Heading into the 2012 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 next fall's stars could be the headline players next April for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Watkins took college football by storm last year with a massive freshman season. He was a devastating playmaker who was a threat to score on any reception. With his blinding speed, Watkins was a weapon on offense and special teams. He was the First-Team pick as the All-Purpose player for the All-American team.
Watkins totaled 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also ran the ball 32 times for 231 yards. As if that wasn't enough, the speedster averaged 25 yards per kick return with one score. While Watkins is extremely fast, he isn't undersized and should only gain more bulk as he ages. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is a play-maker who is similar to former Florida Gator Percy Harvin.
It is scary to think that Watkins could be even better as he has a year of experience and has had more time to develop chemistry with quarterback Tajh Boyd. Watkins has two more seasons of college football before going pro, but he looks like a future first-round pick.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The diminutive Austin was a big-time play-maker for the Mountaineers last season. He worked extremely well with quarterback Geno Smith and showed some toughness by handling a massive workload. Austin played a huge role for West Virginia on offense and special teams.
The 5-foot-9, 191-pounder caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior in 2011. He had 16 carries as a running back for 182 yards and a score. Austin was also active on special teams for the Mountaineers. He averaged 14.1 yards per punt return and 26 yards per kick return, taking two back for touchdowns. In total, Austin had a whopping 172 touches last year. He was the Third-Team selection for the All-Purpose player last season.
Heading into his senior year, there is no reason to think that Austin won't have another prolific year. Smith is returning and he has good talent around him. As long Austin can stay healthy with all those touches, he should repeat as an All-American in 2012.
Andre Debose, Florida
If you question the speed Debose actually has, just ask Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick. Debose beat both future first-rounders for 65-yard touchdown catches in back-to-back games last season. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder has blinding speed and has been held back only by a lack of touches.
Debose only had 16 receptions as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, but he scored on four them. Those 16 catches added up to 432 total yards receiving for an average of 27 yards per reception. Debose also returned kickoffs and averaged 27 yards per return with a touchdown.
The problem is that the speedy wide out's production could have been so much better. Starting quarterback John Brantley was inconsistent and missed time with injuries. Two freshman backups played, but they weren't able to work the ball well to Debose.
Debose has averaged 27 yards per kick return in his career, returing three for touchdowns. He is extremely talented, and if Florida gets him more opportunities, he is capable of producing a massive 2012 season as a junior.
Honorable Mentions: Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas, Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson, Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and Purdue wide receiver Raheem Mostert.