2014 Preseason All-American Projections: Guards

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 May for the 2015 NFL Draft.

First-Team Guards:

Laken Tomlinson, Duke

The Jamaican Tomlinson got a late start in football, but he has a ton of upside to develop. Even with his late start in the sport, Tomlinson broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. He has improved each year and been named a two-time ACC All-Academic selection. 2013 was the junior’s best season yet as he was generally consistently good at the point of attack.

Tomlinson still has room to grow as a pass-protector and at defending speed rushers, but the 6-foot-3, 320-pounder has the athletic ability to get the job done. It wouldn’t be surprising if the senior is considered to be an elite college football guard by the end of the 2014 season.

Vadal Alexander, LSU

Alexander started out his career at right tackle in 2012. LSU wisely moved him inside to guard for 2013, where the sophomore had a big jump in his play. Alexander was a road-grading guard for the Tigers last season. He paved the way for Jeremy Hill and also did a good job of protecting quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

The 6-foot-6, 342-pound Alexander is a massive blocker who can blast open holes at the point of attack. He should combine with left tackle La’el Collins to open a lot of holes on the ground in 2014. Alexander could be one of the top guards in the nation this year.

Second-Team Guards:

Tre Jackson, Florida State

The Seminoles had a solid offensive line in 2013 that was consistently good at giving Jameis Winston plenty of time to throw the ball. Jackson is a power run-blocker who could stand to improve his pass protection. Aaron Donald and Florida’s tackles gave Jackson some problems last year, but overall, he was very dependable for Florida State.

Jackson (6-4, 327) should have a good 2014 season as the Seminoles have a ton of talent returning. He has good players around him on the line along with talented tailbacks. Jackson should be one of the better guards in the country.

Josue Matias, Florida State

2013 was Matias’ second-straight quality season for the Seminoles. As the starter at left guard, he did a good job of run blocking and was generally reliable as a pass-protector. Matias should improve on the latter as a senior. Handling speed rushers is his biggest area for improvement. According to the Seminoles, Matias average grade of 78.5 percent last season ranked third on the team.

Matias broke into the starting lineup in 2012. The sophomore started every game and was impressive as a run-blocker. With Jackson and Cameron Erving at left tackle, Florida State’s offensive line could rack up a lot of postseason hardware from 2014.

Third-Team Guards:

Arie Kouandjio, Alabama

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Kouandjio has a lot of athletic potential, but he didn’t play consistently enough in 2013. Kouandjio’s run blocking was a lot further ahead than his pass protection, but he got better on a weekly basis until not playing as well against Auburn and Oklahoma in the final two games.

Kouandjio has the potential to make a big jump as a senior, plus playing at Alabama will only serve to help him land postseason honors.

A.J. Cann, South Carolina

Cann is a powerful run-blocker who opened up a lot of holes for Mike Davis last season. Cann had a number of good games and has steadily improved his pass protection. He broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2011. He has been a mainstay in the lineup since then. Cann is a team captain and should be in position to have another impressive season as South Carolina figures to feature the ground game with Davis.

Honorable Mentions: USC’s Aundrey Walker, UCLA’s Malcolm Bunche, North Carolina’s Landon Turner, Penn State’s Miles Dieffenbach and Florida’s Max Garcia.

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