The coaches in the Pac-12 didn’t consider Hercules Mata’afa the best defensive player in the conference, but a group of media members from around the league came to a different consensus.
The Washington State defensive lineman was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, which released its all-conference teams Thursday morning – and that may not have even been the most impressive feat for Mata’afa. The Lahaina, Hawaii, native earned first team all-defense at multiple positions: defensive tackle and defensive end.
That was not a mistake, according to the AP, and Mata’afa, who technically plays at the defensive tackle spot, won the media vote at both positions.
Mata’afa led the conference with 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss, but lost out on the Pac-12’s official Defensive Player of the Year award to Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea two days ago.
He was one of six players recognized on the AP’s All-Pac-12 first and second teams on Thursday.
WSU placed left guard Cody O’Connell and right tackle Cole Madison on the offensive first team, while Mata’afa and safety Jalen Thompson earned spots on the defensive first team. Cougars wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. was selected to the offensive second team along with kicker Erik Powell.
Conference champion USC led all Pac-12 teams with 10 players selected. The Trojans’ Clay Helton was named the Coach of the Year by the AP, while Stanford running back Bryce Love – a Heisman Trophy candidate – was named the Offensive Player of the Year and breakout Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate was Newcomer of the Year.
The full list of AP all-conference teams can be found below:
QB — Sam Darnold, USC, 6-4, 220, So., Capistrano Beach, California.
RB — Bryce Love, Stanford, 5-10, 196, Jr., Wake Forest, North Carolina.
RB — Ronald Jones II, USC, 6-0, 200, Jr., McKinney, Texas.
T — Cole Madison, Washington St., 6-5, 314, Sr., Burien, Washington.
T — Tyrell Crosby, Oregon, 6-5, 310, Sr., Henderson, Nevada.
G — Cody O’Connell, Washington St., 6-9, 368, Sr., Wenatchee, Washington.
G — David Bright, Stanford, 6-5, 299, Sr., Yorba Linda, California.
C — Coleman Shelton, Washington, 6-4, 299, Sr., Pasadena, California.
TE — Kaden Smith, Stanford, 6-5, 250, So., Flower Mound, Texas.
WR — N’Keal Harry, Arizona St., 6-4, 216, So., Chandler, Arizona.
WR — (tie) Deontay Burnett, USC, 6-0, 170, Jr., Compton, California.
Darren Andrews, UCLA, 5-10, 195, Sr., Phillips Ranch, California.
All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, Washington, 6-1, 195, Sr., San Clemente, California.
K — Matt Gay, Utah, 6-1, 220, Jr., Orem, Utah.
DE — Rasheem Green, USC, 6-4, 275, Jr., Los Angeles.
DE — Hercules Mata’afa, Washington St., 6-2, 252, Jr., Lahaina, Hawaii.
DT — Vita Vea, Washington, 6-5, 340, Jr., Milpitas, California.
DT — Hercules Mata’afa, Washington St., 6-2, 252, Jr., Lahaina, Hawaii.
LB — Christian Sam, Arizona St., 6-2, 237, Jr., Allen, Texas.
LB — Uchenna Nwosu, USC, 6-2, 240, Sr., Carson, California.
LB — Troy Dye, Oregon, 6-4, 224, So., Norco, California.
CB — Isaiah Oliver, Colorado, 6-1, 190, Jr., Goodyear, Arizona.
CB — Arrion Springs, Oregon, 6-0, 205, Sr., San Antonio.
S — Jalen Thompson, Washington St., 6-0, 191, So., Downey, California.
S — Justin Reid, Stanford, 6-2, 204, Jr., Prairieville, Louisiana.
P — Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah, 6-2, 220, Jr., Perth, Australia.
QB — Josh Rosen, UCLA, 6-4, 218, Jr., Manhattan Beach, California.
RB — Royce Freeman, Oregon, 6-0, 238, Sr., Imperial, California.
RB — Myles Gaskin, Washington, 5-10, 191, Jr., Lynnwood, Washington.
T — Jeromy Irwin, Colorado, 6-5, 300, Sr., Cypress, Texas.
T — (tie) A.T. Hall, Stanford, 6-5, 297, Sr., Glendale, Arizona.
Kolton Miller, UCLA, 6-8, 310, Jr., Roseville, California.
Kaleb McGary, Washington, 6-7, 318, Jr., Fife, Washington.
G — Salesi Uhatafe, Utah, 6-5, 320, Sr., Euless, Texas.
G — Nate Herbig, Stanford, 6-4, 339, So., Kalaheo, Hawaii.
C — Nathan Eldridge, Arizona, 6-3, 297, So., Anthem, Arizona.
TE — Noah Togiai, Oregon St., 6-4, 246, Jr., West Valley, Utah.
WR — Darren Carrington, Utah, 6-3, 205, Sr., San Diego.
WR — Tavares Martin, Washington St., 6-1, 183, Jr., Belle Glade, Florida.
All-purpose player — Phillip Lindsay, Colorado, 5-8, 190, Sr., Aurora, Colorado.
K — Erick Powell, Washington St., 6-1, 202, Sr., Vancouver, Washington.
DE — (tie) Kylan Wilborn, Arizona, 6-2, 245, Fr., Northridge, California
Bradlee Anae, Utah, 6-3, 265, So., Laie, Hawaii.
DE — (tie) Christian Rector, USC, 6-4, 275, So., South Pasadena, California.
Jalen Jelks, Oregon, 6-6, 245, Jr., Phoenix.
DT — Harrison Phillips, Stanford, 6-4, 295, Sr., Omaha, Nebraska.
DT — JoJo Wicker, Arizona St., 6-3, 273, Jr., Long Beach, California.
LB — Cameron Smith, USC, 6-2, 250, Jr., Roseville, California.
LB — Manase Hungalu, Oregon St., 6-1, 238, Sr., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
LB — Kenny Young, UCLA, 6-1, 235, Sr., New Orleans.
CB — (tie) Jack Jones, USC, 5-11, 170, So., Long Beach, California.
Jace Whittaker, Arizona, 5-11, 182, Jr., Oceanside, California.
CB — (tie) Quentin Weeks, Stanford, 6-2, 197, Jr., San Diego.
Iman Marshall, USC, 6-1, 205, Jr., Long Beach, California.
S — Chase Hansen, Utah, 6-3, 220, Jr., Highland, Utah.
S — Chris Hawkins, USC, 5-11, 190, Sr., Las Vegas.
P — Jake Bailey, Stanford, 6-2, 193, Jr., Solana Beach, California.
Coach of the Year: Clay Helton
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Love, Stanford.
Defensive Player of the Year: Hercules Mata’afa, Washington St.
Newcomer of the Year: Khalil Tate, Arizona.
Gary Horowitz, Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon); Lynn Worthy, The Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune; Stephanie Loh, The Seattle Times; Tony Parks, 1280 The Zone, Salt Lake City; Adam Jude, The Seattle Times; Danny Moran, The Oregonian/OregonLive.com; Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post; Jon Wilner, The Mercury News (San Jose, California); Brian Howell, Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera; Theo Lawson, Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington).