2013 Preseason All-American Projections: All-Purpose

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 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 this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team All-Purpose:

De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Between LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, Oregon has dominated the All-American team the past three seasons. James was listed as an all-purpose player and Thomas could receive the same designation. The 5-foot-9, 173-pound Thomas is perhaps the fastest player in college football. With both James and Barner in the NFL, Thomas could take over as the featured play-maker in the Ducks’ high-powered offense.

Thomas received only 55 carries in 2011 as a backup to James and Barner, but the freshman averaged 10.8 yards per carry and totaled 595 yards with seven touchdowns. Thomas was also used as a wide receiver, hauling in 46 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns. He got in on kick returns, averaged 27 yards per return and taking two back for touchdowns.

Thomas ran for 701 yards (7.6 average) and 11 touchdowns in his second season. The sophomore also caught 45 passes for 455 yards and five scores. Thomas averaged 24 yards per kick return and 17 yards per punt return. He took back a kick and a punt for a touchdown.

Thomas has the speed and play-making ability to produce a massive season. His size and speed is similar to former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Thus, Thomas could be selected as a First-Team running back or the all-purpose player. The highlight-reel plays that the junior provides should help him to get noticed. The Ducks figure to be leaning on Thomas to produce a massive season and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he’s an All-American.

Second-Team All-Purpose:

Sammy Watkins, Clemson

As a freshman, Watkins looked like Percy Harvin when he debuted at Florida during their National Championship run in 2006. Watkins was an explosive play-maker in 2011 who destroyed defenses with his ability to produce big plays. The Clemson offense was a point machine with Watkins serving as its No. 1 receiver.

The speedster totaled 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 32 times for 231 yards. On special teams, the versatile receiver averaged 25 yards per kick return with one score.

A drug arrest in May 2012 landed Watkins with a suspension to start last season. He then dealt with injuries and never really got in a groove. DeAndre Hopkins took over as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver, and quarterback Tajh Boyd gave Hopkins the lion’s share of the targets. Watkins caught 57 passes for 708 yards and three touchdowns.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Watkins is expected to have a bounce-back season in 2012. Hopkins is playing for the Houston Texans so, once again, Watkins will be Boyd’s No. 1 receiver. Watkins plays in a passing offense with a potential first-round pick at quarterback. His speed and play-making ability should let him produce a massive season if he is focused on football.

Along with Hopkins, Clemson lost starting running back Andre Ellington to the NFL, so Watkins could see an increased workload on the ground. As a result, he could be selected as a First-Team wide receiver or all-purpose player.

Last season should serve as a wake-up call for Watkins and propel him to a big year to rehabilitate his draft status. Being the leading receiver in Clemson’s high-powered offense makes me think Watkins is a heavy favorite to be an All-American.

Third-Team All-Purpose:

Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin

After losing all-time great running back Montee Ball to the NFL, the Badgers’ offense is going to have to make up for a ton of production and scoring. Abbrederis is one of the team’s best weapons. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound receiver not only has good size, but he is extremely fast with the ability to stretch the defense vertically.

Despite terrible quarterback play, Abbrederis totaled 49 receptions for 837 yards and five touchdowns last season. In 2011 even though Abbrederis had less receptions than No. 1 receiver Nick Toon, he topped Toon in yardage. The sophomore caught 55 passes for 933 yards and eight touchdowns. He exploited a lot of soft coverage and produced some big plays for quarterback Russell Wilson. Abbrederis also returned punts and averaged 16 yards per return.

Abbrederis has carried the ball 22 times for 172 yards during his collegiate career. He’s averaged 26 yards per kick return and 11 yards per punt return, too. Abbrederis could produce a big season as a receiver, returner and runner in 2013. He could definitely contend to be the top all-purpose player in the country.

Honorable Mentions: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, TCU wide receiver Brandon Carter, Miami running back Duke Johnson, Kent State running back Dri Archer, Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Tulsa running back Trey Watts and Northwestern running back Venric Mark.

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