Three 'Canes Make AFCA Coaches' All-America Team

Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman headline the 2003 AFCA Coaches' All-America Team announced today by the American Football Coaches Association.

The AFCA has selected an All-America team since 1945 and currently selects teams in all four of its divisions. What makes these teams so special is that they are the only ones chosen exclusively by the men who know the players the best - the coaches themselves.

THE OFFENSE

College football's most exciting receiver, Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh, caught 87 passes for 1,595 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Panthers this season. He is joined on the receiving corps this year by Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods and tight end Kellen Winslow of Miami (Fla.).

Woods set an NCAA record with seven touchdown catches in one game this season. On the year he caught 66 passes for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns. Winslow was the Hurricanes' second-leading receiver this season, catching 55 passes for 557 yards.

Quarterbacking this year's team is Oklahoma's Jason White. The senior Sooner signal caller leads the nation in passing efficiency this year with a 177.9 rating and has thrown for 3,446 yards and 40 touchdowns while throwing only six interceptions.

Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones and Michigan's Chris Perry were chosen as this year's All-America running backs.

Jones rushed for 1,494 yards for the Hokies this season and scored 20 touchdowns. Perry was a vital cog in Michigan's drive to the Big 10 championship as he toted the ball for 1,589 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Wolverines.

The offensive line features Arkansas' Shawn Andrews, USC's Jacob Rogers, Virginia Tech's Jake Grove, Oklahoma's Jammal Brown and Iowa's Robert Gallery.

Andrews is one of two returning All-Americans on this year's AFCA team. The junior from Camden, Ark. has been the most dominant blocker in the Southeastern Conference this season. Rogers anchors an offensive line that has helped the Trojans average 456.3 yards per game in total offense in 2003. Grove centered an offensive line that cleared the way for the Hokies' potent ground game. Brown was the top offensive lineman on the most talented team in college football this season. Gallery's play at tackle has played a big role in Iowa's offensive resurgence over the last two seasons.

THE DEFENSE

Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman headlines the linebacker corps for this year's AFCA Coaches' All-America Team. He is joined by fellow Butkus Award finalist Jonathan Vilma of Miami (Fla.) and Karlos Dansby of Auburn.

Lehman leads Oklahoma in tackles with 97 this season and spearheads a defense that has held opponents to 13.2 points and 233 yards per game this season. Vilma has been the Hurricanes' leading tackler each of the last three seasons and is a two-time Academic All-America selection. Dansby anchored an Auburn defense that held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing a game this season.

The defensive line features Tommie Harris of Oklahoma, David Pollock of Georgia, Will Smith of Ohio State and Dave Ball of UCLA.

Harris is making his second appearance on the AFCA All-America Team this year. The junior tackle has posted 34 tackles, including nine for a loss and four sacks for the Sooners. Pollack, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year a year ago, will enter the SEC Championship Game with 77 tackles for the Bulldogs. Smith led the Buckeyes in sacks and tackles for loss this season with 10.5 and 20 respectively. Ball will end his college career as UCLA's season and career sack leader.

The defensive backs named to this year's AFCA Coaches' All-America Team are Sean Taylor of Miami (Fla.), Derrick Strait of Oklahoma, Corey Webster of LSU and Sean Jones of Georgia.

Taylor was the Hurricanes' second-leading tackler and led the squad in interceptions and pass break-ups. Strait was the leader of a Sooner secondary that held opponents to 139.2 pass yards per game in 2003. Webster picked off four passes and led LSU with 17 pass break-ups. Jones has 102 tackles for the Bulldogs so far this season and is the team's No. 2 tackler.

THE SPECIALISTS

The specialists on this year's AFCA Coaches' All-America Team are punter Kyle Larson of Nebraska, placekicker Nate Kaeding of Iowa and return specialist Antonio Perkins of Oklahoma.

Larson averaged 45.4 yards per punt and dropped 19 kicks inside Husker opponents' 20-yard line. Kaeding, a Groza Award finalist, led the Hawkeyes in scoring with 93 points as he converted 17 of 18 field goals and 36 of 37 PATs this year. He also rushed for one touchdown on a fake field goal.

Perkins set NCAA records for punt return TDs in a game (three) and punt return yards in a game (277) and tied an NCAA record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season.

Team Background

The AFCA has selected an All-America team every year since 1945.

The four teams now chosen for each AFCA division evolved from a single 11-player squad in 1945. From 1945 until 1967, only one team was chosen. >From 1967 through 1971, two teams, University Division and College Division, were selected. In 1972, the College Division was split into College I and College II. In 1979, the University Division was split into two teams - Division I-A and Division I-AA. In 1996 the College I and College II teams were renamed Division II and Division III respectively.

