Updated: Sep 8
The college football season has kicked off successfully in 2020. And though we're still one game short of the full slate being played, with games on Thursday and Saturday dominating our thoughts, we're unleashing our National Team of the Week ahead of BYU-Navy game scheduled for Monday evening.
The National Team of the Week at Sixth Year Sports honors those players who may have had exemplary statistical outputs but also showcased how box scores can some times lie. These players impacted their respective games more so than their counterparts and quite often, they'll receive the benefit of showing that off in the box score, though other times, they will not.
Our teams of the week this season will highlight a top quarterback, two top running backs, three receivers, a tight end and an entire offensive line unit on offense. On defense, four respective defensive linemen will receive honors while two linebackers, three cornerbacks, two safeties and an all-out stud from any position can be slotted into our flex position.
With that being said, here's the college football Week 1 National Team of the Week.
Quarterback - Grant Wells, Marshall Thundering Herd
Wells was dominant in his debut against Eastern Kentucky, making his presence known to the world by completing 16-of-23 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He was nearly perfect on deep shots, showing off an incredibly accurate arm downfield and hit shot after shot against an overmatched EKU secondary. He was particularly impressive on those deep shots down the middle of the field as he routinely looked off safeties and utilized his terrific footwork to navigate inside the pocket. Wells has put the world, and the Conference-USA, on notice.
Running Back - TJ McDaniel, SMU Mustangs
McDaniel broke out against Texas State last year, and it seems like this year it can be said his Texas State performance is his kick-off game for what could be a terrific 2020. He toted the rock 27 times for 130 yards and a score but his major impact came when the usually-potent aerial assault from SMU was a bit sluggish, and they could count on McDaniel's ability to churn out a first down.
[Editor's Note] Running Back - Tyler Algeier, BYU Cougars
Algeier ran hard all night, and though he had the benefit of some incredibly big rushing lanes thanks to his offensive line, still made the most of his carries. He routinely made one-cut moves that freed him up for even more space and as such, ran the ball for 132 yards on just 14 carries. He scored twice and averaged a whopping 9.4 yards per carry. Even when he didn't have the biggest rushing lanes to run through, he made the Navy defense pay and gashed them for multiple first downs and several carries longer than 10 yards.
(Previous RB of the week was: Running Back - Spencer Brown, UAB Blazers
One half of the Brown Tandem in the backfield for the Blazers, Spencer needed just 24 carries to reach 127 yards and a score, doing a ton of his damage at the line of scrimmage and finding the holes that his offensive line provided.)
Wide Receiver - Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama Jaguars
Tolbert shined on Thursday night, racking up an impressive 169 yards on six catches with two touchdowns. Tolbert's crisp routes were dominant enough to carve out easy throwing lanes for QB Desmond Trotter while his ball-tracking skills and ability to come down with contested catches at the catch point mitigated any throwing inaccuracies. That's now six touchdowns in their last two games from Trotter to Tolbert and they've quickly developed into one of college football's top QB-WR duos. Biletnikoff Award voters take note: Tolbert is here to stay.
Wide Receiver - Rashee Rice, SMU
Someone had to eat up a ton of targets that were vacated when James Proche left the program for the NFL. Rice was in lie to do so, and did he ever. He made five catches for 101 yards look easy as his hands were routinely on display. Rice stepped up when the passing game struggled at times and he and Reggie Roberson may be in line for big seasons together.
[Editor's Note] Wide Receiver - Gunner Romney, BYU
Even though they didn't have to throw much, when Zach Wilson did drop back to pass, he looked Romney's way more often than not, connecting on four shots for 134 yards and a score. He ripped off some incredible after-the-catch moves and racked up the yards after the catch. There was the incredible screen pass that he made at least four defenders miss and the contested catch down the middle of the field that were highlights.
(Previous WR of the Week was: Wide Receiver - Kawaan Baker, South Alabama
Baker has the ability to turn in a routine reception into a touchdown and he proved that on Thursday night, icing the game for the Jags with a 52-yard score late in the game that put it out of reach. Baker finished with four catches for 82 yards and that touchdown, finishing as the second South Alabama receiver to average over 20.0 yards per catch.)
Tight End - Sean Dykes, Memphis Tigers
Dykes looked more like a wide receiver out there for the Tigers, hauling in 10 passes for 127 yards and two scores. He was a monster over the middle of the field and blew by linebackers once he did catch the ball. Dykes provided QB Brady White with a terrific security blanket in the intermediate range of the field.
[Editor's Note] Offensive Line - BYU Cougars
It didn't take an advanced football watcher's knowledge to know that the BYU offensive line looked far superior to the Navy defensive front on Monday night. There were seemingly no negatives to be drawn from their dominant performance and each of the five starting players earn praise in what is one of the most dominant performances from an offensive line in recent memory. Left tackle Brady Christiansen, left guard Clark Barrington, center James Empey, right guard Tristen Hoge and right tackle Chandon Herring each are deserving of their place in any team of the week honors as they were incredibly efficient and impressive in Week 1. BYU ran for 301 yards on 49 carries and that includes a few kneel-downs as well.
