College football All-America teams 2023: Texas, Georgia, Notre Dame lead with 3 picks each

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The Athletic College Football

Dec 6, 2023

The end of the college football regular season and the selection of the Playoff field means it’s time to move on to individual award winners. Before the Heisman Trophy is handed out to one individual Saturday night, let’s honor 50 of the best college football players in 2023 with The Athletic’s two All-America teams.

Nominations are solicited from across The Athletic’s college football staff, with selections made by a panel of editors. This year’s list is headlined by three players each from Georgia, Texas and Notre Dame, plus two players each from LSU, Ohio State, Washington, Michigan, Kansas State, Oregon, Alabama, Iowa, Missouri and Florida State.

QB Jayden Daniels, LSU: In his second season after transferring from Arizona State, Daniels put up some of the most impressive statistics in college football history. In 12 games, Daniels has passed for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns (with just four interceptions) and rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns. If the season ended today, he would break the FBS single-season record for pass efficiency rating at 208.0. He’s more than 20 points clear of second-place Bo Nix this season. Daniels is averaging 412.2 yards of total offense per game and had at least 382 yards of total offense in each of LSU’s three losses. He prevailed over Michael Penix Jr. in The Athletic’s final Heisman straw poll.

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RB Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State: The No. 19 running back recruit in the 2022 class, per the 247Sports Composite, Gordon had 308 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. When he rushed for a total of 109 yards in the first three games this season, there was no reason to believe he’d emerge as an All-American. But here we are: Oklahoma State turned its season around to get to the Big 12 title game, and it did so by feeding the ball to Gordon. He has 258 carries for 1,614 yards and 20 touchdowns, plus 37 catches for 326 yards and one touchdown. In a three-game midseason run against Kansas, West Virginia and Cincinnati, he had at least 282 yards from scrimmage in each game. While some of the big-name backs who were up for preseason honors didn’t put up big numbers, Gordon emerged as a surprise easy choice for first-team All-America.

WR Rome Odunze, Washington: An argument could be made that Odunze should be in New York with teammate Michael Penix Jr. for the Heisman ceremony. The Huskies’ receiving corps is loaded, but Odunze has stood out as the best of the bunch with 81 catches for 1,428 yards and 13 touchdowns. Per TruMedia, 81.5 percent of his catches have resulted in a first down or touchdown. And his most memorable moment may have been a rush: the critical 23-yard run on fourth down to set up the winning field goal at Washington State.

Michael Penix (9) and Rome Odunze (1) form one of the nation’s most prolific passing duos. (Joe Nicholson / USA Today)

WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State: Harrison made it to New York as a deserving Heisman Trophy finalist. He became the first Buckeyes player to have multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons, catching 67 passes for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns despite the loss of two-time Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Harrison is an advanced route-runner who makes highlight-reel catches appear routine. He jumped from 4.2 to 6.4 yards after the catch from last season to now, per TruMedia, showing off big-play ability to go with his reliability as a go-to target in traffic.

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WR Malik Nabers, LSU: Nabers formed a frequently unstoppable big-play combination with Daniels and leads the nation with 34 offensive plays of 20-plus yards and 17 of at least 30 yards. He has 86 catches for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns for an average of 18 yards per catch. Per TruMedia, he has 19 receptions (nine for touchdowns) on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield in the air. Nabers has nine 100-yard outings in 12 games, including 171 against Alabama.

TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: Even though he missed three games, there’s no denying Bowers’ status as the best tight end in college football. He has 56 catches for 717 yards and seven total touchdowns. Per TruMedia, 78.9 percent of his targets were completions and 60.7 percent of his catches went for a first down or touchdown. Among all players with 40-plus catches, his average of 8.7 yards after the catch ranks 14th. He’s a versatile weapon who’s proven to be a matchup nightmare and seems destined for the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft.

OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State: The projected top-10 draft pick lived up to the billing in his second season as a starter, especially in pass protection. Per PFF, Fashanu has allowed up just 10 pressures in 382 pass-block snaps. The 6-foot-6, 317-pound left tackle has not given up a sack in his college career.

OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame: Few schools have churned out top offensive linemen like Notre Dame over the past decade or so, and Alt is the latest star. The 6-foot-8, 322-pound junior has allowed a mere five pressures this year, per PFF, with one sack. He’s also been a key part of Audric Estime’s emergence as an All-American running back.

G Zak Zinter, Michigan: A standout on the offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award in 2021 and 2022, Zinter had his season cut short by a leg injury in the win against Ohio State but had already done more than enough to be an All-America lock. The 6-foot-6, 322-pound Zinter is a team captain and four-year starter who excels in run blocking and has been a first-team All-Big Ten pick each of the past two seasons.

G Cooper Beebe, Kansas State: A three-time first-team All-Big 12 choice, Beebe is an All-America performer for the second year in a row. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound senior was ranked as the No. 1,416 recruit in the Class of 2019 in the 247Sports Composite, but he developed into one of the nation’s best offensive linemen. Over the past three seasons combined, per TruMedia, Kansas State ranks second in yards per rush before contact, and Beebe has been the leader of that blocking success.

C Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon: The Ducks’ offensive line ranks 12th in yards before contact per rush, first in pressure rate allowed and third in tackles for loss allowed per game. They’ve been strong across the board, with Powers-Johnson the 6-foot-3, 320-pound anchor in the middle as a breakout star in his first full year starting as a junior. Per PFF, he has allowed zero sacks and one pressure.

DE Laiatu Latu, UCLA: Latu was a star pass rusher last year, and this year he improved against the run — for one of the nation’s top run defenses — while taking his disruption off the edge to another level to be named Pac-12 defensive player of the year. He leads the nation with 21.5 tackles for loss and has 13 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups. Per PFF, he’s third with 64 total pressures.

DE Jalen Green, James Madison: A knee injury caused Green to miss the last three games, and yet he still ranks second in the FBS in tackles for loss (21) and sacks (15.5). JMU was 9-0 with Green in the lineup and finished 11-1 in its second FBS season, with a game-wrecking defensive front leading the way. Green also had a pick six in an eight-point win against South Alabama and forced two fumbles.

DT T’Vondre Sweat, Texas: Few positions are harder to judge by stats (Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska aside) than defensive tackle, and Sweat’s impact is certainly felt far beyond the box score. The 6-foot-4, 362-pound Sweat has been a breakout star as a fifth-year senior, the key cog in a dominant run defense that ranks fourth in yards allowed per game (80.9) and fifth in yards allowed per rush (2.9). Sweat has 42 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, four pass breakups and, for good measure, a receiving touchdown in the Big 12 title game.

DT Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois: The Illini may have taken a step back after losing a lot of star power from their 2022 defense, but Newton returned to take home Big Ten defensive lineman of the year honors. The 6-foot-2, 295-pound senior had 52 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a national-high four blocked kicks. Per PFF, he has 44 total pressures as a consistently disruptive force capable of collapsing pockets.

LB Dallas Turner, Alabama: Turner predictably became Alabama’s star off the edge after the departure of Will Anderson. Per PFF, he has 52 total pressures to go with 50 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two forced fumbles for a stingy Crimson Tide defense. He’s an explosive pass rusher who has grown into an impactful run defender as well.

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LB Payton Wilson, NC State: The ACC’s defensive player of the year was first voted first-team All-ACC way back in 2020. He had a stellar comeback season last year after an injury-shortened 2021, and now he’s become one of the nation’s best defenders. Wilson has stuffed the stat sheet with 138 tackles, three interceptions, 17.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, six pass breakups and a forced fumble, plus a pick six in the seven-point win against Clemson.

LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M: The Aggies had far bigger problems on offense than defense in a frustrating 2023, as they gave up just 295 yards per game. Cooper has 84 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups. He’s one of the nation’s best linebackers against the run but has also been disruptive as a pass rusher.

Cooper DeJean is one of the nation’s top cornerbacks and punt returners. (Jeffrey Becker / USA Today)

DB Cooper DeJean, Iowa: A leg injury cost DeJean the final three games, but before then he was the best player on one of the nation’s best defenses, which carried Iowa to 10 wins. DeJean has two interceptions, five pass breakups and a punt return touchdown. According to PFF, he allowed 21 catches on 46 targets for 205 yards and zero touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year and return specialist of the year.

DB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: The 6-foot, 196-pound cornerback from Miami has made countless plays over the past few years, tallying a staggering 46 pass breakups since 2021. His 2023 season includes 18 pass breakups, 41 tackles and an interception for the nation’s No. 7 pass efficiency defense. Mitchell ranked No. 35 on Dane Brugler’s midseason NFL Draft board.

DB Tyler Nubin, Minnesota: Nubin has allowed just five catches on 19 targets for 44 yards, according to PFF. With five interceptions, he has as many takeaways as catches allowed, to go with 53 tackles, four pass breakups, a sack and a forced fumble.

DB Xavier Watts, Notre Dame: Watts had been a big-play machine, leading the nation with seven interceptions and returning them for 137 yards for a Notre Dame defense that ranks fifth in yards per play allowed and No. 1 in pass efficiency rating. He also has 47 tackles and four pass breakups and had a fumble recovery touchdown against USC

K Graham Nicholson, Miami (OH): Yes, Nicholson missed his first field goal of the season in last Saturday’s MAC title game, but he also made three kicks in the RedHawks’ nine-point win for the championship. For the season, he has made 26 of 27 field goals, including 10 of 11 from at least 40 yards to help propel the team to 11 wins.

P Tory Taylor, Iowa: The Hawkeyes won 10 games despite having the nation’s worst offense, with a stout defense and brilliant special teams. Taylor, who has amassed more than 13,000 punting yards since 2020, ranks third in the nation in punting average (47.9) and fourth in net punting (43.2) while pinning 11 punts inside the 10-yard line, per TruMedia.

AP Xavier Worthy, Texas: Worthy ranks second in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game and third in the country in punt return average, proving to be a dynamic threat in multiple areas. He has 73 catches for 969 yards and five touchdowns, plus 20 punt returns for 358 yards and a touchdown — an average of 17.9 yards per return — for the Playoff-bound Longhorns.

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(Top illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photos of Jayden Daniels and T’Vondre Sweat: Jonathan Bachman and Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

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