Gerald Willis’ monster season has earned another piece of national recognition. On Monday, the Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman landed on two more major All-American teams, although the first-team accolades are still elusive.
The Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America released their All-American teams Monday, and Willis made the cut as a second-team selection on both. These are the second and third All-American acknowledgments for Willis, who also earned second-team honors from Sports Illustrated on Thursday.
Willis, who was also a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection last month, slots in behind Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and Alabama Crimson Tide defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who were the first-team All-American selections by both. Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver was also a first-team selection by the Football Writers Association. Willis joins Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive tackle Jerry Tillery on the AP’s second team, while no other defensive tackles were second-team selections by the Football Writers. Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons and Ed Oliver were third-team selections by the AP, meaning Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, a first-team all-conference selection ahead of Willis, was left out altogether by both.
Willis’ season was incredible, especially considering the path he took to this point. The senior began his career with the Florida Gators before a handful of run-ins with teammates led him to seek a transfer. He settled on Miami and debuted for the Hurricanes in 2016 in a reserve role. He sat out the entire 2017 for personal reasons before finally returning to the team for his final season this year.
Rejuvenated, Willis became one of the best defensive tackles in the country. Willis finished the regular season with 58 total tackles and 18 tackles for a loss, tied for 14th most in the country and the most for any defensive tackle. Led by Willis, Miami (7-5, 4-4 ACC) led the nation in tackles for a loss and finished second in total defense. Willis also recorded four sacks, two passes defended and a fumble recovery this season.
Willis, who was a first-team midseason All-American by the AP and ESPN, was left off altogether from the All-American teams named by ESPN, the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF) and even College Football News, which chooses a total of 10 players per position, including honorable mentions.
There’s still a chance, though, for Willis to end the Hurricanes’ surprisingly long drought of first-team All-Americans from major outlets. The last player on an All-America team officially recognized by the NCAA — those selected by the AP, WCFF, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America or Sporting News — came in 2005, when offensive lineman Eric Winston and defensive back Brandon Merriweather were honored. Tight end Clive Walford was also a first-team selection by Fox in 2014.