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Utah’s Kyle Whittingham named Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Devin Lloyd takes home Defensive Player of the Year honors

The Utes had 10 players named to the All-Pac-12 first or second teams after claiming their first conference championship

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham celebrates the win with Utah Utes linebacker Andrew Mata'afa (55). The Utes defeated the Oregon Ducks to win the 2021 Pac12 Football Championship title at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Dec 3, 2021.

In the wake of winning the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night, the University of Utah cleaned up Tuesday afternoon on postseason individual honors and All-Pac-12 selections.

Redshirt junior linebacker Devin Lloyd, the MVP of the Pac-12 championship game, was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, while Kyle Whittingham was named Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons, and defensive tackle Junior Tafuna was named Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Lloyd, a Butkus Award finalist who was one of a league-high 10 Utes to be named All-Pac-12 first or second teams on Tuesday, is just the third Utah player to earn an individual honor since the Utes entered the Pac-12 in 2011. He joins running back Zack Moss (2019 Offensive Player of the Year) and the late Ty Jordan (2020 Offensive Freshman of the Year) as individual award recipients.

Through 13 games, Lloyd has 106 total tackles, including 22 for a loss and eight sacks. He has four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, including a 34-yard pick-six in the Pac-12 championship game. The 22 tackles for a loss rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 2 nationally, while the eight sacks and 106 total tackles both ranked inside the Pac-12′s top five.

Whittingham’s second Coach of the Year selection comes after he steered Utah to a 10-3 record, the program’s fourth Pac-12 South title, including third outright, and it’s first Pac-12 championship game win, a 38-10 destruction of Oregon on Friday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Tafuna had a tremendous run this fall. Thrust into duty in the middle of the San Diego State on Sept 18 after Viane Moala was lost for the season, Tafuna went from having almost zero collegiate snaps to quickly becoming a force at defensive tackle. In 12 games this season, Tafuna has 32 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks.

With the win over the Ducks, the Utes are through to their first Rose Bowl, where they will take on perennial national power Ohio State on New Year’s Day (3 p.m., ESPN).

The remaining individual awards on Tuesday went to USC wide receiver Drake London (Offensive Player of the Year) and Washington State quarterback Jayden De Laura (Offensive Freshman of the Year).

Aside from Lloyd’s first-team defense selection, Utah also received first-team slots for quarterback Cam Rising, running back Tavion Thomas, offensive lineman Nick Ford (second first-team selection), defensive lineman Mika Tafua and Britain Covey (third first-team selection), who got the return specialist spot. Utah’s second-team selections include cornerback Clark Phillips, tight end Brant Kuithe, and offensive linemen Bam Olaseni and Braeden Daniels.

Safeties Cole Bishop and Vonte Davis, tight end Dalton Kincaid, offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea and linebacker Nephi Sewell were all named All-Pac-12 honorable mention, giving Utah 15 total honorees.

All-Pac-12 is voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Associated Press All-Pac-12 team, which is voted on by the media, is slated to be released on Friday.

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