SALT LAKE CITY — Who are the best returning players in college football?
Over the past month, ESPN has sought to answer that question by examining the top 10 players across the country at nearly every position group. On Friday, Pro Football Focus senior college analyst Anthony Treash put the finishing touches on the exercise.
Using a pair of metrics provided by PFF — grades and wins above average (WAA) — he compiled two teams for ESPN, filled with the best players returning to college football, appropriately named College football’s All-PFF team for 2020.
Many of the athletes on either the first or second teams are readily known nationwide, be it Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Oregon offensive tackle and Desert Hills High alum Penei Sewell — the reigning Outland Award winner and potential No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft — or LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
Among the 46 college football stars who ESPN and Treash highlighted are representatives of both BYU and Utah — Cougars center James Empey and Utes tight end Brant Kuithe.
Both Empey and Kuithe earned spots on the All-PFF second team, after strong seasons in 2019. Empey was a key cog in the 12th highest-rated offensive line nationwide, per PFF, not to mention ESPN’s 10th best returning offensive lineman overall. Kuithe, meanwhile, finished the year with 34 catches, 602 yards and six touchdowns in what proved a breakout campaign, one of the best in Utah history.
The Pac-12 and Big 12 tied for the most representatives overall, with eight players apiece, followed by the SEC and Big 10, which each had seven. The ACC added five players, while the Mountain West and MAC had three apiece, followed the AAC (2), Sun Belt (2), and finally independents (1).
No teams were better represented than the Oregon Ducks and Alabama Crimson Tide, which finished with four players apiece, followed by Washington and Oklahoma State with three each.
You can read more about the selection process here.
ESPN’s All-PFF Team for 2020
First team — Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Second team — Justin Fields, Ohio State
First team — Travis Etienne, Clemson; Najee Harris, Alabama
Second team — Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State; Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
First team — Ja’Marr Chase, LSU; Devonta Smith, Alabama; Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Second team — Jaylen Waddle, Alabama; Rondale Moore, Purdue; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
First team — Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Second team — Brant Kuithe, Utah
First team — Peneii Sewell, Oregon; Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin
Second team — Rashawn Slater, Northwestern; Samuel Cosmi, Texas
First team — Nolan Laufenberg, Air Force; Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
Second team — Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC; Peter Nestrowitz, Navy
First team — Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
Second team — James Empey, BYU
First team — Marvin Wilson, Florida State; Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Second team — Christian Barmore, Alabama; Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
First team — Quincy Roche, Miami (FL); Chris Rumph, Duke
Second team — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon; Taylor Riggins, Buffalo
First team — Micah Parsons, Penn State; Nick Bolton, Missouri
Second team — Carlton Martial, Troy; Troy Brown, Central Michigan
First team — Derek Stingley, LSU; Jevon Holland, Oregon; Elijah Molden, Washington
Second team — Shaun Jolly, Appalachian State; Mykael Wright, Oregon; Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
First team — Trevon Moehrig, TCU; Ar’Darius Washington, TCU
Second team — Kolby Harvell-Peel, Oklahoma State; Dwayne Johnson Jr., San Diego State