[Editor's Note: This story was first published on PFF.com on December 2, 2019]
The dust has settled on the 2019 regular season at the FBS level and it's time to take a look back. Ahead of the conference championships, we take a look at the best players at their respective positions with an in-depth look at how they graded over the course of the full season.
Utilizing our play-by-play grades of every player on every play of every game, our All-Pac-12 team takes into account every player's actions on the field on Saturdays while also utilizing our wealth of signature statistics to determine the list. The strength of opponent and consistent play also factor into our selections detailed below.
The 2019 All-Pac-12 Team
First Team: Tyler Huntley, Utah
Huntley is the first of many Utes we will see on this list — and deservedly so. He has the nation’s second-highest completion percentage at 74.9, just behind Heisman front-runner Joe Burrow. His 90.9 passing grade is third in the country and his 11.0 yards per attempt is fourth among qualifying quarterbacks in the country. He has outplayed all other Pac-12 quarterbacks from a clean pocket, posting a 129.4 passer rating and throwing nine touchdowns to zero turnovers. He added another 311 yards and five touchdowns on the ground as well, proving to have the mobility to do damage outside the pocket. Huntley saved his best play for what may be his final season in a Utah uniform if he declares for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Second Team: Justin Herbert, Oregon Third Team: Anthony Gordon, Washington State Honorable Mention: Jake Luton, Oregon State
First Team: Zack Moss, Utah
For a while, it seemed like Moss was going to set the record for the highest missed-tackle-forced percentage in a season, as he broke tackles at a historic rate in 2019. While he didn't set the record, he did break the previous record held by David Montgomery by forcing a missed tackle on 39% of his attempts, breaking 78 tackles on 199 carries and gaining 1,242 yards on the ground. He finished seventh in total yards after contact with 929, averaging the fifth-best yards after contact per attempt, with 4.7. Moss doesn't go down on first contact very often, and 33.0% of his carries actually moved the chains for a first down (50) or a touchdown (15), as his rushing conversion percentage ranks inside the top 20 among all running backs.
He makes the Utah offense roll, and it's never more notable than now when looking back and seeing their lone loss came to USC in a game where he left with an injury. The Utes will continue to roll as Tyler Huntley (our third-team All-American quarterback) and Moss will carry them, and that should be into the College Football Playoff.
Second Team: Joshua Kelley, UCLA Third Team: J.J. Taylor, Arizona Honorable Mention: Artavis Pierce, Oregon State
First Team: Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Benjamin ran all over opposing defenses for the Sun Devils, as he was a focal point for their offense. He amassed 1,067 rushing yards on the season, as well as a conference-leading 67 first downs plus touchdowns. He was elusive with the ball in his hands in the open field, forcing 63 missed tackles, a mark that only Zack Moss surpassed in the Pac-12. Benjamin did damage in the receiving game, too, grabbing 42 receptions for 346 yards, two touchdowns and nine more missed tackles forced. This is his just his second season as the teams lead running back, so it's safe to say we will be seeing a lot more from Benjamin in the years to come.
Second Team: Max Borghi, Washington State Third Team: Salvon Ahmed, Washington Honorable Mention: CJ Verdell, Oregon
First Team: Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State
Hodgins delivered game in and game out for the Beavers, recording 63 first downs plus touchdowns on the season, second-most in the nation. He posted 1,164 yards and 13 touchdowns despite averaging just 3.5 yards after the catch per reception. He only dropped one pass on 117 targets, having some of the surest hands in all of college football, earning the trust of quarterback Jake Luton early. He had 32 receptions of 15-plus yards and 13 contested catches, making plays all over the football field. Due to his production, Hodgins was rewarded with the best overall and receiving grades in the conference.
Second Team: Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado Third Team: Tony Brown, Colorado Honorable Mention: Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
First Team: Michael Pittman Jr., USC
Pittman Jr. concluded his season with the most receiving yards in the conference and the sixth-most in the nation with 1,216. He also nabbed 11 touchdowns (tied for second), 14 missed tackles forced (tied for fourth) and a passer rating of 124.6 when targeted (fourth) — all of which were top-five marks in the Pac-12 among qualifying receivers. He was able to produce such stellar numbers despite losing starting quarterback JT Daniels in Week 1 and having a freshman in Kedon Slovis at the helm of the offense.
