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.
First-Team Wide Receivers:
Robert Woods, USC
In his junior season this year, Woods could be the most dangerous receiver in college football. It doesn't hurt that he has maybe the best passing quarterback in the nation to work with, Matt Barkley. The senior signal-caller should be dominant.
The Trojans have enough other weapons to help keep defenses honest. Woods will see a plethora of double-teams this season, but he has the ability to defeat them. Last year, he remained productive even with defenses putting an increased emphasis on stopping him.
Woods totaled 1,292 yards on 111 receptions with 15 touchdowns in 2011. To open his sophomore season, he had a record-setting game with 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota. Woods then broke his own record shortly later against Arizona, with 14 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
Other teams had more success with bracket coverage on Woods, but he helped open up the running game and cause favorable coverage for his teammates. Woods was a first-team All-American last year. He caught 65 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman.
Even if Woods sees constant double coverage, his talent should allow him to be dominant. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is explosive with the deep speed to burn defenses on any reception. Woods has operated in a NFL West Coast offense and is a well=developed route-runner who is a major mismatch.
Keenan Allen, California
Allen made a major improvement from his freshman to his sophomore season. He caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman in 2010. Allen hauled in 98 passes for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns last season. He had huge games against some of the best teams in the conference with at least 150 yards receiving versus Washington, Oregon and USC. His production was down in the second half of the season as teams sold out to stop him.
Allen can expect more of the same this season. The double-teams are just something that he will have to overcome, but as a junior, he has the experience and talent to do that. Even with good size, Allen surprises defensive backs with some speed and suddenness. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is physical with defensive backs and doesn't shy away from working in the short part of the field. He is a tough runner with the ball in his hands and plays with an aggressive style.
Senior quarterback Zach Maynard returns and he is Allen's older half brother, so chemistry is no issue for this duo. The Golden Bears lost No. 2 receiver Marvin Jones to the NFL, and as a result, they may force the ball to Allen even more. California would be foolish not to since he is a force who can impose his will on defenses. Allen is a special talent who should have another big season in the Pac-12.
Second-Team Wide Receivers:
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
Over the past decade, Oklahoma has had one of the best and most consistent passing offenses in college football. With a big-armed pocket-passing senior quarterback, that won't change during the 2012 college football season. Signal-caller Landry Jones has put up staggering numbers in his collegiate career with one more year to battle some porous Big XII secondaries. Heading into his junior season, Stills is on track to be the No. 1 receiver for Jones.
Stills should personally benefit from star Sooners receiver Ryan Broyles moving on to the NFL. With Broyles being the go-to wide out, Stills didn't receive as many targets, but he managed to contribute 61 receptions per season as a freshman and sophomore. Stills turned those 61 catches in 2010 into 786 yards and five touchdowns. His 61 last year went for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Stills (6-1, 189) really stepped up with a massive game on the road at Florida State. He had some huge plays to help his team get a hard-fought victory. Stills was held in check down the stretch and, as a team, the Sooners struggled.
There is little doubt that Stills will have nice totals as a junior. With Landry Jones and fellow wide out Jaz Reynolds, Oklahoma is going to feature a high-powered passing offense. It isn't out of the question for Stills to be so productive that he makes a run at being a first-teamer. Broyles was a Second-Team selection while missing a third of the season. Stills could follow Broyles as a big-time producer.
Marquess Wilson, Washington State
From day 1, Wilson has been a productive wide out for Washington State. The big wide receiver hauled in 55 passes for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2010. Wilson was even better last season, snatching 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wilson remained productive despite the extra coverage he battled against.
If Wilson improves as a junior like he did between his first two years, he could easily be a First-Team All-American. Wilson (6-4, 183) is a big receiver who uses his height and reach to make receptions over defensive backs. He has phenomenal hands and tremendous body control. If Wilson could show some more speed that would could really help his NFL draft stock.
If Washington State could get stability and consistency at quarterback it could really help Wilson. Cougars signal-caller Jeff Tuel made only two starts last year because of injuries, but if he returns to his 2010 form, Wilson's production should see a nice boost. Wilson has the capacity to compile some massive numbers in 2012, and potentially 2013.
Third-Team Wide Receivers:
Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Not a lot of people are talking about Hunter, but he has comparable talent to Woods and Allen. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has a superb skill set. Hunter has deep speed that he uses to race by defensive backs. His size in combination with that speed makes him incredibly hard to cover. If Hunter can stay healthy, he has the talent to be an elite receiver.
Last year in the first two games of the season, Hunter caught 16 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. On a routine leaping 12-yard reception against the Florida Gators, he blew out a knee ligament upon landing. Hunger wasn't even touched by a defender when the injury took place. He had 16 catches for 415 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2010.
Hunter has a potential star at quarterback throwing him passes. Tyler Bray has a powerful arm and is a big signal-caller who looks like a potential franchise quarterback in the NFL. Bray had injuries of his own last year. If this duo can stay healthy, they could produce at a level like Barkley and Woods at USC.
Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
With Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams in the NFL, Hamilton will become Tyler Wilson's No. 1 receiver in 2012. The Razorbacks signal-caller has the ability to be a first-round pick next April, so Hamilton will benefit from an elite college quarterback throwing him passes.
Hamilton (6-3, 209) has great size. He matches up well with defensive backs and is tough to defend. In a backup role last year, Hamilton contributed 34 receptions for 542 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 32 passes for 640 yards and six scores as a sophomore in 2010.
With Wilson to work with, Hamilton could produce a big season on par with Wright or Adams in 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams, Florida quarterback Andre Debose, Oklahoma wide receiver Jaz Reynolds, Baylor wide receiver Tevin Reese, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey, West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, Georgia wide receiver Tarvarres King and Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon.