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USC’s Talanoa Hufanga is chosen Pac-12 defensive player of the year

USC safety Talanoa Hufanga, left, pulls down Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura.
USC safety Talanoa Hufanga, left, sacks Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura on Dec. 6 at the Coliseum.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

USC might have finished just short of the Pac-12’s top prize, but no conference football team had more players honored in a vote by coaches.

No defensive player was more dominant across the conference this year than Trojans junior safety Talanoa Hufanga, who was selected the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year on Tuesday.

The anchor of USC’s retooled defense over six games, Hufanga led the team in tackles (62), tallied three sacks, and paced the entire conference in interceptions (4), despite having never picked off a pass in two previous seasons.

Over the final two games of the season, as USC upended UCLA and fell short against Oregon, Hufanga came alive, corralling 29 tackles (four for loss), two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

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After a 5-1 season that ended in a disappointing loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, it seems USC is spinning its wheels under Clay Helton.

Five Trojans in all were named to the All-Pac-12 first team, more than any other school in the conference. Hufanga, quarterback Kedon Slovis, wideout Amon-ra St. Brown, offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu were named to the first team, while four others — receivers Drake London and Tyler Vaughns, linebacker Drake Jackson and cornerback Chris Steele — made the second team.

UCLA had one All-Pac-12 first team selection in senior defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa, who announced Tuesday he is heading to the NFL. Dorian Thompson-Robinson finished just behind Slovis at quarterback, earning second-team honors. Running back Demetric Felton and tight end Greg Dulcich were also on the second team.

Linebacker Caleb Johnson, who finished second in the Pac-12 in sacks (5.5) and seventh in tackles, got an honorable mention.

The Trojans’ 31-24 loss to the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game wiped out the impact of the three previous comeback wins.

Colorado’s Karl Dorrell was chosen coach of the year after leading the Buffaloes to a surprising 4-1 season. Dorrell, who previously coached at UCLA, became the first coach to win the conference’s top honor in his first season since Chip Kelly, the Bruins’ current coach, who won during his first season at Oregon.

Colorado running back Jarek Broussard, who led the Pac-12 in rushing at 162 yards per game this season, was named the conference’s offensive player of the year, edging out Slovis, who was the Pac-12 freshman of the year a season ago.


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