Midway through the season, a few Washington State football players are being considered among the best in the country at their craft.
Cougars offensive lineman Cody O’Connell and defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa were named Tuesday to the Associated Press’ first-ever midseason All-America team. The AP recognized both of the WSU players as First Team candidates.
O’Connell, a 6-8, 354-pound left guard, was a finalist for the Outland Trophy last season and a unanimous All-American. The Wenatchee native has ideal measurables for the NFL, but he’s part of an offensive line that’s giving up 4.5 sacks per game this season – second-worst in the FBS. The Cougars are rushing for an FBS-worst 74.1 yards per game.
Mata’afa, a junior defensive tackle who measures up at 6-2, 250 pounds, is the Pac-12’s leader this season at 6.5 sacks per game. That number also ranks No. 6 nationally. Before the Cougars’ 37-3 loss to Cal, WSU was No. 11 in the country in total defense.
Washington’s Dante Pettis was named a First Team punt returner on the AP’s midseason list. Pettis has tied the NCAA record for career punt return touchdowns at eight.
O’Connell and Mata’afa were also recognized Tuesday as first teamers on the CBS Sports Midseason All-America Team and ESPN bestowed the same honor on both last week.