News & Analysis

College Football: PFF's 2020 Preseason All-PAC 12 Team

No year in college football will be more memorable than the one we are experiencing now, as the impact of COVID-19 has forced most colleges to cancel the 2020 fall football season with the hope of trying to play in the spring.

We aren't here to give you our opinion on whether they should or should not have played in the fall, nor are we going to do that with their attempt to play in the spring. Instead, we want to shine a light on the players who deserve credit for the performances they have put forth over their college careers.

Without further ado, we present to you what would have been the 2020 PFF College Preseason All-PAC 12 Team.

QUARTERBACK

FIRST TEAM: KEDON SLOVIS, USC

Few people expected Slovis to have immense success as a true freshman last year after being thrown into the starting role due to a season-ending injury to J.T. Daniels, but here we are naming him one of the best players in the country. He earned an 80.8 passing grade on the year, displaying some of the sharpest accuracy we have ever seen. Slovis ranked sixth or better in limiting uncatchable passes at every level — short passes under 9 yards to the intermediate range of 10-19 yards to deep 20-plus yard shots. He has far from tapped into his full potential and is a star in the making.

Second Team: Grant Gunnell, Arizona
Third Team: Chase Garbers, Cal
Honorable Mention: Jake Bentley, Utah

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: MAX BORGHI, WASHINGTON STATE

Borghi was a top receiving back for Mike Leach, but now he will get his opportunity to shine a bit more as a rusher under Nick Rolovich, even if those opportunities may be very few and far between. He brings great value in both facets with his wheels and elusiveness; he was one of three backs to earn 80.0- plus grades as both a rusher receiver and receiver in 2019.

Second Team: Gary Brightwell, Arizona
Third Team: Christopher Brown Jr., Cal
Honorable Mention: Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: C.J. VERDELL, OREGON

Oregon’s offense ranked second in the conference in EPA per running back rush last year, and Verdell was a big reason why. Only Zack Moss averaged more yards after contact per attempt than Verdell (4.1), and his 81.2 rushing grade trailed only Borghi for the best among those who were set to return this year.

Second Team: Demetric Felton, UCLA
Third Team: Alex Fontenot, Colorado
Honorable Mention: Stephen Carr, USC

WIDE RECEIVER

September 1, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (8) catches a ball for a touchdown in front of UNLV Rebels defensive back Jericho Flowers (7) during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: AMON-RA ST. BROWN, USC

St. Brown is a fluid and sudden route-runner who is more than capable of winning on the outside. He saw only 39 targets against single coverage last year but generated separation on 22 of those targets.

Second Team: Frank Darby, Arizona State
Third Team: Johnny Johnson III, Oregon
Honorable Mention: Drake London, USC

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: TYLER VAUGHNS, USC

Vaughns has incredible ball skills and can adjust to anything off-target. He also has the ability to make highlight-reel catches just inches from the sideline — his 28 receptions within a yard of sideline since 2017 are six more than any FBS wide receiver over that span. Perhaps more impressively, he has dropped only 10 of the 209 catchable targets over his career.

Second Team: Britain Covey, Utah
Third Team: Connor Wedington, Stanford
Honorable Mention: Jamarye Joiner, Arizona

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: KYLE PHILLIPS, UCLA

Philips is a refined route-runner who freezes defensive backs out of his crisp breaks. He generated a step or more of separation at the 11th-highest rate among FBS slot receivers in 2019 and earned third-best receiving grade among the wide receivers who were set to return to the PAC 12.

Second Team: Jaylen Dixon, Utah
Third Team: Simi Fehoko, Stanford
Honorable Mention: K.D. Nixon, Colorado

TIGHT END

FIRST TEAM: BRANT KUITHE, UTAH

While his size isn’t prototypical for a tight end, Kuithe is incredibly athletic and has route-running chops most guys his size don’t. He’s a weapon in the slot — 47% of his slot targets resulted in a 15-plus-yard play, the highest rate in the FBS.

Second Team: Cade Otton, Washington
Third Team: Spencer Webb, Oregon
Honorable Mention: Cole Fotheringham, Utah

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

April 20, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Penei Sewell (58) blocks a defender during the Oregon spring game at Autzen Stadium. Mighty Oregon beat Fighting Ducks 20-13. Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: PENEI SEWELL, OREGON

Sewell is to the offensive tackle position what Trevor Lawrence is to the quarterback position. Players get tagged with the “generational” status far too often, but it without question applies to Sewell. He's the best tackle we have seen since PFF College's inception in 2014, and it isn't particularly close. Sewell earned grades above 91.0 as both a pass-blocker and a run-blocker in 2019, paving the way to a 95.8 PFF overall grade on the year. For perspective, that's a full grading point higher than the next best season by a Power 5 tackle (Michigan State's Jack Conklin in 2015, 94.6).

