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College football all-bowl team Trevor Lawrence, Quinnen Williams lead the way


Sure, we’re already checking our calendars for the start of spring football practice. But first, let’s take a stroll back through the 2018 postseason.

Clemson is back on top of the college football world after hammering Alabama 44-16 on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. In the past four years, that gives Clemson two national titles and Alabama two national titles. Not surprisingly, both teams are well-represented on the 2018-19 ESPN All-Bowl team.

Here are the best performers of the bowl season:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
If Lawrence were draft-eligible, he might be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. The Tigers’ true freshman sure played like a star in the College Football Playoff. He carved apart Alabama for 347 passing yards and three touchdowns in the title game. That’s after throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame in the semifinal. He didn’t throw any interceptions in either game. In the immortal words of Larry Munson, “My God, a freshman!”


Running back

Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
Few running backs closed the season any hotter than Williams, who erupted for 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 52-13 rout of North Carolina State in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl. Williams’ big night was highlighted by a 93-yard touchdown run. He racked up 829 yards and eight touchdowns in Texas A&M’s final four games.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
One of the SEC’s most dynamic newcomers this season, Vaughn was sensational in Vanderbilt’s 45-38 loss to Baylor in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. He rushed for 243 yards on 13 carries and ripped off touchdown runs of 69 and 68 yards and had another nonscoring run of 66 yards.


Wide receiver

T.J. Rahming, Duke
After falling behind early, Duke scored touchdowns on seven straight drives, and Rahming was right in the middle of that flurry to help spearhead a 56-27 thrashing of Temple in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. Rahming finished with 12 catches for 240 yards, including touchdown catches of 85 and 22 yards, and he set an Independence Bowl record with 286 all-purpose yards.

Justyn Ross, Clemson
After lighting up Notre Dame with six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Capital One Orange Bowl, Ross was even better against Alabama in the national title game. The talented true freshman caught six passes for 153 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown in the third quarter that all but finished the Crimson Tide.


Tight end

Sterling Palmer, FIU
Palmer capped a promising freshman season with three catches for 64 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown late in the second quarter in Florida International’s 35-32 win over Toledo in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.


Offensive line

Tackle: Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
If you’re looking for a collective MVP of Clemson’s rout of Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, it would be the Tigers’ offensive line. Hyatt was the anchor of that unit from his left tackle spot, as Lawrence had a clean pocket to throw from for most of the game and wasn’t sacked.

Guard: Bunchy Stallings, Kentucky
Yes, he has the catchy nickname, but Stallings also has plenty of game and was a bulldozer from his right guard spot in the 27-24 win over Penn State in the VRBO Outback Bowl. In a fitting end to one of the best seasons in Kentucky history, Stallings and the rest of his offensive linemates cleared the way for Benny Snell Jr. to rush for 144 yards and become the school’s all-time leading rusher.

Center: Bryce Holland, Army
A repeat selection from a year ago, Holland was a force in the middle of an Army offensive line that absolutely shredded Houston to the tune of 507 rushing yards in a 70-14 romp in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. had five rushing touchdowns in the game, and the truth is the entire Army offensive line probably deserves a spot on the All-Bowl team.

Guard: Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin
It wouldn’t be an All-Bowl offensive line without some Wisconsin beef. A year ago, it was Michael Deiter, and this year, it’s Benzschawel, who helped clear the way for Jonathan Taylor‘s 205 rushing yards in Wisconsin’s 35-3 pummeling of Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Badgers finished with 333 rushing yards and kept the ball for almost 40 minutes in the game.

Tackle: Joshua Alabi, Ohio State
It’s always nice to have quality depth, and Alabi looked like he’d been there all season in his first start at left tackle for Ohio State in its 28-23 victory over Washington in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Alabi was filling in for the injured Thayer Munford and helped create a clean pocket for Dwayne Haskins to throw for 251 yards and three touchdowns against a stout Washington secondary.

