After a stellar turnaround season at USC, the Pac-12 Conference anointed two Trojans, quarterback Caleb Williams and defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu, as its offensive and defensive players of the year, while the coach who engineered that return to prominence was snubbed.
Lincoln Riley was among the few key figures in USC’s season who weren't honored among the conference’s best. Five Trojans — Williams, Tuipulotu, wideout Jordan Addison, guard Andrew Vorhees and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon — were named to the All-Pac-12 first team. Three were on the second team — running back Travis Dye, center Brett Neilon and safety Calen Bullock — and four were honorable mentions.
UCLA had two players selected to the first team in running back Zach Charbonnet and defensive lineman Laiatu Latu. Two more Bruins were chosen for the second team — linebacker Darius Muasau and offensive lineman Atonio Mafi, along with four honorable mentions, among them quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
As the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this weekend, Williams was a no-brainer as the Pac-12’s top offensive player. After transferring from Oklahoma last February, he was instrumental in leading USC to an 11-2 record as he racked up a school-record 47 total touchdowns. His 4,447 total yards, also a school record, rank fourth in the nation.
Williams is the second consecutive USC player to earn the honor, after wideout Drake London won last year.
Tuipulotu is the second USC player to win defensive player honors in the last three years, after safety Talanoa Hufanga took the award during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
After earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, Tuipulotu was a force along USC’s defensive line as a junior, tallying 12½ sacks to lead the nation.
It could’ve been a clean sweep of the awards for USC, but while Riley is a candidate for national coach of the year, the Pac-12 chose Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer to share its award, the first time that's happened since 2015.
A USC coach hasn’t won since 2006, when Pete Carroll earned the honor for the second consecutive season. The year before, he shared the award with Karl Dorrell, the only Bruins coach to win it over the last two decades.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.