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PFN’s All-American Football Team Honors for the 2021 college football season

The first-ever Pro Football Network All-American Team honors the best players the college football season had to offer in 2021.

The 2021 college football season was something to behold. With the College Football Playoffs set and the regular season all but behind us, the individual awards are here. The Pro Football Network All-American Team honors the best of the best from the 2021 college football season.

Follow along with our All-Conference Awards given out this offseason: AAC | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Conference-USA | MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | FBS Independent

All-American Football Team Honors for 2021

With 130 FBS teams, the player pool to choose from was immense. While some positions saw the best individuals rise to the top, it was more difficult to separate the best from the best at other positions due to how incredibly talented those players were.

Some players transcended their team, conference, and level of play, and of course, you’ll see them honored here. Other players were so good in 2021 that they completely revolutionized how we evaluate and look at certain play styles.

The 2021 college football season was truly special. As such, to be honored here is just that: an honor. We at Pro Football Network sincerely congratulate all those players mentioned here as well as their programs and institutions.

It’s important to note that these are awards and honors from Pro Football Network for each individual’s prowess on the field this season. This is in no way a projection of their NFL Draft status nor a report on their actual conference or other entity’s All-American awards. These honors are from Pro Football Network, as judged upon by our team of college football analysts.

Top Overall Awards

The MC Trophy: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Given to the best player in college football who exemplifies hard work, dedication, grit, tenacity, and never settling for anything less than his best, like that of PFN Co-Founder and CEO Matt Cannata.

Kenny Pickett earns the PFN version of the Heisman Trophy after setting and resetting the record books at Pittsburgh. The epitome of what is good about college football, Pickett was the best player in the NCAA this season, and he worked hard to become so. We applaud you, Kenny. Hail to Pickett!

Best Offensive Player: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

Truly the best purely offensive player in the country, Bailey Zappe was a record-breaker in 2021. He still has the chance to break or at least tie the all-time FBS passing touchdown record of 60 when he takes part in the Boca Raton Bowl in December. Zappe finished the year with a national-best 5,545 passing yards and 56 touchdowns. He had 1,000+ more yards and 13 more touchdowns than any other quarterback in the country.

Best Defensive Player: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

The best player on the defensive side of the ball didn’t get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy, but he is awarded for his efforts here. Will Anderson Jr. will be on the shortlist for every award next season when he returns to college football, that’s for sure. Anderson recorded a national-best 15.5 sacks and had 91 total tackles. He was unblockable not just in every game but on every snap. Anderson changed games with his prowess along the Crimson Tide defensive line.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham battles through tragedy

National Coach of the Year: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

A great man shines through tragedy, and no coach shines brighter than Kyle Whittingham in 2021. While some coaches led undefeated regular seasons, no coach had to weather the adversity and great tragedy that Whittingham did. With their backs against the wall after a 1-2 start, Whittingham righted the Utes’ ship and coached them to a 9-1 finish to the season and a Pac-12 Championship.

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Instituted within the 10-3 finish for Utah this season was the Moment of Loudness during the third break of the second quarter. It’s a moment that speaks volumes to what Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan continue to mean to the program, and it’s a testament to the head coach who helps his former players live on through their memories.

Whittingham’s presence as a leader of young men during this 2021 season will not soon be forgotten — much like the lives of Jordan and Lowe, who Whittingham continues to honor.

True freshmen take college football by storm

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Rasheen Ali, RB, Marshall

It may have gone relatively unnoticed to the casual college football fan, but there is a talented skill player brewing down in Huntington. Rasheen Ali quietly tied for the national lead with 20 rushing touchdowns this season. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and gained 1,241 yards on the ground in his debut campaign. Ali did this with a future NFL Draft pick at quarterback to boot, making the accomplishment that much more impressive.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadon Canady, CB, Tulane

On the very first target of his burgeoning collegiate career, Jadon Canady intercepted then-Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler. It wasn’t one of Rattler’s errant throws from 2021, but a deep shot to a fast, skilled receiver that Canady jumped and picked off.

That play set the tone for what was a truly terrific freshman season from Canady at Tulane. He finished the year with 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, and 55 total tackles — but that hardly tells his full story. Canady is a star in the making, and he can stick with any receiver from an array of coverage schemes.

PFN All-American Offense

Before we get to the PFN All-American first, second, third, and honorable mention teams, we have some individual offensive awards to dish out.

Best Quarterback: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Best Running Back: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Best Wide Receiver: Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh
Best Tight End: Trey McBride, Colorado State
Best Offensive Tackle: Connor Galvin, Baylor
Best Interior Offensive Lineman: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Best Offensive Line: Baylor Bears

With the individual awards out of the way, here are the Pro Football Network All-American Teams on offense.

PFN First-Team All-American Offense

QB: Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
RB: Breece Hall, Iowa State
RB: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
WR: Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
WR: Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh
WR: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
TE: Trey McBride, Colorado State
FLEX: Jameson Williams, Alabama
LT: Connor Galvin, Baylor
LG: Xavier Newman-Johnson, Baylor
C: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
RG: William Dunkle, San Diego State
RT: Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

PFN Second-Team All-American Offense

QB: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
RB: Tyler Badie, Missouri
RB: Sean Tucker, Syracuse
WR: Chris Olave, Ohio State
WR: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
WR: Deven Thompkins, Utah State
TE: Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
FLEX: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
LT: Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
LG: Zion Johnson, Boston College
C: Olusegun Oluwatimi, Virginia
RG: Blaise Andries, Minnesota
RT: Daniel Faalele, Minnesota

