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Hercules Mata'afa named to freshman all-american team

The WSU defensive end's first year campaign got some love from the national media.

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Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The USA Today's Freshman All-American team was announced Thursday, and Cougar redshirt freshman defensive end Hercules Mata'afa was named to the list. Mata'afa was joined by some of the country's elite newcomers, including UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and USC linebacker Cameron Smith.

Mata'afa, while not a starter on defense this year, commanded a considerable amount of playing time in the defensive line rotation, and often made the most of it. The defensive end has six sacks on the season, with the first two coming in the Cougars 34-28 loss to Cal.

His sack total tied him for the team lead, and was the sixth best number posted in the Pac-12. Of all the defensive lineman selected to the freshmen team, only Mizzou's Terry Beckner Jr. has more sacks than Hercules.

His numbers speak for themselves, and Mata'afa deserves this honor even if he doesn't fit the prototype for a freshman all-american. He didn't come in as a four or five star prospect, and his offer list pales in comparison to Rosen's. But the Maui native has proven to be a play maker since he arrived in Pullman. Last season he was a star on Thursday nights and this year he made plays on Saturdays

Mata'afa projects as a starter next year, as the Cougs lose both of 2015's starting defensive ends to graduation. After another offseason training he will likely come back a bit heavier, with hopefully a minimal reduction in speed. As a sophomore the sky will be limit for Mata'afa, who will be one of the premier returning pass rushers in the conference. Hopefully we see even more plays like this in 2016.


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