Arizona Wildcats tailback J.J. Taylor was the co-Offensive Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12 last season. What could he do for an encore?
Earn a place on the league’s first team.
Taylor did just that Tuesday, capping a prolific season by landing one of two backfield spots on the all-conference team.
Taylor is joined at running back by Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin, who edged him for the league rushing title. Benjamin finished the regular season with 1,524 yards. Taylor had 1,434, the fourth-highest total in school history, and six touchdowns.
Ka’Deem Carey has the two highest totals, in 2012 and ’13, and made first-team all-league both years — the last UA offensive player to do so. The last Wildcat on either side of the ball to make the first team was linebacker Scooby Wright in 2014.
Surprisingly, current UA linebacker Colin Schooler did not earn first- or second-team recognition from the league’s coaches. Schooler, the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, ranked fifth in the league with 119 tackles and second with 21.5 stops for losses — six clear of third-place Mustafa Johnson of Colorado.
Schooler also had 3.5 sacks, four pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a safety. Perhaps he didn’t get the nod because of Arizona’s overall performance on defense. The Wildcats ranked in the bottom three in the league in points and yards allowed.
Schooler was among four Wildcats to earn honorable-mention recognition. The others: defensive tackle PJ Johnson, receiver Shawn Poindexter and special-teamer Thomas Reid III.
Back to Taylor. The 5-foot-6, 184-pound redshirt sophomore ranks sixth nationally in rushing and second in all-purpose yards, trailing only Memphis’ Darrell Henderson. Taylor gained 133 yards as a receiver and 540 as a kick returner, giving him 2,107 for the season.
Taylor rushed for a career-high 284 yards in Arizona’s 35-14 victory at Oregon State on Sept. 22, the fourth most in UA history. He finished the season by rushing for 144 or more yards in four of the Wildcats’ final five games. Taylor also had an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Southern Utah on Sept. 15.
Johnson, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, totaled 31 tackles, including 8.5 TFLs, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a safety.
Poindexter blossomed as a senior, notching career highs with 42 receptions, 759 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 11 TD receptions tied the school record and ranked second in the conference.
Reid, a redshirt sophomore, started on multiple special-teams units and recorded three tackles, including one for a 15-yard loss.
(See the full All-Pac-12 first and second teams below.)
Washington State’s season may have ended with a thud, but the Cougars can find some solace in the conference honors announced Tuesday night.
The Pac-12 named quarterback Gardner Minshew II, a graduate transfer, its Offensive Player of the Year, and Cougars coach Mike Leach the Coach of the Year.
The pair led Washington State to its sixth 10-win season in program history, finishing a game shy of a spot in the Pac-12 title game. The Cougars led the conference in scoring (38.3 ppg) and total offense (461.8 ypg).
Minshew was the country’s leading passer with 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven was named Defensive Player of the Year; Jermar Jefferson of Oregon State was named the Freshman Offensive Player of the Year; and Merlin Roberton of Arizona State was named Freshman Defensive Player of the year.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB Gardner Minshew II, grad., Washington State