PFN Third-Team All-American Offense

QB: Bryce Young, Alabama
RB: Sincere McCormick, UTSA
RB: Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan
WR: Jacob Cowing, UTEP
WR: David Bell, Purdue
WR: Jahan Dotson, Penn State
TE: Brock Bowers, Georgia
FLEX: Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky
LT: Charles Cross, Mississippi State
LG: Clark Barrington, BYU
C: Jacob Gall, Baylor
RG: Dylan Parham, Memphis
RT: Dawand Jones, Ohio State

PFN Honorable Mention All-American Offense

QB: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State | Carson Strong, Nevada
RB: Tyler Allgeier, BYU | Charles Williams, UNLV
RB: Abram Smith, Baylor | Rasheen Ali, Marshall
WR: Jack Sorenson, Miami (OH) | Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
WR: Skyy Moore, Western Michigan |  A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
WR: Nathaniel Dell, Houston | Mitchell Tinsley, Western Kentucky
TE: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State | Greg Dulcich, UCLA
FLEX: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State | Hassan Haskins, Michigan
LT: Bamidele Olaseni, Utah | Evan Neal, Alabama
LG: Hayden Howerton, SMU | Julio Garcia, UNLV
C: Ahofitu Maka, UTSA | Nick Ford, Utah
RG: Chris Glaser, Virginia | Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
RT: Derek Schweiger, Iowa State | Khalil Keith, Baylor

PFN All-American Defense

Best Edge Defender: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Best Interior Defensive Lineman: Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina
Best Linebacker: Devin Lloyd, Utah
Best Cornerback: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Best Safety: Verone McKinley III, Oregon
Best Secondary: Iowa Hawkeyes

With the individual defensive awards out of the way, here are the Pro Football Network All-American Teams on defense.

PFN First-Team All-American Defense

EDGE: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
EDGE: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
DI: Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
DI: Dom Peterson, Nevada
LB: Devin Lloyd, Utah
LB: Nakobe Dean, Georgia
LB: Chad Muma, Wyoming
CB: Steven Jones Jr., Appalachian State
CB: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
CB: Marcus Jones, Houston
S: Dane Belton, Iowa
S: Verone McKinley III, Oregon
FLEX: Jalen Pitre, Baylor

PFN Second-Team All-American Defense

EDGE: David Ojabo, Michigan
EDGE: Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
DI: Jalen Carter, Georgia
DI: Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
LB: Drake Thomas, NC State
LB: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
LB: D’Marco Jackson, Appalachian State
CB: Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
CB: Ja’Quan McMillian, East Carolina
CB: Riley Moss, Iowa
S: Daxton Hil, Michigan
S: Kolby Harvell-Peel, Oklahoma State
FLEX: Khoury Bethley, Hawai’i

PFN Third-Team All-American Defense

EDGE: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
EDGE: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
DI: Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina | Curtis Brooks, Cincinnati
DI: Myles Murphy, North Carolina
LB: Darren Anders, Bowling Green
LB: Ivan Pace Jr., Miami (OH)
LB: Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati
CB: Al Walcott, Baylor
CB: Montaric Brown, Arkansas
CB: Kaonohi Kaniho, Boise State
S: Trenton Thompson, San Diego State
S: Jaylan Foster, South Carolina
FLEX: Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina

PFN Honorable Mention All-American Defense

EDGE: Andre Carter II, Army | Javon Solomon, Troy
EDGE: Sam Williams, Ole Miss | Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
DI: C.J. Brewer, Coastal Carolina | Ben Stille, Nebraska
DI: Jacob Slade, Michigan State | Dante Stills, West Virginia
LB: Devin Harper, Oklahoma State | Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State
LB: Clarence Hicks, UTSA | Carlton Martial, Troy
LB: Avery Roberts, Oregon State | Noah Sewell, Oregon
CB: Roger McCreary, Auburn | Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
CB: Coby Bryant, Cincinnati | Elvis Hines, Kent State
CB: Denzel Burke, Ohio State | Kyler Gordon, Washington
S: Jordan Battle, Alabama | Bryan Cook, Cincinnati
S: Patrick McMorris, San Diego State | Kerby Joseph, Illinois
FLEX: Nephi Sewell, Utah | Tariq Woolen, UTSA

PFN All-American Special Teams

Best Kicker: Chandler Staton, Appalachian State
Best Punter: Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Best Specialist: Jake Camarda, Georgia
Best Returner: Marcus Jones, Houston

The top individual awards aside, let’s get to the Pro Football Network All-American Teams on special teams.

PFN First-Team All-American Special Teams

Kicker: Chandler Staton, Appalachian State
Kickoff Specialist: Jake Camarda, Georgia
Punter: Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Kick Returner: Brian Battie, USF
Punt Returner: Britain Covey, Utah
Special Teamer: NaJee Thompson, Georgia Southern

PFN Second-Team All-American Special Teams

Kicker: Harrison Mevis, Missouri
Kickoff Specialist: Jordan Stout, Penn State
Punter: Adam Korsak, Rutgers
Kick Returner: Alan Lamar, Arkansas State
Punt Returner: Marcus Jones, Houston
Special Teamer: JoJo Evans, Marshall

PFN Third-Team All-American Special Teams

Kicker: Cade York, LSU
Kickoff Specialist: Caleb Shudak, Iowa
Punter: Jordan Stout, Penn State
Kick Returner: Bryan Massey, SMU
Punt Returner: Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan
Special Teamer: Marlowe Wax, Syracuse

PFN Honorable Mention All-American Special Teams

Kicker: Andrew Mevis, Iowa State
Kickoff Specialist: Tanner Brown, Oklahoma State
Punter: Michael Turk, Oklahoma
Kick Returner: Malik Knowles, Kansas State
Punt Returner: Jayden Reed, Michigan State
Special Teamer: Mason Cobb, Oklahoma State

Congratulations to all those players selected. For any questions regarding these selections or the process behind them, please ask on Twitter (@CamMellor).

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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