Who are the best and brightest stars going into the 2021 season? The CFN Preseason All-America Team – the defense.
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It was crazy to come up with an All-America defense last year with the opt-outs coming by the minute and with so much uncertainty. The hope is to be able to highlight the best and the brightest players going into the season with our 2021 CFN All-America defense, and this year might be a wee bit clearer.
2021 CFN All-Conference Teams ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SECAAC | C-USA | Ind | MAC | M-West | Sun Belt– 2021 CFN Previews of all 130 teams
2021 CFN All-America Team: OffenseQB | RB | WR | TE | C | OG | OT2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDE/Edge Rush | DT | LB | CB | Saf
CFN 2021 All-America Defensive Ends, Edge RushersCFN 2021 First Team All-America Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Soph. OregonTo be totally honest, he’s gets just a wee bit more love on his reputation as the nation’s top recruit than on actual production, but he’s been very, very good in his first two seasons with 77 tackles, 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.
He’s the prototype NFL hybrid pass rushing talent with room to get even bigger, and now he should be ready to take off as an unstoppable force before becoming a top ten overall draft pick in 2022.Oregon Preview | Schedule
Drake Jackson, Jr. USCFrom the 6-4, 255-pound size, to the toughness, to the speed, to the upside to grow into even more of an outside linebacker if needed, Jackson is what the NFL is looking for.
This year, he’s the star of a solid-looking USC defense with the pass rushing upside to flirt with double-digit sacks – he has 7.5 with 17 tackles for loss in his first two seasons.USC Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Second Team All-America Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
George Karlaftis, Jr. PurdueAfter bursting onto the scene as a freshman with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, he couldn’t get anything going in 2020. He went down with a leg injury, was hit with the coronavirus, and he only ended up seeing time in a few games, coming up with two sacks in his first two outings. Now the 6-4, 270-pounder is back and about to dominate.Purdue Preview | Schedule
Zach Harrison, Jr. Ohio StateIt’s his time to breakout and shine. A good part of the Ohio State puzzle up front over his first two seasons – coming up with 5.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss with 38 tackles – it’s asking for way, way too much for him to take that Year Three jump in from great to unstoppable like Chase Young did, but he’s going to be more of a menace for the rest of the Big Ten.Ohio State Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Honorable Mention All-America Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
5. Zachary Carter, Sr. Florida6. Kingsley Enagbare, Sr. South Carolina7. DeAngelo Malone, Sr. WKU8. Tyreke Smith, Sr. Ohio State9. Thomas Booker, Sr. Stanford 10. Myjai Sanders, Sr. Cincinnati11. Cade Hall, Sr. San Jose State12. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Soph. Washington
2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDT | LB | CB | Saf
NEXT: CFN 2021 All-America Defensive TacklesCFN 2021 All-America Defensive TacklesCFN 2021 First Team All-America Defensive Tackles
Bryan Bresee, Soph. ClemsonQuick, quick, quick, Bresee went from being one of the top recruits of the 2020 class to a First Team All-ACC performer right away. He might have only made 23 tackles with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, but he was banged up for a stretch and had to fight through a knee injury. The scary part is that he’s up to 6-5 and 300 pounds – and he’s still ultra-quick. The scarier part is that he’s just getting started.Clemson Preview | Schedule
DeMarvin Leal, Jr. Texas A&MThe NFL is more than ready for the services of the 6-4, 290-pound all-around rock of a tackle. He’s tough on the interior against the run and can handle the double teams when needed, but he’s at his best when he gets to use his fast first step to get behind the line. He made 4.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons – along with 75 tackles – but the stats don’t quite do him justice.Texas A&M Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Second Team All-America Defensive Tackles
Jordan Davis, Sr. GeorgiaOf course everyone is looking for the do-it-all athletic presence for the interior, but there’s also something to be said for the 6-6, 340-pound brick wall who gums up the works between the hashmarks. Davis can move – five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in his three years – but his job is to stop the run, and he’s one of the best at it in college football.Georgia Preview | Schedule
Tyler Davis, Jr. ClemsonDavis isn’t the freakish future NFL superstar that tackle-mate Bryan Bresee is, but he’s been able to do his part for the amazing Clemson run defense over the last few years. The place has become a factory for phenomenal DTs, and the 6-2, 300-pounder kept it all going with 45 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in his first season.
