The postseason acknowledgments continue to roll in for Gerald Willis. The Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle added his fourth major All-America nod Wednesday when USA Today named Willis a second-team selection to its 2018 team.
Willis slots in, as he so frequently has this postseason, behind Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and Alabama Crimson Tide defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who filled USA Today’s first team at the position. Willis still has yet to earn a first-team selection from one of the major All-America teams.
Willis is joined by Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver on USA Today’s second team. The publication doesn’t specify defensive tackles and defensive ends, instead just picking four defensive linemen. Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs defensive end Jaylon Ferguson rounded out the first team for USA Today.
His 2018 campaign capped an up-and-down career for Willis on a high note. The defensive lineman began his career with the Florida Gators in 2014, but transferred after just one season following a number of run-ins with teammates. He settled on Miami and, after sitting out the 2015 season, played a reserve role as a redshirt sophomore in 2016. He sat out the entire 2017 season for personal reasons, then returned to become an All-American as a senior this season. 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, the Hurricanes (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 already pulled in second-team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated last Wednesday, and the Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) on Monday. The senior was also a second-team All-ACC selection behind Wilkins and fellow Tigers defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, whom Willis has consistently slotted in ahead of on All-American teams this month.
Still, Willis was left off All-America teams altogether by ESPN, the Sporting News, the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF) and even College Football News, which selects 10 players per position, including honorable mentions.
The NCAA officially recognizes five All-America teams when choosing consensus All-Americans. Those five are the AP, the FWAA, the WCFF, the Sporting News and the American Football Coaches Association. While four have already picked their teams, Willis still has a chance to be the first Miami player named a first-teamer by one of the five since 2005 if the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) selects him. In 2005, the FWAA named defensive back Brandon Meriweather a first-team All-American and the AFCA made offensive lineman Eric Winston a first-team selection. Most recently, tight end Clive Walford was a first-team All-American pick by Fox.