Second Team: Easop Winston Jr., Washington State Third Team: Tyler Vaughns, USC Honorable Mention: Bryan Thompson, Utah
First Team: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Aiyuk showcased his blazing speed and route-running ability week in and week out, posting the conferences best yards per route run at 3.04. He was among the best at the position in the Pac-12 in various areas, nabbing 18.3 yards per reception (second), 10.9 yards after the catch per reception (first), 14 missed tackles forced (tied for fourth) and a 133.9 passer rating when targeted (third). He was also able to snag 28 receptions of 15-plus yards, proving to be an elite deep threat. Aiyuk was a key reason for true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels’ success in his first season and will be a highly sought after receiving threat for many NFL teams.
Second Team: Brandon Arconado, Washington State Third Team: Aaron Fuller, Washington Honorable Mention: Dezmon Patmon, Washington State
First Team: Brant Kuithe, Utah
Kuithe became Huntley’s favorite target throughout the season, as well as a dangerous red-zone receiver. Even with the offense running the ball a great deal, he finished with 550 yards and six touchdowns on his way to the highest overall and receiving grades among tight ends in the conference. He had 9.1 yards after the catch per reception, which was best at the position, and a 146.4 passer rating when targeted that ranked third. Kuithe even contributed on the ground, gaining 73 yards and three touchdowns during the season. He will need to continue his dominant play to keep Utah’s playoffs alive next Saturday against Oregon.
Second Team: Hunter Bryant, Washington Third Team: Devin Asiasi, UCLA Honorable Mention: Noah Togiai, Oregon State
First Team: Penei Sewell, Oregon
With legitimate consideration for the Heisman Trophy, it's no shock to see Sewell here as he's pressing for the best overall grade we've ever given to a tackle in a single season. A year removed from setting the record for the highest grade we've given to a true freshman at the position, Sewell's sophomore campaign has been nothing short of dominant. He's the most-represented athlete on our National Team of the Week and leads all tackles in run-blocking grade and overall grade by some margin. He's allowed just six total pressures on 436 pass-blocking snaps, not allowing a single sack all year long.
Sewell has the moves of a much smaller man but the strength of a much bigger one. There is seemingly no limit to what he can accomplish, and it's a safe bet that his junior season will have him dotting every preseason award watch list, including the Heisman in 2020.
Second Team: Blake Brandel, Oregon State Third Team: Jared Hilbers, Washington Honorable Mention: Jake Burton, UCLA
First Team: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
With a true freshman quarterback in the backfield, it was essential for the offensive line to give him the most time in the pocket as possible to read the defense. Vera-Tucker made sure Kedon Slovis had all the time he needed as he allowed a pressure percentage of 1.2%, second-best in the entire conference. He conceded just six pressures all season, none of which resulted in sacks or quarterback hits. Vera-Tucker did not stop there — he also generated running lanes for the USC backs to take advantage of, as he netted the Pac-12’s best run-blocking grade from the position.
Second Team: Gus Lavaka, Oregon State Third Team: Dallas Warmack, Oregon Honorable Mention: Robert Valencia, Washington State
First Team: Nick Harris, Washington
The Huskies' offensive line leader posted the highest run-blocking and pass-blocking grades among all centers in the conference, utterly dominating up the middle. He conceded just five quarterback pressures on the season on 361 snaps in pass protection. He thwarted everything defenses threw at him, allowing a pressure percentage of 1.4%, tied for the third-lowest among all offensive lineman in the Pac-12. Harris will hear his name called next April and will be snapping the ball in the NFL come the 2020 season.
Second Team: Michael Saffell, Cal Third Team: Jake Hanson, Oregon Honorable Mention: Drew Dalman, Stanford
First Team: Shane Lemieux, Oregon
Lemieux was a key piece of an offensive line that ranked seventh among all FBS teams in pass-blocking. He forfeited 14 total pressures on 441 pass-blocking snaps, giving star quarterback Justin Herbert what time he needed to dissect opposing defenses. The Oregon Duck also contributed mightily in the running game, posting the second-best run-blocking grade among guards in the Pac-12, just behind USC’s Vera-Tucker.
Second Team: Jaxson Kirkland, Washington Third Team: Dohnovan West, Arizona State Honorable Mention: Nick Ford, Utah
First Team: Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon
The other elite Oregon offensive tackle, Throckmorton kept Justin Herbert upright all season. He allowed a pressure percentage of 1.4%, tied for third-best among all lineman in the conference. In 441 reps in pass protection, he forfeited just six total pressures and not a single sack. Throckmorton also produced in the run game, posting the third-best run-blocking grade in the Pac-12. The four-year starter will assuredly be drafted within the first few rounds in April 2020.