Second Team: Jake Curhan, Cal
Third Team: Walker Little, Stanford
Honorable Mention: Liam Ryan, Washington State

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: ALIJAH VERA-TUCKER, USC

Vera-Tucker is the best pass-protecting guard in the country. His pass-blocking grade in 2019 leads all returning Power 5 guards, and he lost only four of his 121 true pass sets last season. He was a candidate to replace Austin Jackson at tackle, and we are confident he could maintain his top-tier status there.

Second Team: Henry Bainivalu, Washington
Third Team: Colby Pursell, Colorado
Honorable Mention: Robert Congel, Arizona

CENTER

FIRST TEAM: DREW DALMAN, STANFORD

It was a close call between Dalman and Michael Saffell of Cal, but the Stanford center ultimately gets the nod here. He had the fourth-most true pass sets of 2019 and sat at the 85th percentile among FBS centers in pass-blocking grade on those reps.

Second Team: Michael Saffell, Cal
Third Team: Josh McCauley, Arizona
Honorable Mention: Brett Neilon, USC

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: DOHNOVAN WEST, ARIZONA STATE

There was a whole lot to like with the way West played as a true freshman in 2019. Taking out the first two games of the year when he started at center before kicking to guard, West earned a 69.9 PFF grade that ranked third among all first-year guards in the FBS.

Second Team: Luke Wattenberg, Washington
Third Team: Alec Anderson, UCLA
Honorable Mention: Josh Watson, Washington State

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: ABRAHAM LUCAS, WASHINGTON STATE

Lucas is a unit at 6-foot-7, 324 pounds, and he really isn’t easy to defeat in pass protection. He ranks eighth in pass-blocking grade since 2018 and has allowed the ninth-lowest pressure rate on true pass sets among FBS tackles.

Second Team: Jake Burton, UCLA
Third Team: Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
Honorable Mention: Foster Sarell, Stanford

 


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INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: LEVI ONWUZURIKE, WASHINGTON

Onwuzurike is — and has been — one of the most dominant interior defenders in college football. He’s the ninth-most valuable player at the position since 2018 and has used his quick first step to help produce the highest pressure rate among Power 5 players at his position.

Second Team: Jay Tufele, USC
Third Team: Tuli Letuligasenoa, Washington
Honorable Mention: Marlon Tuipulotu, USC

INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: OSA ODIGHIZUWA, UCLA

Odighizuwa can walk guys back as a pass-rusher. His pass-rush win rate in 2019 (13.1%) was third in the PAC 12. Throw in the fact that he also earned the fourth-best run-defense grade in the PAC 12, and you have yourself a top-tier player on the line.

Second Team: Mustafa Johnson, Colorado
Third Team: Jermayne Lole, Arizona State
Honorable Mention: Brett Johnson, Cal

EDGE DEFENDER

January 1, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Jack Coan (17) throws the ball while pressured by Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5)during the first half at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON

Thibodeaux came to Oregon as one of the highest-ranked recruits in the country and very much lived up to the hype right out of the gate as a true freshman in 2019. His get-off and bend are up there with the best in the country. Thibodeaux broke out specifically in the Ducks’ Week 6 matchup against Cal last year when he posted a 92.2 pass-rush grade and from there on out was the highest-graded pass-rusher in the PAC 12. It's up there as one of the best seasons we have recorded by a true freshman edge rusher.

Second Team: Ryan Bowman, Washington
Third Team: Willie Taylor III, Washington State
Honorable Mention: Maxs Tupai, Utah

EDGE DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: HAMILCAR RASHED JR., OREGON STATE

Rashed’s sack total from 2019 might be skewing the perception of him a little bit too far in his favor, as his 77.5 pass-rush grade was 33rd among Power Five edge rushers. He’s not elite, but he’s still in the conversation for the PAC 12’s top edge rusher.

Second Team: Joe Tryon, Washington
Third Team: Gabe Reid, Stanford
Honorable Mention: Caleb Tremblay, USC

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH

One of the best things Lloyd brings to the table is his blitzing — he recorded a pressure on 21 of his 106 pass rushes last season. He struggled down the stretch last year but was one of the 15 highest-graded Power 5 linebackers through the first nine weeks of the season.

