The Coaches All-Pac-12 football team was announced yesterday, and there were seven Utes who saw their name on either the first or second team. Utah was led by four players: defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei, linebacker Gionni Paul, defensive back Marcus Williams, and punter Tom Hackett (a three-time First Team All-Pac-12 punter) on the All-Pac-12 First Team. Three other Utes made the second team: running back Devontae Booker, offensive lineman J.J. Dielman, and linebacker Jared Norris. offensive lineman Isaac Asiata, return specialist Britain Covey, defensive lineman Jason Fanaika, and place kicker Andy Phillips were all Honorable Mention All-Pac-12. The two teams playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game: Stanford and USC, along with UCLA all placed nine players on the first or second team. Utah and Oregon came in next with seven players on the first and second teams. No freshman made the first or second team this season.
There were a few things that surprised me about the selections. I was surprised that Utah center Siaosi Aiono did not even get Honorable Mention All-Pac-12. Granted, he was injured for part of the season, but he still played well enough in my mind to get Honorable Mention. While there were no real standout freshmen in the Pac-12 this year, it surprises me no freshman made the All-Pac-12 First or Second team. Since the Pac-10 expanded to the Pac-12 in 2011, at least one freshman has made an all-conference team every year before this season. While he experienced a down year, it is surprising to think that Phillips, who was the First-Team kicker last year, would fall all the way to Honorable Mention. He made more field goals than any other kicker in the Pac-12 with 23 and was fourth in field goal percentage. All of the kicks Phillips missed were from 40 yards or further away. Of 2015 First-Team kicker Oregon's Aidan Schneider's 20 made field goals, nine were from less than 30 yards. He never attempted a kick from 50+ yards and only attempted four kicks from 40+ (making all four). Compare that to Phillips, who only attempted three kicks from less than 30 yards and attempted 12 kicks from 40+ (including a 53-yard kick he made). While Schneider had a better field goal percentage (going 20-of-22), Phillips was asked to do more for his team. Phillips was also excellent making tackles on kickoff coverage, an underrated part of his game.
A complete list of players selected to each team can be found here.