From 1965-81, a 22-player (11 offensive, 11 defensive) team was chosen. In 1982, a punter and placekicker were added to the team. In 1997 a return specialist was added, giving us the current 25-player team.

Selection Process

The AFCA's Division I-A All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA's nine I-A districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee.

The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts, that information, along with ballots submitted by I-A head coaches, are used to select the AFCA I-A Coaches' All-America Team.

The Award

Members of the AFCA Coaches' All-America Team receive a plaque commemorating their selection to the team.

Top Team: Notre Dame has had the most players named to the AFCA Coaches' All-America Team. The Fighting Irish have been represented 55 times by 48 players on the AFCA team. They are followed by Oklahoma (54/47); Ohio State (49/37); Michigan (48 /43); Nebraska (48/43) and Southern California (45/40).

Top Conference: The Big 12 boasts the most AFCA Coaches' All-America Team representatives among current conference members with 226, just ahead of the Big 10 at 218 representatives. Following those two are the Southeastern Conference (198), the Pac-10 (150), Big East (97), Atlantic Coast (90) and Mountain West (33).

The 2003 conference-by-conference breakdown: Big 12: 8 players; Big East: 6; Big 10: 4; Pac-10: 2; Southeastern: 5.

Class Distinction: The 2003 AFCA Coaches' All-America Team is made up of 14 seniors, 10 juniors and 1 sophomore.

Repeat After Me: Ohio State has the most players who have been repeat selections (12 players). The Buckeyes are followed by Oklahoma (8); Notre Dame (7); Texas (6); Michigan (5); Nebraska (5); and Southern California (5).

Four For Four: No player has earned AFCA I-A All-America honors four times, however Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) runningback Johnny Bailey did earn Coaches' All-America honors four straight years (1986-87-88-89) in AFCA College Division I (now AFCA Division II).

Three-Timer: Georgia's Herschel Walker is the only three-time AFCA I-A Coaches' All-American (1980-81-82) in the 57-year history of the team.

Two-Timers: A total of 114 players have earned AFCA I-A Coaches' All-America Team honors two or more times.

Double Duos: Teammates have earned back-to-back Coaches' All-America honors in the same seasons six times: Army's Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard in 1945 and 1946; Notre Dame's George Connor and Johnny Lujack in 1946 and 1947; Michigan State's Bubba Smith and George Webster in 1966 and 1967; Ohio State's Jack Tatum and Jim Stillwagon in 1969 and 1970; Notre Dame's Ken MacAfee and Ross Browner in 1976 and 1977 and Colorado's Joe Garten and Alfred Williams in 1989 and 1990.

One Player, Two Schools: Punter Mark Bounds is the only player to earn Coaches' All-America honors at two different schools. He was named to the AFCA College Division I team in 1990 while playing for West Texas A&M. He transferred to Texas Tech after West Texas dropped football and earned I-A All-America honors as a Red Raider in 1991.

Consecutive Years: Notre Dame holds the record for consecutive years with at least one player on the AFCA I-A Coaches' All-America Team at 19 seasons (1963-1981). Nebraska had at least one player 12 straight seasons (1977-1989). Michigan (1969-1979), Oklahoma (1971-1981), Southern California (1972-82) and Miami (1984-1994) are next with 11 straight seasons. Pittsburgh placed one player on the AFCA team for 10 straight seasons from 1975-1984.

Super Six: Oklahoma's six selections (Jammal Brown, OL; Jason White, QB; Tommie Harris, DL; Teddy Lehman, LB, Derrick Strait, DB; Antonio Perkins, RS) this year is a new record for most players from one school on the AFCA Coaches' All-America Team.

Quad Squads: Five teams have placed four players on the AFCA Coaches' All-America Team: 1945 Army: T-DeWitt Coulter, G-John Green, B-Glenn Davis, B-Doc Blanchard; 1966 Notre Dame: LB-Jim Lynch, FB-Nick Eddy, DT-Pete Duranko, OG-Tom Regner; 1967 Southern California: OT-Ron Yary, LB-Adrian Young, E-Tim Rossovich, HB-O.J. Simpson; 1990 Notre Dame: DB-Todd Lyght, DL-Chris Zorich, LB-Mike Stonebreaker, WR-Raghib Ismail; 1999 Florida State: WR-Peter Warrick, OL-Jason Whitaker, DL-Corey Simon; PK-Sebastian Janikowski.

Army's four All-Americans in 1945 may be the most impressive showing of the above teams when you take into account the AFCA only selected an 11-player team at that time.

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