Second Team: Abraham Lucas, Washington State Third Team: Jake Curhan, Cal Honorable Mention: Arlington Hambright, Colorado
First Team: Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
Oregon State may not have had the season they were hoping for, but they got the most out of their junior edge defender. Rashed Jr. didn't have the most quarterback pressures on the season, but he did have the most sacks in the conference and was tied for the third-most in the nation, with 15. He also recorded 26 defensive stops against the run, which was good for second-best among edge defenders in the Pac-12. To cap it off, Rashed Jr. also had two forced fumbles on the season on his way to the highest overall grade at the position, with a 79.2 mark.
Second Team: Jermayne Lolo, Arizona State Third Team: Ryan Bowman, Washington Honorable Mention: Nnamdi Oguayo, Washington State
First Team: Bradlee Anae, Utah
The first of many Utes on the Pac-12 defensive team of the year, Anae had a season that rivaled the best in the country. Anae’s 90.1 pass-rush grade is the highest in the conference — and it isn't even close. He has almost single-handedly generated pressure on opposing quarterbacks for Utah, posting a pass-rush win rate of 21.8%, best in the Pac-12. His 57 total pressures are the most in the conference and fifth-most among all edge defenders in the nation.
Second Team: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon Third Team: Drake Jackson, USC Honorable Mention: Joe Tyron, Washington
First Team: John Penisini, Utah
Penisini is Utah’s best run-stuffer up the middle, posting the highest run-defense in the conference at an elite 91.0. One reason for his outstanding grade as a run defender is his two forced fumbles, both of which occurred while defending against the run. He has also added 13 quarterback pressures to his season’s resume, including two sacks and one quarterback hit.
Second Team: Levi Onwuzurike, Washington Third Team: Jay Tufele, USC Honorable Mention: Mustafa Johnson, Colorado
First Team: Leki Fotu, Utah
Another Utah defensive lineman, Fotu recorded a run-defense grade of 89.3, coming in just behind his teammate (Penisini) for the best in the conference. The duo of Fotu and Penisini up front are a key factor as to why Utah currently holds the fifth-highest team run-defense grade in the nation. Fotu also has 15 quarterback pressures, including one sack and four quarterback hits, as well as one forced fumble against the run.
Second Team: Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA Third Team: Brett Johnson, Cal Honorable Mention: Benning Potoa'e, Washington
First Team: Francis Bernard, Utah
The only linebacker with more than one interception, Bernard made plays all over the field for the Utes defense and will look to continue to do so in the Pac-12 championship. He finished the regular season with a run-stop percentage of 13.4%, best among all defenders in the conference. Bernard also had top-five ranks in yards per reception allowed (third) and passer rating when targeted (second), proving to have the ability to both stop the run and play in coverage for Utah.
Second Team: Evan Weaver, Cal Third Team: Mase Funa, Oregon Honorable Mention: Doug Taumoelau, Oregon State
First Team: Troy Dye, Oregon
The highest-graded coverage linebacker in the conference, Dye did not allow a single touchdown while forcing three pass breakups and one interception. Dye had a 70.4 passer rating when targeted in coverage, the fourth-best among all linebackers in the Pac-12. He also made plays rushing the passer, recording 26 quarterback pressures, second-most from the position and one forced fumble.
Second Team: Devin Lloyd, Utah Third Team: Krys Barnes, UCLA Honorable Mention: Carson Wells, Colorado
First Team: Elijah Molden, Washington
The Washington product was absolutely stellar in coverage for the Huskies this season, finishing with the highest coverage grade in the Pac-12. He posted 27 defense stops — the most among cornerbacks in the conference — as well as two forced fumbles, both of which occurred in coverage. On top of this, he netted three more interceptions and a position-leading 11 pass breakups, showcasing his ball-hawking ability.
Second Team: Trent McDuffie, Washington Third Team: Kobe Williams, Arizona State Honorable Mention: Mykael Wright, Oregon
First Team: Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Yet another Utah defender, Johnson had a career year in the Utes secondary in 2019. He allowed just 27 receptions on 59 targets and one touchdown en route to a coverage grade of 86.1, ranking third among cornerbacks in the conference. He had only two interceptions on the year, but he did force another seven pass breakups, making life difficult for opposing wide receivers. His 9.9 yards per reception forfeited was the fourth-best mark at the position, and his 50.6 passer rating when targeted was the second best.
Second Team: Josh Nurse, Utah Third Team: Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon Honorable Mention: Lorenzo Burns, Arizona
First Team: Julian Blackmon, Utah
The transition to safety from cornerback paid big dividends for Blackmon, as he finished the regular season as the Utes' highest-graded player on defense among a star-studded cast. Blackmon made nine total plays on the ball, including four interceptions and five more pass breakups, as he displayed his strong coverage skills more often than not. He missed just seven of his total 56 tackle attempts and recorded 11 stops across the board.
Blackmon's football instincts are second to none, and that showed time in and time out for the senior. He capped his fine season with perhaps the most perfectly-timed blitz from any safety this year, sniffing out a hole in UCLA's protection and utilizing elite closing speed to track down Dorian Thompson-Robinson for a strip-sack.
Blackmon's all-around play embodies the Utah defense this year, and they've more than proven that they belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. Blackmon, of course, is a huge reason why.
Second Team: Myles Bryant, Washington Third Team: Ashtyn Davis, Cal Honorable Mention: Cam Phillips, Arizona State
First Team: Terrell Burgess, Utah
The last Utah defender to grace the Pac-12 team of the year, Burgess concluded his season with the conference’s best coverage grade at 89.5. He did not allow a single passing touchdown into his coverage while nabbing one interception and four pass breakups. Burgess forfeited just 6.2 yards per reception, the third-lowest among qualifying safeties in the conference, as well as a passer rating of 57.1 that ranked sixth-best. On top of his coverage ability, he was able to add 15 total quarterback pressures, the most in the Pac-12 and tied for third-most in the nation.
Second Team: Brady Breeze, Oregon Third Team: Aashari Crosswell, Arizona State Honorable Mention: Cameron Williams, Washington
First Team: Jevon Holland, Oregon
Holland has been a cornerstone to an Oregon secondary that has played at an elite level all season. He ended the season with an overall grade of 82.0 (10th) and a coverage grade of 84.5 (seventh), both of which were top-10 finishes in the conference. The Oregon standout allowed a passer rating of 65.6, forfeiting just one touchdown to four interceptions and four pass breakups. Holland played his best football when covering the slot, not allowing a single touchdown into his 348 coverage snaps while snatching three interceptions for a passer rating of 58.9 when targeted, third-best in the Pac-12.
Second Team: Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon Third Team: Tareke Lewis, Utah Honorable Mention: Nick Pickett, Oregon
First Team: Blake Mazza, Washington State
Not only was Mazza the highest-graded kicker in the PAC-12, but the tenth highest in the nation. He missed just one field goal, connecting on 20 of 21 attempts, including 2 for 2 from 50-plus yards. He also made 55-57 extra points, proving to be a consistent placekicker for the Cougars.
Second Team: Chase McGrath, USC Third Team: Peyton Henry, Washington Honorable Mention: Jadon Redding, Utah
First Team: Michael Turk, Arizona State
The highest-graded punter in the Pac-12 and the seventh-highest in the nation, Turk consistently forced the opposition deep into their own territory. He had 36 punts that ended within the 20, which is the third-most, including a long of 75 on the year. He also recorded an average hangtime of 4.32, tied for the third-best among all punters.
Second Team: Ben Griffiths, USC Third Team: Daniel Rodriguez, Oregon State Honorable Mention: Blake Maimone, Oregon
First Team: Travell Harris, Washington State
The Pac-12’s best kick returner goes to Harris out of Washington State, finishing as the fourth-highest graded kick returner in the country. He netted 697 yards on 29 returners on the season, nabbing a long of 83 yards that nearly scored six points for the Cougars in the process. The sophomore will have at least one more season to once again dominate as a kick returner for Washington State, proving to be a valuable asset on special teams.
Second Team: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State Third Team: Velus Jones Jr., USC Honorable Mention: Champ Flemings, Oregon State
First Team: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
The of the nation’s third-highest graded punt returner belongs to none other than Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk. On top of being of the best receivers in the Pac-12, Aiyuk has dazzled returning punts, averaging 16.1 yards per return, good for the sixth-best among qualifying players. He was even able to take one to the house, running a punt 63 yards back for a touchdown against Oregon State in Week 12.
Second Team: Aaron Fuller, Washington Third Team: Jevon Holland, Oregon Honorable Mention: Michael Wilson, Stanford