Heading into the 2017 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 stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Iman Marshall, USC
Adoree' Jackson got the attention last year, but Marshall was a tremendous corner in his own right. The talented Marshall became a starter as a freshman with an impressive debut in 2015. He had 67 tackles with eight passes broken up and three picks, including a two-interception game victimizing UCLA star quarterback Josh Rosen. As a sophomore, Marshall stayed consistent with eight breakups, three interceptions and 51 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is a cover corner who excels in a variety of techniques. He could be the top cornerback in college football in 2017.
Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
McFadden had some up-and-down play at times for the Seminoles in 2016, but he ended up as one of the nation's leaders with eight interceptions. He also totaled 20 tackles with six passes broken up on the year. The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder could eliminate some of the mistakes from last year now that he has a season of starting experience, but he is big corner with dangerous ball skills to pick off passes. If McFadden continues to pick off a lot of passes, he could easily be a First-Team All-American for 2017.
Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Alexander was very good for Louisville in 2016, racking up 39 tackles with nine passes broken up and five interceptions. He also was a dangerous punt returner. There is a lot of upside for Alexander to develop as a junior as the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder has really flashed at times for the Cardinals. Alexander could produce a big season with Louisville's high-powered offense providing a lot of leads that will cause a lot of teams to throw against the Louisville secondary. With his ball skills, Alexander might produce more interceptions in 2017.
Kevin Toliver II, LSU
Toliver impressed as a freshman and sophomore. Considering the amount of talent the Tigers' secondary has produced, it is a serious statement that he played immediately at LSU. In 2015, Toliver made 35 tackles with five pass breakups and an interception. As a sophomore, he totaled 21 tackles with one breakup in seven games. The 6-foot-2, 193-pounder is a big corner who can run. Team sources have said Toliver has a first-round skill set, and he could be in store for a big junior year for the Tigers.
Adonis Alexander, Virginia Tech
In 2016, Alexander recorded 44 tackles with seven passes broken up and two interceptions. He was extremely impressive as a freshman with 55 tackles, four interceptions and six passes broken up. The 6-foot-3, 291-pound is a press-man corner with ball skills and a lot of size and length to battle big receivers. He is also coming from a program that has produced a lot of defensive back talent for the NFL. Alexander could easily end up being higher than a Third-Team All-American.
Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
Thomas broke out in 2015 with five interceptions, four passes broken up and 46 tackles on the season. He played pretty well overall in 2016, although he was beaten badly by Ohio State's Noah Brown. On the year, Thomas had 49 tackles with 17 passes broken up and two interceptions. The 6-foot, 192-pounder has good size and cover skills.
Honorable Mentions: Alabama's Anthony Averett, Alabama's Tony Brown, Virginia Tech's Brandon Facyson, Stanford's Quenton Meeks, Stanford's Alijah Holder, Texas A&M's Donovan Wilson, Connecticut's Jamar Summers, Florida's Duke Dawson, Florida's Chauncey Gardner, Oklahoma's Jordan Parker and South Florida's Deatrick Nichols.