Heading into the 2018 college football season WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation's leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2019 NFL Draft.
First-Team Defensive Ends:
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Like his older brother, Nick Bosa looks like an elite edge defender. He is fast off the edge with the ability fire by tackles to get upfield. Bosa has excellent hands and functional strength to fight off blocks, a burst to close, and puts quarterbacks down hard. In the ground game, Bosa is solid, but has pass-rush potential.
Bosa totaled 34 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two passes batted and one forced fumble in 2017. He was the Buckeyes' best defensive end even though he rotated with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. Bosa could explode as a junior as that trio left for the NFL and he should play a much higher volume of snaps in 2018. That could lead to him putting together a massive season and being a clear choice as a First-Team All-American.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Clemson fielded a defensive line in 2017 that was comprised of future first-round picks, and Ferrell was arguably the most consistent of the bunch. He created a lot of the big plays for the Tigers' other defensive linemen with the instant pressure he caused off the snap. Fellow defensive end Austin Bryant spent 2017 playing himself into an early-rounder, but Bryant did well cleaning up a lot of scrambling quarterbacks running away from Ferrell.
Ferrell has superb speed with athleticism and the ability bend around the corner. He is very fast off the snap to get upfield and put quick pressure on the quarterback. Ferrell was more disruptive in 2017 than his stat line indicated despite totaling 66 tackles with 18 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, one pass batted and two forced fumbles. In 2016, Ferrell had an impressive redshirt freshman season for the Tigers as he totaled 44 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and two passes batted. With Bryant and first-round talents in Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence next to Ferrell on the defensive line, it will be hard for teams to focus all their attention on Ferrell. He could put together a huge year to earn a lot of postseason honors.
Second-Team Defensive Ends:
Zach Allen, Boston College
Allen didn't receive the hype of teammate Harold Landry, but Allen was the better pro prospect and could easily have been picked before Landry if Allen had declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen is a tough run defender who is strong to hold his ground at the point of attack. He anchors well and is tough to move. As a pass-rusher, Allen has an impressive first-step and burst out of his stance for a heavy defensive end. He possesses strength to achieve pressure on the bull rush and speed to close. Allen could use more pass-rushing moves for the NFL. With his size and strength, it would be nice to see him add a club or rip move. Allen totaled 100 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, three passes broken up and an interception in 2017. If he stays consistent to that, he should be a favorite to be an All-American.
Joe Jackson, Miami
Jackson is a dangerous edge defender with a nose for the quarterback. He has excellent speed off the edge to go along with length and size. With his nice build, Jackson could grow into a solid base end in a 4-3 defense. In 2017, he totaled 59 tackles with 11.5 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two passes batted and one forced fumble. He was impressive in his play against Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey, a future first-round pick and starting tackle in the NFL. As a freshman, Jackson notched 8.5 sacks with 32 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. The 6-foot-5, 258-pounder has a good skill set with upside and could explode as a junior to earn a lot of postseason honors.
Third-Team Defensive Ends:
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Sweat debuted for the Bulldogs with an excellent 2017 season as a dynamic edge defender. He totaled an SEC-leading 10.5 sacks, with 15.5 tackles for a loss and 48 tackles for the year. To start out his collegiate career, Sweat played at Michigan State before some disciplinary issues led to him leaving for the junior college ranks at Co-Lin Community College. With Jeff Simmons causing a lot of disruption on the inside, Sweat could clean up scrambling quarterbacks and put together a big 2018 season.
Brian Burns, Florida State
In 2017, Burns had 48 tackles with 13.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks and four passes batted. He put more pressure on the quarterback than the numbers indicate. Burns notched 9.5 sacks in his debut season for Florida State and finished 2016 in impressive fashion. Scouts have said that Burns has a ton of athletic ability and upside. He is fully capable of putting a huge junior year to earn All-American consideration.
Honorable Mentions: Clemson's Austin Bryant, Florida's CeCe Jefferson, Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines, Wyoming's Carl Granderson, USC's Porter Gustin, TCU's Ben Banogu, USC's Christian Rector, Iowa's Anthony Nelson, Notre Dame's Daelin Hayes, Penn State's Shareef Miller, Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson and Florida's Jabari Zuniga.