Stroud did not move up as much as he should have and easily could now make an argument as the best pro-style QB in that class, ahead of DJ Uiagalelei and Harrison Bailey. Stroud threw for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns in a breakout season last year and his receiver group should be one of the best nationally again.
Robinson was so dominant at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta and it wasn’t just during running back drills but more catching the ball out of the backfield and just being an elite force on the field. After that event, it was clear Robinson was so special and he was also an incredibly friendly and affable person who looked destined for greatness. He’s delivered so far at Texas (as he picked the Longhorns over USC, Alabama and others) as he’s rushed for 1,830 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Listed as Chris Vaughn in the Rivals database, the three-star recruit was definitely mis-ranked coming out of Round Rock (Texas) Cedar Ridge, and while we recognized his talent we also recognized he was so small that a higher ranking was tough to justify. That was a learning lesson since Vaughn has set records at Kansas State and rushed for an insane 1,404 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Not every diminutive RB is Vaughn, but his three-star ranking has opened our eyes that ideal size isn’t a prerequisite for four-star consideration.
On an Ohio State team that put two receivers in the first round of the NFL Draft, it was Smith-Njigba who led the Buckeyes with 95 catches for 1,606 yards to go along with nine touchdowns. That production is incredible, but sort of not surprising after the Rockwall, Texas, standout did the same thing in high school and earned his fifth star late in the rankings cycle. He was awesome at the All-American Bowl and even though he wasn’t a physical freak Smith-Njigba got open all the time and caught everything.
Boutte’s stat line from last season is not as loaded as Smith-Njigba’s, but in one particular way it’s even more impressive. In only six games, the former four-star from New Iberia (La.) Westgate standout had 38 catches (second-best on the team) and team-highs with 509 yards and nine touchdowns, even though he only played half the season. Not making him a five-star in a class with Julian Fleming, Demond Demas, Rakim Jarrett, Smith-Njigba and Jordan Johnson ranked ahead of him is a regret.
Pitt beat out Maryland, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech mainly to land Addison, a high three-star receiver coming out of Frederick (Md.) Tuscarora, but his recruitment didn’t cause the stir of many other elite receivers in the class. Addison went off last season with 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns and then transferred to USC, picking the Trojans over Alabama, Texas and others. It would’ve been a tough call then, but Addison has clearly outplayed his ranking.
The 2021 tight end class was loaded and a lot of the players ranked ahead of Bowers could still have monster careers, but he was clearly under-ranked at No. 8 at the position. Still, he was just outside the Rivals100, so we have that to hang our hat on. The thing with Bowers is that during 7on7 play he was definitely good but did we see a dominant SEC tight end from the second he stepped on campus? I would say that was a surprise. He was clearly the top target in that offense last season with 56 catches for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he could see a lot of balls again this season if he’s not seeing double teams.
A high four-star who was very much under five-star consideration in the 2020 class, Mayer has delivered in South Bend and is clearly on track to be a high-round NFL Draft pick after catching 71 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns last season. After seeing them all in person multiple times, we settled on Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington as five-stars and Mayer just on the cusp. At the time it was hard to argue, since Gilbert and Washington were such insane physical specimens, but Mayer has been the most productive in college so far.
Skoronski was an interesting debate through the end of the rankings cycle as he finished just inside the Rivals250, but at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds he wasn’t the biggest offensive linemen and we weren’t sure if he was definitely an outside guy at the next level. He’s since gained 45 pounds and is dominated in Evanston and could definitely be an early draft pick.
Johnson Jr. has backed up his five-star ranking and could be in store for more this season. The Cincinnati Princeton standout was ranked behind Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge, but Johnson was always talented, always big and always dominant.
Patterson was a talented kid at Mission Viejo, Calif., and his versatility should have been seen as an asset. Instead, I wasn’t sure where he’d play at the next level and wrongly went too conservative on his ranking. He hasn’t given up a sack his entire career for the Irish and that’s incredibly impressive.
Galvin is a perfect example of discussions we’ve had internally and a learning lesson. The Katy, Texas, prospect was 6-foot-7 in high school but also only 250 pounds so he got a mid-three star ranking. A few years later and Galvin is 6-foot-7 and 302 pounds and one of the best offensive linemen in college football. The lesson is lots of these lean guys are not maxed out physically and there is lots of room left to grow.
There was not much written about Torrence in high school as he was pegged with a two-star ranking as he committed to UL-Lafayette. Being developed there out of Greensburg (La.) St. Helena and now following coach Billy Napier to Florida has been a huge success story.