Down the Drive has asked me to put my powers of clairvoyance to the upcoming college football season.
In the first of my series of 2017 college football previews, I pick my preseason All-American team. The power of my endorsement cannot be overstated. Selection to Miss Cleo’s All-American team will catapult each one of these young men to superstardom.
Just like when I pegged Tennessee for big things last year. I think they won the national title, though I can’t remember if that was in my copy of Bill Walsh’s College Football or in real life. It’s been a few months.
Alas, there is only one Cincinnati Bearcat on this list, but there are plenty of Group of Five fellas represented. Take the next 10 minutes and find out who all the big names are going to be this season before they become big names.
Quarterback: Quinton Flowers, USF. A Lamar Jacksonier Lamar Jackson. Flying under the national radar at South Florida, Flowers posted 1,500 rushing yards and 2,500 passing yards last season. The only other player to do this in 2016? Louisville’s own Lamar Jackson. Flowers belongs on every Heisman watch list.
Running Back: Bo Scarborough, Alabama. We clawed, we chained, our hearts in vain, we jumped, never asking why. And then, Bo Scarborough came in like a wrecking ball and he broke our walls. Wow.
Running Back: Derrius Guice, LSU. Guice will be the player in 2017 that everyone said Leonard Fournette was going to be in 2016. And 2015.
Wide Receiver: Courtland Sutton, SMU. Fire up YouTube and watch some highlights of this guy. He has been college football’s most exciting player for the past two seasons. Sutton will continue to put up video game statistics in 2017 as part of Chad Morris’ emerging offensive juggernaut in Dallas. Last year, he caught 76 passes for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns. I expect him to score 50 touchdowns this season and average 40 yards per catch. If anyone from the Group of Five gets an invite to the Downtown Athletic Club this season, it will be Mr. Sutton.
Wide Receiver: Richie James, Middle Tennessee. Richie James is a pocket rocket. At 5’9, he’s not going to leap over many corners on jump balls, but this young man was made to be an NFL slot receiver in the mold of Wes Welker or Wayne Chrebet. Consistently productive and explosive, James is the only returning receiver in major college football to have caught more than 100 passes in each of the past two seasons. He is going to make some NFL general manager look really smart next season.
Tight End: Jaylen Samuels, NC State. Keith Jackson incarnate. Samuels is a big, strong tight end who can block like Bavaro, move like Jagger and catch like Casper. The Charlotte native will catch as many balls as Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley can get to him.
Tackle: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame. McGlinchey is as battle-tested as any lineman in college football. This young Philadelphian can play every position on the line and excels both as a pass and run blocker. He will make Irish running back Josh Adams a star this fall.
Tackle: Mitch Hyatt, Clemson. Between offensive series, Hyatt rips phone books in half on the sideline.
Center: James Daniels, Iowa. Daniels led an offensive line that paved the way for a pair of 1,000 yard backs last season. Daniels is a rare road grader at the center’s position.
Guard: Will Hernandez, UTEP. This guy has been starting at left guard for the Miners since the Eisenhower Administration. Hernandez has a mean-streak a mile wide and is one of college football’s fiercest competitors in the trenches.
Guard: Cody O’Donnell, Washington State. An Outland Trophy finalist last season, O’Donnell is the size of Paul Bunyan and just as strong. He paved the way for the Cougars success in 2016 and will continue to do so in 2017.
Defensive End: Harold Landry, Boston College. The nation’s best pass rusher, Harold Landry will single-handedly help the Eagles stay bowl eligible in 2017. In addition to his size and athleticism, Landry displays a unique on-field awareness that enables him to work his way through every offensive line in the ACC.
Defensive End: Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State. Jones is as disruptive a force in the backfield as any defensive player in college football. His 45.5 career tackles for loss compiled over three seasons puts him within striking range of Jason Babin’s all-time record in the category (75).The Miss Cleo of College Football predicts that Jones will break the Western Michigan legend’s record this season.
Defensive Tackle: Ed Oliver, Houston. Houston native Ed Oliver was a freshman phenom in 2016, a genuine one-man wrecking crew that proved unblockable against both AAC and Power 5 competition. There is no reason to suspect anything but improvement from this emerging college football superstar.
Defensive Tackle: Da’Ron Payne, Alabama. The smooth approach of Da’Ron Payne to the nose tackle position is characterized by elegant melodies, ravishing harmonies and passionate intimacy. Alabama always has one in the chamber. Already well known in SEC circles, Payne will become a player of national renown in 2017.
Linebacker: Shaquem Griffin, UCF. Griffin combines a great motor with elite athletic skills. Last season, Griffin was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year and led the conference in sacks. Griffin played a major role in bringing UCF back to respectability in 2016. This autumn, watch him carry the Knights back into the top tier of the AAC.
Linebacker: Porter Gustin, USC. Gustin had a knack for making big plays in big games last year. He will be the centerpiece of the Southern Cal front seven this season. Gustin will draw far more attention from opposing teams than he did in 2016, but expect the rest of the Trojans’ talented linebacker corps to take advantage of these openings.
Linebacker: Kendall Joseph, Clemson. Joseph has stood arrow-straight, unencumbered by the weight of all those hustlers and their schemes. He was the rock of the Tigers national championship defense in 2016, playing more defensive snaps than even Ben Boulware. Expect no slack from the ACC’s best linebacker in 2017.
Cornerback: D.J. Reed, Kansas State. JUCO transfer D.J. Reed isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest corner around. He’s just the best. Playing in the Big 12, he went up against the best receivers every single week and usually came out on top. Nobody else in the country blanketed wide receivers like Reed did for the Wildcats in 2016.
Cornerback: Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma. A top-flight cover man, Thomas is a Godsend when it comes to connecting with the youth of today while doing music about real people and real places.
Safety: Andrew Wingard, Wyoming. Made about 900 tackles for Wyoming last season. Without Wingard’s tackling expertise, Wyoming would have won about four games. He is as valuable to his team as any player in the country.
Safety: Ronnie Harrison, Alabama. Basically a linebacker playing safety, Ronnie Harrison could win a Survivor Series match by himself.
Kicker: Andrew Gantz, Cincinnati. In 2017, Andrew Gantz is going to make Jan Stenerud look like Luis Zendejas. This will be a big comeback year for our favorite kicker here in Bearcat land. A hip injury derailed Gantz’s shot at the All-American team last season. We can build this dream together, Bearcats. Nothing’s gonna stop us now.
Punter: Mike Caggiano, UMass. One time in a high school game, I saw him punt a ball so high up in the air that it hit a bat flying overhead on its way south for the winter. Nobody knows quite where that bat landed. Some people in the town of Hingham, Massachusetts believe it landed in the Harbormen’s Powerade bucket. Others think the local sheriff has got it hold up somewhere in a cabin in the Pioneer Valley. Some people think Lee Corso took it as a trophy. Had it mounted in the ESPN College Football Studios in Bristol. There’s one thing I know and I know that’s the truth.
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Everyone of these young men is a great college football player, but keep in mind that this is a work of parody and not intended to be taken seriously.