The start of college football is only 99 days away, so it’s time to start asking some of the more serious speculative questions. Washington State placed four players on the All-Pac-12 teams last year, how many will make it in 2017, and who will they be?
While Gabe Marks and Shalom Luani made the first team, and Luke Falk and Hercules Mata’afa made the second team, the Pac-12 coaches notably snubbed one WSU player. Guard Cody O’Connell was voted a unanimous first team All-American by the media but was only regarded as honorable mention by his own conference.
The slight hasn’t been forgotten, and Bill Moos brought it up with fellow athletic directors and the conference’s football coaches at the spring Pac-12 meetings. If O’Connell stays healthy in 2017, he’s as safe a bet as any Coug to make the All-Conference teams.
While Falk made it last year, the competition for the two quarterback spots will be tough. USC’s Sam Darnold didn’t make either team last year but grew into a star as the season progressed and is a favorite for the 2017 Heisman Trophy. It’s hard to expect Falk to outshine Darnold, or UW’s Jake Browning.
Mata’afa, on the other hand, seems primed to make the jump from second to first team. All four first team defensive line selections either graduated, or left for the NFL, and Hercules should only increase his production as a junior.
Jacob Thorpe, of the Spokesman-Review, recorded his prediction for the first team on Sunday and only included O’Connell and Mata’afa from WSU. That seems like the smartest assessment but there are some other players to watch out for.
In any offense that is likely to throw for 5,000 yards the receivers are going to put up some gaudy numbers. After the graduation of Marks, Tavares Martin Jr. is poised to become a much bigger part of the passing game. Watch for him to be All-Conference if he makes use of his additional targets in 2017.
On the other side of the ball, Peyton Pelluer was named honorable mention last year and returns to lead the defense again. Don’t be surprised if Pelluer, one of the most experienced players on the team, is an All-Pac-12 performer in his final season.
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