He followed it up with 14 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss in 2020, but he was hurt almost all year. Expect 2019 again, especially with blocking schemes freaking out over Bresee.Clemson Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Honorable Mention All-America Defensive Tackles
5. Haskell Garrett, Sr. Ohio State6. Dante Stills, Sr. West Virginia7. Isaiah Thomas, Sr. Oklahoma 8. Perrion Winfrey, Sr. Oklahoma9. Zacch Pickens, Jr. South Carolina10. Kurt Hinish, Sr. Notre Dame11. CJ Brewer, Sr. Coastal Carolina12. DJ Dale, Jr. Alabama
2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDE/Edge Rush | LB | CB | Saf
NEXT: CFN 2021 All-America LinebackersCFN 2021 All-America LinebackersCFN 2021 First Team All-America Linebackers
Christian Harris, Jr. AlabamaA great recruit for Alabama – but not one of the superstar of superstar 12-star gets – the Baton Rouge native got away from LSU and was supposed to ease his way into one of the Bama linebacker gigs. Injuries hit, and boom – he was a starter early on, finishing with 61 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss.
The 6-2, 232-pounder took his game up a few notches last season with more of a pass rush and finishing second on the national title team with 79 tackles. Now he’s the leader and star of the nation’s best linebacking corps.Alabama Preview | Schedule
Noah Sewell, RFr. OregonOne of the nation’s top recruits of 2020, the 6-3, 250-pound flash got thrown into the mix right away, and he delivered. He’ll eventually be even more of a pass rusher, but the two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in just seven games were good. Tying for a team-high 45 tackles was terrific.Oregon Preview | Schedule
Mike Rose, Sr. Iowa StateAll of the great offensive stars returning to the Cyclones will get the national attention, but – it’s no slap to RB Breece Hall here – Rose might be the team’s best player.
The 6-4, 250-pounder was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with 99 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss and five picks in his 12 games. Always a good tackler, he became a better all-around player in 2020, and now he has three years of experience.Iowa State Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Second Team All-America Linebackers
Christopher Allen, Sr. Alabama It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of amazing Crimson Tide players on the 2020 team. Allen didn’t win the Heisman, he wasn’t part of the jaw-dropping offense, and he was arguably the third or fourth best linebacker on the team. However, the 6-4, 252-pounder was a killer behind the line with an SEC-high 13 tackles for loss with six sacks. There won’t be any recognition problems this year.Alabama Preview | Schedule
Olakunle Fatukasi, Sr. RutgersWhile he’s not a college football household name, Fatukasi is one of the nation’s most active tacklers with 170 over the last two years with 3.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 234-pound rock hit Penn State and Michigan for 17 tackles each and Indiana for 14 – he got the double-digit mark six times.Rutgers Preview | Schedule
Micah McFadden, Jr. IndianaA 235-pound big hitter from the IU linebacking corps, he generated 119 tackles over the last two seasons with 19.5 tackles for loss. He grew into even more of a pass rusher in 2020 with six sacks, picked off two passes, and he’ll once again be a statistical superstar.Indiana Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Honorable Mention All-America Linebackers
7. Grant Morgan, Sr. Arkansas8. Nik Bonitto, Jr. Oklahoma9. Devin Lloyd, Jr. Utah10. Ventrell Miller, Sr. Florida11. Josh Ross, Sr. Michigan12. Payton Wilson, Soph. NC State
2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDE/Edge Rush | DT | CB | Saf
NEXT: CFN 2021 All-America CornerbacksCFN 2021 All-America CornerbacksCFN 2021 First Team All-America Cornerbacks
Derek Stingley Jr., Soph. LSUThe guy played and looked the part from Day One. A key part to the 2019 national title team, the 6-1, 195-pounder picked off six passes and broke up 15 as everyone tried – and too often failed – to test the new guy. Teams stayed away from No. 24 in 2020 – he only broke up five passes and didn’t come up with any interceptions – but that’s because he’s an eraser on one side. Speaking of not getting thrown at …LSU Preview | Schedule