RB Eno Benjamin, sophomore, ASU
RB J.J. Taylor, redshirt sophomore, Arizona
WR N'Keal Harry, junior, ASU
WR Laviska Shenault Jr., sophomore, Colorado
TE Caleb Wilson, junior, UCLA
OL Jordan Agasiva, senior, Utah
OL Jackson Barton, senior, Utah
OL Andre Dillard, senior, Washington State
OL Nick Harris, junior, Washington
OL Walker Little, sophomore, Stanford
OL Kaleb McGary, senior, Washington
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL Bradlee Anae, junior, Utah
DL Leki Fotu, junior, Utah
DL Greg Gaines, senior, Washington
DL Jalen Jelks, senior, Oregon
LB Ben Burr-Kirven, senior, Washington
LB Chase Hansen, senior, Utah
LB Jordan Kunaszyk, senior, California
DB Paulson Adebo, freshman, Stanford
DB Jaylon Johnson, sophomore, Utah
DB Byron Murphy, sophomore, Washington
DB Taylor Rapp, junior, Washington
FIRST TEAM SPECIALISTS
PK Matt Gay, senior, Utah
P Mitch Wishnowsky, senior, Utah
RS Britain Covey, sophomore, Utah
AP/ST Brenden Schooler, junior, Oregon
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB K.J. Costello, junior, Stanford
RB Myles Gaskin, senior, Washington
RB Zack Moss, junior Utah
WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, senior, Stanford
WR Dillon Mitchell, junior, Oregon
TE Kaden Smith, junior, Stanford
OL Cohl Cabral, junior, ASU
OL Chuma Edoga, senior, USC
OL Nate Herbig, junior, Stanford
OL Shan Lemieux, junior, Oregon
OL Abe Lucas, freshman, Washington State
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL Porter Gustin, senior, USC
DL John Penisini, junior, Utah
DL Logan Tago, senior, Washington State
DL Jay Tufele, freshman, USC
LB Troy Dye, junior, Oregon
LB Cameron Smith, senior, USC
LB Evan Weaver, junior, California
DB Julian Blackmon, junior, Utah
DB Marquise Blair, senior, Utah
DB Myles Bryant, junior, Washington
DB Iman Marshall, senior, USC
DB Adarius Pickett, senior, UCLA
SECOND TEAM SPECIALISTS
PK Jet Toner, junior, Stanford
P Jake Bailey, senior, Stanford
RS N'Keal Harry, junior, ASU
AP/ST Elijah Molden, sophomore, Washington
ARIZONA: DL PJ Johnson, RJr.; WR Shawn Poindexter, Sr.; Thomas Reid III, WR, RSo.; LB Colin Schooler, So.
ARIZONA STATE: OL Quinn Bailey, RSr.; DB Aashari Crosswell, Fr.; OL Casey Tucker, Grad.; DL Renell Wren, RSr.
CALIFORNIA: DE Luc Bequette, RJr.; DB Camryn Bynum, RSo.; P Steven Coutts, RJr.; RS Ashtyn Davis, RJr.
COLORADO: LB Rick Gamboa, Sr.; DL Mustafa Johnson, So.; LB Nate Landman, So.; RB Travon McMillian, Sr.; OL Will Sherman, Fr.; DB Evan Worthington, Sr.
OREGON: DB Ugochukwu Amadi, Sr.; OL Jake Hanson, Jr.; OLB Justin Hollins, Sr.; DL Jordon Scott, So.; OL Penei Sewell, Fr.; OL Calvin Throckmorton, Jr.
OREGON STATE: AP/ST Andre Bodden, RJr.; WR Trevon Bradford, Jr.; WR Isaiah Hodgins, So.; RB Jermar Jefferson, Fr.
STANFORD: DB Alijah Holder, RSr.; RB Bryce Love, Sr.; LB Bobby Okereke, Sr.; TE Colby Parkinson, So.; DL Jovon Swann, Jr.
UCLA: P Stefan Flintoft, RSr.; DB Darnay Holmes, So.; WR Theo Howard, Jr.; RB Joshua Kelley, RJr.; PK JJ Molson, Jr.
USC: DB Ajene Harris, Sr.; OL Toa Lobendahn, RSr.; WR Michael Pittman Jr., Jr.; DB Marvell Tell III, Sr.; RS Tyler Vaughns, RSo.
UTAH: DB Corrion Ballard, Sr.; LB Cody Barton, Sr.; OL Lo Falemaka, Sr.; DB Javelin Guidry, So.
WASHINGTON: QB Jake Browning, Sr.; DL Jaylen Johnson, Sr.; DB Jojo McIntosh, Sr.; TE Drew Sample, RSr.
WASHINGTON STATE: P Oscar Draguicevich, RSo.; RS Travell Harris, RFr.; OL Frederick Mauigoa, Jr.; LB Peyton Pelluer, Grad.; DB Jalen Thompson, Jr.; RB James Williams, RJr.; AP/ST Kainoa Wilson, RJr.; LB Jahad Woods, RSo.