College football’s regular season has ended. Now we look ahead to the postseason where four teams will compete for a national title and dozens more play in bowl games. With most of the season behind us, we can fully appreciate the best of the best this year. For this All-American list, players listed are not only draft eligible but played their best football in 2022. While some of these players are not necessarily the best prospect, they did play the best of their peers.
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC: Tuli Tuipulotu led the country in sacks with 12.5 and was an all-around force for the USC defense. While the Trojan defense was much maligned and the offense got (and deserved) much more praise, Tuipulotu was a weekly bright spot. His size, motor and athleticism made him a handful for offensive linemen and when he got hot, there was no stopping him. Tuipulotu was considered a solid player coming into this season, but he has played his way into “difference-maker” territory.
Will Anderson Junior, Alabama: Who else? Despite receiving constant attention on a weekly basis, Will Anderson continued to dominate every game. Anderson’s rare burst and bend on the edge made life hell for a lot of offensive tackles. Anderson came into the year as a consensus top three talent in the 2023 NFL draft and he spent the entire year locking himself into that position.
Second Team: Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame and Durrell Johnson, Liberty
Interior Defensive Linemen
Jalen Carter, UGA: Jalen Carter had a lot of pressure to produce this year. With Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt in the NFL, Carter had to step up and lead the Georgia defensive line… and lead he did. Carter was a menace any time he was on the field. The Bulldogs lined him up everywhere and his combination of strength and burst allowed him to handle whoever was given the fateful task of blocking him. Carter not only was productive as an interior lineman, he really allowed a lot of his Georgia teammates an easier time with the attention he got. Carter will probably be a top five pick in this draft.
Calijah Kancey, Pitt: Calijah Kancey has been a force since his first year playing with the Panthers and this season was his best yet. The junior defender had 7.5 Sacks and 14.5 total TFLs. While Kancey is six foot and only 280 pounds, he has rare quickness and great technique that made blocking him an absolute chore. Injuries hampered him throughout the year and he would’ve been a lot more productive if he was healthy. However, Kancey should be considered a very intriguing prospect in the upcoming NFL draft.
Second Team: Tyler Davis, Clemson and Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Jack Campbell, Iowa: Jack Campbell has been a fixture on the Hawkeyes defense for a few years now. His ability to lead the defense and constantly be one step ahead of the opposing offense is the sign of an excellent linebacker. Campbell’s awareness and physicality mean he’s in on what feels like every tackle, every down. He is not the most dynamic defender, but his dependability and consistency made him one of the best linebackers in the country.
Trenton Simpson, Clemson: It’s hard to key in on one defender on Clemson’s stacked defense, but Trenton Simpson stood out on a weekly basis. The 6’3”, 240 pound defender was lined up all over the place because of how athletic he is and how effective he is at attacking the run, blitzing and dropping into coverage. Simpson is a special athlete and a very, very dynamic defender. Clemson got great play out of him in 2022 and it’s possible his best football is still ahead of him in the NFL.
Second Team: Jaylan Ford, Texas and Ivan Pace Junior, Cincinnati
Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State: Emmanuel Forbes has been one of the most prolific, most dynamic ballhawks in the country since his freshman year in Starkville. This year was no different. The six foot cornerback picked off six passes this year, bringing three of them back for a touchdown. In three seasons, Forbes has intercepted 14 passes and scored on six of those takeaways. That is special playmaking ability as a cornerback. Forbes has receiver-like ball skills and excellent speed. NFL teams will covet what Forbes brings as a cover man and an athlete.
Kelee Ringo, Georgia: Kelee Ringo was a true lockdown cornerback this year. His combination of size, speed, and instincts made him impossible to throw on. While his takeaway numbers aren’t quite as flashy as some of his peers, it is really because no one wanted to throw his way.
Clark Phillips III, Utah: Speaking of flashy takeaway numbers, Clark Phillips III is the next great defensive back to head to the NFL from Utah. Phillips is a scrappy and physical cornerback who also possesses great closing speed and ball skills. Phillips had six picks this year, returning two for scores. In three years in Utah, he had nine interceptions and returned four of them for touchdowns. While Phillips might be a true nickel cornerback in the NFL, he figures to be a very good one.
Second Team: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU, Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo, and Cam Smith, South Carolina
Brian Branch, Alabama: Every year it feels like Alabama has another Do-It-All Safety and this season it was Brian Branch. The six foot, two hundred pound defender was asked to line up all over the field where he was used as a slot cornerback, nickel linebacker, and deep safety. He consistently delivered no matter where he played, piling up 10 TFLs, two sacks, a pick and seven passes defended. He is a reliable and versatile player on top of being a very good athlete. The new age NFL will love him.
Chris Smith, Georgia: Chris Smith is another Georgia defender who figures to go pretty high in this upcoming draft. Smith has come alive in the last two seasons, picking off six passes since the beginning of 2021. He thrives beyond being a coverage safety, however, doing some of his best work coming up to attack the run. He has been an integral piece of Georgia’s dominant defenses over the last two years and this season was no different.