Kaiir Elam, Jr. FloridaThe 6-2, 195-pounder doesn’t have the hype of Derek Stingley Jr., but don’t be all that shocked if he ends up going before the LSU star in the 2022 NFL Draft – he probably won’t, but again, it wouldn’t be crazy. He has four interceptions and 15 broken up passes in his first two years, and he became more of a tackler as a sophomore. He’s got the size, length, and tools to be on everyone quarterback’s must-avoid list.Florida Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Second Team All-America Cornerbacks
Chris Steele, Jr. USCExpected to be a key part of the secondary right away, he didn’t disappoint with a great 35-tackle season with five broken up passes. He followed it up with 26 tackles, his first and only interception, and four broken up throws in just six games. A few more picks would be nice, but as is he’s a tall, tough shutdown corner with first round skills.USC Preview | Schedule
Derrick Canteen, Soph. Georgia SouthernA baller’s baller, he was tested time and time again as a redshirt freshman, and he passed with flying colors as one of the nation’s top ball-hawkers. He led all cornerbacks in college football with six interceptions with ten broken up passes and 48 tackles – he even took a fumble for a score in the tight loss to Army. Now he’s a main man for what should quietly be one of the Sun Belt’s better defenses.Georgia Southern Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Honorable Mention All-America Cornerbacks
5. Mykael Wright, Soph. Oregon6. Sevyn Banks, Sr. Ohio State 7. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, Jr. TCU8. Emmanuel Forbes, Soph. Mississippi State9. Shaun Jolly, Sr. Appalachian State10. Jarron Morris, Jr. Texas State11. Coby Bryant, Sr. Cincinnati12. Steven Gilmore, Jr. Marshall
2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDE/Edge Rush | DT | LB | Saf
NEXT: CFN 2021 All-America SafetiesCFN 2021 All-America SafetiesCFN 2021 First Team All-America Safeties
Kyle Hamilton, Jr. Notre Dame Don’t just hand the Best Defensive Player love to LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. just yet. The 6-4, 219-pound Hamilton has been special since he first got to South Bend. Great at as freshman, he came up with 41 tackles with four picks, and followed it up with an All-America-level 63-stop 2020 with a pick. Great against the run, he’s got ball-hawking skills, and he’s been around long enough now to be the team’s star.Notre Dame Preview | Schedule
Greg Eisworth, Sr. Iowa StateVersatile enough to serve any sort of safety role needed, the 6-0, 205-pounder has done it all for the Cyclone secondary. He started his career with a team-high 87 tackles on the way to an All-Big 12 season. He followed it up with two more all-star campaigns, and now he’s coming into the season with over 200 career tackles with three picks and 19 broken up passes.Iowa State Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Second Team All-America Safeties
Brandon Joseph, Soph. NorthwesternThe 6-1, 192-pounder got his feet wet as a true freshman, but last year he took the starting job by the horns and turned into a key part of an amazing Wildcat defense. The All-American was a decent hitter – making 52 stops with a season-high ten against Michigan State – and with a nation-high for a safety six picks. He’s not big or bulky, but he’s got a nose for the ball.Northwestern Preview | Schedule
Rashad Wisdom, Jr. UTSAPossibly the best all-around safety you’ve never heard of, the 5-10, 205-pound veteran started as a true freshman and was good, and then he took his game up several notches. An all-star on the field and in the classroom, he came up with a team-high 95 tackles with four interceptions. He’s a do-it-all defender who’s in on every play.UTSA Preview | Schedule
CFN 2021 Honorable Mention All-America Safeties
5. Reed Blankenship, Sr. MTSU 6. Trent McDuffie, Jr. Washington7. Jaquan Brisker, Sr. Penn State8. Isaiah Pola-Mao, Sr. USC9. Nolan Turner, Sr. Clemson10. Joey Blount, Sr. Virginia11. Bubba Bolden, Jr. Miami 12. Bee Jay Williamson, Soph. Louisiana Tech
2021 CFN All-America Team: OffenseQB | RB | WR | TE | C | OG | OT
2021 CFN All-America Team: DefenseDE/Edge Rush | DT | LB | CB | Saf– 2021 CFN Previews of all 130 teams