(Previous OL of the Week was: Offensive Line - UAB Blazers
The Blazers offensive line consisting of multiple players with a bevy of snaps in action was key in their win over Central Arkansas. They combined to pave the way for 459 total yards including 233 on the ground. Perhaps the most impressive performance was their efforts on short-yardage situations as they plunged forward on multiple fourth-down conversions.)
Defensive Line - Turner Coxe, SMU
Coxe was a menace in the run game just as he was in the passing game. He recorded a handful of total pressures including a sack but also wrapped up a tackle for loss in the run game. His tracking ability down the line of scrimmage was unmatched against Texas State.
[Editor's Note] Defensive Line - Khyiris Tonga, BYU
Tonga didn't hit the stat sheet often, but if you watched this performance, and watched specifically the mesh point between the quarterback and fullback for Navy, you routinely would have seen Tonga disrupting the Midshipmen's offensive attack. The Navy offense was stymied by a few Cougars on the night but Tonga's efforts in the middle cleared the way for assignment football on the edge and for that, Tonga earns credit here.
(Previous DL of the week was: Defensive Line - Koby Cumberlander, Marshall
Cumberlander was just the first of many Thundering Herd defenders to rack up impressive days. He was first off the ball more often than not and picked up two solo tackles with multiple stops at the line of scrimmage to his credit.)
Defensive Line - Brayden Stringer, Texas State Bobcats
Stringer recorded a sack and a tackle for loss in key moments for the Bobcats as they kept it as close as they could against SMU. Despite playing with a lack of depth across their defense, mainly their defensive line, Stringer played with reckless abandon and it paid off more often than not for him in this one.
Defensive Line - Jordan Smith, UAB
Routinely on Thursday night, Central Arkansas QB Breylin Smith was running for his life. And routinely, it was Jordan Smith that caused the pressure. He may not have gotten home with multiple sacks, but if you watched this one, you consistently saw the Blazers talented edge rusher winning his battles against tackles so quickly, he was in the backfield before Breylin could even set his feet.
Linebacker - Tavante Beckett, Marshall
The announcers on the broadcast sang Beckett's praises enough for his writeup here, but we'll sum it up. Beckett racked up eight total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack as he truly was an elite three-down linebacker in this contest.
Linebacker - Riley Cole, South Alabama
Cole's efforts in coverage as well as blitzing the quarterback were enough to keep Southern Miss QB Jack Abraham off his mark all game. Cole added a few pressures and ate up passing lanes over the middle in an impressive display against the pass. It also helps that No. 4 is a wild man against the run and few backs are going to be able to get past him this season.
Flex Defense - Keith Gallmon, South Alabama
Talk about racking up tackles, Gallmon secured six solo tackles himself as well as six more assists. He didn't let anything go in coverage either and was an absolute stalwart across the middle of the field for the Jags.
Cornerback - Brontae Harris, UAB
In truly remarkable fashion, Harris returned to the football field for the first time since December 2018. All he did from there was see five targeted passes, allowing just one catch, record three pass breakups and another tackle for loss on a widescreen. Harris is one of the nation's best cornerbacks and he proved that in his return to action on Thursday night.
Cornerback - Cedrick Cunningham Jr., Army Black Knights
A force for the Army defense, Cunningham locked down in coverage and made multiple trips to the stat sheet with a forced fumble and five solo tackles with two more assists. He racked up two tackles for loss and a sack as well, proving he was too much to handle for anyone on the Middle Tennessee offense.
Cornerback - Rodney Owens, Memphis
Recording five solo tackles and a pass defense, Owens was simply shutdown in coverage. Nothing got by him in the run game and he didn't allow a catch to boot.
Safety - Chase Cromartie, SMU
Cromartie put on a clinic for defensive backs with his coverage skills against Texas State's aerial attack. His most notable play came when he continued to fight through the catch point on a pass in the end zone, breaking up what would have been a touchdown and saving four points for his team.
Safety - Nazeeh Johnson, Marshall
The last level of defense for the Thundering Herd was rarely tested against EKU, but when Johnson was, he made them pay. He recorded an interception in coverage and six total tackles in the game, most of which came at the point of the reception, allowing the receivers no room to gain yards after the catch.
National Team of the Week -- 2nd Team
QB - Desmond Trotter, South Alabama
RB - Calvin Hill, Texas State
RB - Spencer Brown, UAB (née Jermaine Brown, UAB)
WR - Tim Jones, Southern Miss
WR - Reggie Roberson, SMU
WR - Damonte Coxie, Memphis
TE - Xavier Gaines, Marshall
OLINE - UAB Blazers (née Marshall Thundering Herd)
DL - Kwabena Bonsu, Army
DL - Darius Hodge, Marshall
DL - Alex Wright, UAB
DL - Tyrice Knight, UTEP
LB - Payton Wilgar, BYU (née Xavier Cullens, Memphis)
LB - Isaiah Kaufusi, BYU (née Kristopher Moll, UAB)
FLEX - Grayson Cash, UAB
CB - Kordell Rodgers, Texas State
CB - Ar'mani Johnson, SMU
CB - Ryan Melton, South Alabama
S - Malkelm Morrison, Army
S - Chaz Ah You, BYU (née Duron Lowe, UTEP)