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.
Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a factory for churning out dominant offensive linemen, and Frederick is the latest in line. Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and John Moffitt were all drafted early in the past two years. Like those three, Frederick is a road-grading run blocker who is a physical force on offensive linemen.
The 6-foot-4, 328-pounder should be even better in 2012 after gaining a year of starting experience. Frederick replaced Moffitt after he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. Frederick was a tremendous run blocker paving the way for running back Montee Ball. Frederick started 11 games at left guard last season, but when Konz missed two games, Wisconsin shifted Frederick over. One of his two starts at center was the Badgers' victory in the Big Ten Championship.
It was a very impressive debut season for Frederick. He blasted defensive tackles off the line of scrimmage and, overall, was reliable as a pass-blocker for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Frederick, Konz and Zeitler formed a dynamic interior that was dominant at the point of attack. Frederick is a power guard, like Zeitler, who can push around defensive linemen. Also like Zeitler, Frederick's weakness comes in pass protection versus speed-rushing defensive tackles.
The redshirt junior won't have Konz and Zeitler this year, but Wisconsin's offensive system continuously churns out pro-ready offensive linemen. Frederick could be the most dominant guard in college football in 2012 and should have another good season blocking for Ball.
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Cooper has been an effective and reliable blocker for North Carolina over the past three years. The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder is very athletic for his size. He has good quickness to fire out and hit blocks on the second level. Cooper uses his athleticism and strong base to be a standout pass-blocker. With his mobility, he could be a fit in a zone-blocking scheme. Cooper has the strength to open up holes in a power-man scheme, but it wouldn't hurt him to add some more power to battle the heavy and powerful tackles in the NFL.
Cooper broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and was named to All-ACC Freshman Team after starting 10 games at left guard. He was a solid starter again in 2010, before really playing well as a junior last year.
Cooper was a fabulous blocker to pave the way for running back Giovanni Bernard. Behind Cooper, Bernard ran for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. For the second time, Cooper was a Second-Team All-ACC pick.
With the talented Bernard returning, Cooper should provide plenty of good holes for Bernard to run for good gains. Cooper is an ascending player who is entering his fourth season as a starter. With the vast majority of the 2011 All-Americans moving on to the NFL, Cooper stands a good shot of being one of the top guards in the nation.
Chance Warmack, Alabama
Like many Alabama offensive linemen, Warmack is a powerful run-blocker who paves the way for a downhill rushing attack. The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder had an excellent 2011 season opening up holes for running back Trent Richardson. Warmack has a lot of experience and should be poised for an impressive senior season.
Warmack saw some action as a true freshman in 2009. He became the starter at left guard for the Crimson Tide as a sophomore and stayed as the starter as a junior.
Warmack was a Second-Team All-SEC selection last year. He held his own in Alabama's games against LSU and its tough defensive tackles. While run blocking is Warmack's strength, he is a well-rounded blocker who doesn't allow regular pass pressure.
The 2012 season could be a great year of dominant tape for Warmack when you consider that he'll have the help of a future first-round pick next to him at center. Barrett Jones will flip from left tackle to center on the other side from Warmack.
Playing left tackle, Jones was solo-blocking defensive ends in 2011. Now at center, he'll often be getting in on double teams with Warmack. That duo should impose its will on defensive tackles and form a monster interior to the Crimson Tide offensive line. Jones should once again be an All-American, and Warmack has the chance to get top honors this season.
Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
Bailey has been one of the better guards in the SEC over the past two seasons. He has done well in run blocking, while also serving as a quality pass-protector for Tyler Wilson and Ryan Mallet over the past couple of years.
In 2010, running back Knile Davis ran for over 1,000 yards, and Mallett threw for more than 3,000 yards with Bailey blocking up front. Bailey was an SEC All-Freshman selection. He was even better in front of Wilson as a sophomore last year and was a Second-Team All-SEC pick.
The 6-foot-5, 319-pounder is a strong guard who already is a well-rounded blocker. Bailey should only get better as he gains experience and has a high ceiling for the NFL.
Larry Warford, Kentucky
Warford was named a Second-Team All-SEC performer in 2011 for the second straight season. He is strong at the point of attack and can push defensive linemen around. Warford has underrated speed and quickness for his size.
The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder can't be blown back or bull-rushed. Warford is very strong and can move defensive tackles aside to create running lanes. Kentucky hasn't surrounded him with as much talent as other All-American guards, but he has still managed to standout as one of the best offensive linemen in the SEC.
Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
Ikard was a Third-Team All-American last year after splitting time at guard and center. Starting center Ben Habern missed multiple games with a broken arm, and Ikard filled in with seven starts at center. He returned to left guard for the final three games. Ikard was excellent in pass protection for quarterback Landry Jones and did a nice job opening up rushing lanes for running back Dominique Whaley.
Ikard started 11 games as a freshman in 2010. He was named a First-Team All-Freshman All-American by numerous media outlets and was an honorable mention All-Big XII selection by the AP. With two years of starting experience, Ikard could be one of the most effective blockers in the Big XII this season.
In the long-term, Ikard (6-2, 295) would probably be better served adding some weight and moving to center. He may not have the bulk for guard in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson, Georgia Tech guard Omoregie Uzzi, Nebraska guard Spencer Long, BYU guard Braden Hansen and TCU guard Blaze Foltz.