Second Team: Jahad Woods, Washington State
Third Team: Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
Honorable Mention: Isaac Slade-Matautia, Oregon

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: NATE LANDMAN, COLORADO

Landman, Jahad Woods and Colin Schooler are all in a similar boat, as all three had strong 2018 seasons, and all three dropped off in 2019. Landman ultimately gets the nod here, though, as he has proven to be able to play at a near-elite level. In 2018, the Colorado linebacker earned an 85.7 PFF grade that ranked 11th among Power 5 linebackers.

Second Team: Colin Schooler, Arizona
Third Team: Omar Speights, Oregon State
Honorable Mention: Jackson Sirmon, Washington

CORNERBACK

October 5, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Elijah Molden (3) stands on the field during the third quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: ELIJAH MOLDEN, WASHINGTON

Molden has been one of the most productive slot defenders we have ever come across in the PFF College era. Over the past two seasons, Molden has produced the second-best slot coverage grade and forced 21 incompletions, six more than anyone else at the alignment. He reacts swiftly in coverage, and that helped him rack up 26 passing stops in the slot in 2019, nine more than anyone else in the FBS. Molden still gave up a concerning amount of first downs (21), but his nose for the football outweighs the bad.

Second Team: Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Third Team: Lorenzo Burns, Arizona
Honorable Mention: Camryn Bynum, Cal

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: MYKAEL WRIGHT, OREGON

Wright has earned a much larger role in Oregon’s secondary after impressing on his 306 snaps as a true freshman in 2019. He allowed a minimal 34.8% catch rate (8 of 23) on his targets in coverage en route to an 81.9 coverage grade. Wright’s performance in press coverage, in particular, stood out. On his 91 press snaps, he allowed just three catches on 13 targets (zero for first downs) and made six plays on the ball.

Second Team: Trent McDuffie, Washington
Third Team: Christian Roland-Wallace, Arizona
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Dunn, Oregon State

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: JEVON HOLLAND, OREGON

Holland is a playmaker in its purest form. Over the last two years — as a true freshman and sophomore — Holland has come away with 20 combined pass breakups and interceptions, second among FBS safeties. Over that same span, no defensive back has earned a higher slot coverage grade than Holland. Oregon’s secondary is a historically talented one, and Holland's skill set is a big reason for that.

Second Team: Aashari Crosswell, Arizona State
Third Team: Talanoa Hufanga, USC
Honorable Mention: Malik Antoine, Stanford

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: BRADY BREEZE, OREGON

Breeze hadn’t really been relied upon before his breakout down the stretch of the 2019 season that culminated with him winning the Rose Bowl MVP on the defensive side of the ball. Breeze posted an 86.9 coverage grade over the 2019 campaign.

Second Team: Nick Pickett, Oregon
Third Team: Cameron Williams, Washington
Honorable Mention: Quentin Lake, UCLA

FLEX DEFENSE

FIRST TEAM: THOMAS GRAHAM JR., OREGON

Graham has been one of the top outside cornerbacks in college football the last couple of years, producing a two-year 89.7 coverage grade that is among the 10 best in the country. His read-react ability is lights out, and he has tallied 26 forced incompletions (sixth) and 23 passing stops (second) at outside corner since 2018. Whether Oregon puts him there or in the slot in order to get Mykael Wright on the field, you can count on Graham to make plays.

Second Team: Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
Third Team: Elijah Hicks, Cal
Honorable Mention: Chigozie Anusiem, Cal

KICKER

First Team: Blake Mazza, Washington State
Second Team: Jet Toner, Stanford
Third Team: Chase McGrath, USC
Honorable Mention: Peyton Henry, Washington

PUNTER

First Team: Ben Griffiths, USC
Second Team: Michael Turk, Arizona State
Third Team: Ryan Sanborn, Stanford
Honorable Mention: Oscar Draguicevich III, Washington State

KICK RETURNER

First Team: Mykael Wright, Oregon
Second Team: Travell Harris, Washington State
Third Team: Connor Wedington, Stanford
Honorable Mention: Champ Flemings, Oregon State

PUNT RETURNER

First Team: Kyle Philips, UCLA
Second Team: Nikko Remigio, Cal
Third Team: Jevon Holland, Oregon
Honorable Mention: Britain Covey, Utah

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