After being overwhelmed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, Utah dominated the Ducks and everybody else in the conference's postseason football awards.
Running back Zack Moss, voted the Offensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches, is among Utah’s eight All-Pac-12 first-team selections and Kyle Whittingham is the conference’s Coach of the Year, the Pac-12 announced Tuesday.
The Utes (11-2) were honored for the 8-1 record that gave them a second consecutive Pac-12 South title as the first program to repeat since UCLA in 2012. Utah's placing seven seniors on the first team, plus junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson (who intends to enter the NFL draft), illustrates the team's remarkable collection of talent in a season when the Utes reached No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings but couldn't stay with Oregon in a 37-15 loss Friday at Santa Clara, Calif.
Oregon had only two first-team selections: offensive tackle Penei Sewell, from Desert Hills High School in St. George, and all-purpose player Brady Breeze. USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele, from Bingham High, also made the first team.
Arizona State and Washington followed Utah with five first-team picks each.
Utah's other first-teamers are quarterback Tyler Huntley, offensive tackle Darrin Paulo, defensive end Bradlee Anae, defensive tackle Leki Fotu, linebacker Francis Bernard, safety Julian Blackmon and cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Anae, Fotu and Johnson are repeat selections. The Utes had a school-record nine first-team players, including three special-teams picks, in 2018.
Sophomore tight end Brant Kuithe and senior defensive tackle John Penisini made the second team. Seven players received honorable mention: safety Terrell Burgess, offensive guard Nick Ford, nickel back Javelin Guidry, linebacker Devin Lloyd, offensive tackle Simi Moala, defensive end Mika Tafua and center Orlando Umana. Of those players, only Burgess is a senior.
Moss was a somewhat surprising choice over Huntley for the top offensive award, considering he missed 1½ conference games due to a shoulder injury in September. Huntley, the first Utah quarterback to make the All-Pac-12 team, is among the country's most efficient passers.
Moss, who has rushed for 1,359 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 games, is the first conference player of the year on offense or defense in Utah’s Pac-12 era. Ute quarterback Brian Johnson was the most recent honoree, in the Mountain West in 2008.
“Winning the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is a great honor to me and is greatly appreciated,” Moss said in a statement. “Shout-out to my teammates and coaches for putting me in the position to even be considered for this award, let alone win it.”
With the option of adding to his numbers in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 31 vs. Texas, Moss will depart with school records for rushing yards (4,010), carries (696), rushing touchdowns (38), total touchdowns (41) and 100-yard games (19). Moss posted 170 yards of rushing and receiving against Oregon and was named a first-team All-American by the Pro Football Focus evaluators. PFF has given him high grades for his tackle-breaking ability, accounting for 1,000-plus yards after contact.
Anae received a Morris Trophy last weekend as the Pac-12′s top defensive linemen, as voted by opposing offensive lineman (Sewell won the offensive award). Anae likely was a contender for the Defensive Player of the Year award that went to California linebacker Evan Weaver. The Utes can endorse Weaver after he made 22 tackles against them in October.
In the Coach of the Year voting, Whittingham’s top challengers probably were Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, although Smith would have been a rare case of a conference coach of the year with a losing record (5-7).
Whittingham gets credit for guiding the Utes to the program's best record in Pac-12 play (the previous high was six victories), with an eight-game winning streak that followed a loss at USC.
Whittingham, who also was named the Region 5 Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, contractually receives a $55,000 bonus for the Pac-12 award. He’s among five finalists for the Dodd Trophy, a coaching award that factors in “scholarship, leadership and integrity.” The others are Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, Baylor’s Matt Rhule, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley was a finalist for the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant coach. LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady received the award Tuesday.
The Pac-12′s top freshmen are USC quarterback Kedon Slovis (offense) and Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who recorded 2½ sacks against Utah.
ALL-PAC-12 FIRST TEAM
Quarterback – Tyler Huntley, Utah.
Running backs – Eno Benjamin, Arizona State; Zack Moss, Utah.
Receivers – Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State; Michael Pittman Jr., USC.
Tight end – Hunter Bryant, Washington.
Line – Trey Adams, Washington; Nick Harris, Washington; Austin Jackson, USC; Darrin Paulo, Utah; Penei Sewell, Oregon.
Line – Bradlee Anae, Utah; Leki Fotu, Utah; Levi Onwuzurike, Washington; Jay Tufele, USC.
Linebackers – Francis Bernard, Utah; Nate Landman, Colorado; Evan Weaver, California.
Backs – Paulson Adebo, Stanford; Julian Blackmon, Utah; Jaylon Johnson, Utah; Elijah Molden, Washington.
Kicker – Blake Mazza, Washington State.
Punter – Michael Turk, Arizona State.
Returner – Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State.
All-purpose – Brady Breeze, Oregon; Case Hatch, Arizona State.