DEFENSE

Defensive line

Willie Baker, Louisiana Tech
It was a sack parade for Louisiana Tech in its 31-14 win over Hawaii in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl. The Bulldogs finished with nine sacks, and Baker had four of those. All five of Baker’s tackles in the game were for loss as the sophomore defensive end set up camp in the Hawaii backfield.

Charles Omenihu, Texas
There were no questions about who was the more physical team in Texas’ 28-21 thumping of Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Dawgs didn’t have any answers for Omenihu, who finished with two tackles for loss. He lived in the Georgia backfield and kept Jake Fromm on the run for much of the night.

Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Williams was the most dominant and disruptive interior defensive lineman in college football all season, and that didn’t change in the College Football Playoff. He didn’t have huge numbers in either game, but he was a one-man pocket collapser.

Austin Bryant, Clemson
There was a reason Bryant came back for his senior season along with defensive line cohorts Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell. They wanted some more hardware — and they got it. Bryant had three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and a quarterback hurry against Notre Dame and added another tackle for loss against Alabama.


Linebacker

James Nachtigal, Army
It was an impressive performance by Army all the way around in its rout of Houston in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and Nachtigal took the game over defensively with a career-high 16 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, and he forced three fumbles. The Cougars probably thought there were four No. 19s on the field.

Josh Allen, Kentucky
Following Kentucky’s win over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl, Allen proclaimed himself the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He sure looked the part against the Nittany Lions, with three quarterback sacks and a blocked kick. Allen set Kentucky’s single-season record with 17 sacks this year.

Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
One of the most valuable and versatile players on Clemson’s defense, Simmons was everywhere in the two playoff games with his blend of size and speed. He led the Tigers with nine tackles, including one for loss, in the win over Alabama in the title game. He broke up two passes and had half of a sack in the win over Notre Dame.


Nickelback

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
Florida suffocated Michigan defensively in its 41-15 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl romp, and Gardner-Johnson was a big reason for that from his nickelback/star position. His interception early in the third quarter changed the complexion of the game and gave the Gators the momentum, and he culminated the rout with a second interception in the fourth quarter that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown.


Cornerback

DJ Williams, Utah State
Williams had two interceptions in Utah State’s 52-13 rout of North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl Presented by Progressive. His second pick killed a North Texas drive inside the Utah 30-yard line, and Williams returned it 31 yards just before halftime.


Safety

Jake Gervase, Iowa
No play was any bigger for Iowa in its 27-22 win over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl than Gervase’s interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter. The ball was bobbled by a Mississippi State receiver, and Gervase gathered it in and returned it 28 yards to take away what looked to be a sure touchdown. Gervase also broke up three passes and led the team with six tackles.

Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal
It’s not every day that you see a game with nine interceptions, and Hawkins had his own hat trick with three picks in Cal’s 10-7 overtime loss to TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl. His first interception in the first quarter set up Cal’s only touchdown of the game. Hawkins also had six total tackles, including half of a tackle for loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern
Bass kicked the game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired to lift Georgia Southern to a 23-21 win over Eastern Michigan in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. Bass made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder to end the first half.

Punter

Tucker Day, Mississippi State
Day punted five times for a 50.4-yard average in Mississippi State’s loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl. He had a long of 70 yards and had a 54-yarder that was downed at the Iowa 12 in the fourth quarter.

Kick returner

Tony Pollard, Memphis
Pollard tied an NCAA record with his seventh career kickoff return for a touchdown, a 97-yarder in the second quarter in Memphis’ 37-34 loss to Wake Forest in the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Pollard also had a 41-yard rushing touchdown and finished with 109 rushing yards.

All-purpose

Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
Rivers finished with 286 all-purpose yards in Fresno State’s 31-20 win over Arizona State in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl. He rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 33 yards and returned a punt 41 yards. Rivers’ 68-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave Fresno State the lead for good.



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