Does a team having its players make All-America have any effect on winning? That may be a chicken or egg question, but certainly it means that Alabama with so many players named to honor squads is a very good team.
That’s evident in part by Alabama making the College Football Playoff and scheduled to play Michigan State in a semifinal game on Dec. 31 at the Cotton Bowl.
Does a team that ranks at the top in All-America selections have an advantage in recruiting? That may be hard to judge, but it’s evident that Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his staff are either selecting very well or coaching very well, and probably both.
The “honors season” has been very good to the Crimson Tide and it continued with the Sporting News naming four Bama players on its All-America team.
As has been the case with other All-America teams announced this year, The Crimson Tide had the most of any school in the country with its four selections. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and senior captain Reggie Ragland were named to their fifth first team All-America list of the postseason, signifying them as unanimous first-team honorees in 2015. Ryan Kelly and A’Shawn Robinson also placed on the first team, garnering consensus first-team accolades.
Alabama has four first team All-Americas among the five teams (USA Today, Walter Camp, Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, and Sporting News) officially designated as All-America selectors by the NCAA. That raises the Crimson Tide’s all-time total for first-team selections to 119 men who have 139 All-America honors. Since 2008, Alabama has had 31 different players earn 35 first team All-America spots.
Henry, who was named the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp Player of the Year winner, has rushed for an SEC record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s starting running back. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game with 152.8. He is the first Alabama running back to be named a unanimous first-team selection since fellow Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (2009).
Ragland also earned unanimous first-team status thanks to a standout season as the captain of one of top-ranked defenses in the nation. The unit is the national leader in rushing defense (74 ypg), and ranks second in total defense (258.2 ypg) and third in scoring defense (14.4 ppg). A finalist for the Butkus, Bednarik and Nagurski awards, Ragland has posted a team-leading 90 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-10 yards). He also has recorded six pass breakups, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
Kelly, the 2015 Rimington Trophy winner, received first-team All-America honors for the fourth time this postseason after also being honored by USA Today, Walter Camp and the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He has anchored an Alabama offensive line that opened holes for Henry’s Heisman winning season while rushing for 208.2 yards per game as a team. The senior center graded out at an average of 88.4 percent with five games over 90 percent. In 948 snaps, Kelly missed only eight assignments and did not allow a sack all season. He was named an Associated Press second team selection as well.
Robinson, the Tide’s fourth Sporting News representative, has been a disruptive force in the middle of the vaunted Alabama defensive front that leads the country in sacks (46). He has a career-high 42 tackles this season, including 7.5 for a loss (-25 yards) and 3.5 sacks (-19 yards). In addition, Robinson has nine quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery and one blocked point after touchdown try. He is now a consensus first-team honoree after being recognized by the AP and FWAA as well. USA Today and Walter Camp named him a second-teamer.