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30-Day Countdown: Day 7- DPOY Candidates

Who is your pick for Defensive Player of the Year?

NCAA Football: Utah at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at the contenders for Offensive Player of the Year so naturally today we will be switching gears to Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

Noah Sewell- Linebacker, Oregon

2021 Stats- 72 solo tackles, 4 sacks, 34 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT, 3 pass-breakups

The brother of top-ten draft pick OL Penei Sewell, the younger Noah looks like he’s also destined to hear his name called early. The Ducks used Sewell all over the field from his middle linebacker spot similar to how Utah used Devin Lloyd. Sewell finished 6th in the conference in tackles, 7th in quarterback pressures, and tied for 24th in pass break-ups which shows his versatility. He did miss 19 tackles last year so the consistency hasn’t quite been there and it’s a legitimate red flag for his game. But if that gets cleaned up a little bit then he has the chance to be a dominant force in the middle of a very good defense.

Clark Phillips III- Cornerback, Utah

2021 Stats- 59 solo tackles, 2 INTs, 9 pass break-ups, 2 defensive TDs, 2 forced fumbles

Coming out of high school Phillips backed off an Ohio State pledge to stay out West and go to Utah and he has lived up his pedigree. Last year Phillips led the conference in pass break-ups despite the presence of both Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon on UW’s defense. Ohio State may have thrown for 573 yards in the Rose Bowl against the Utes but Phillips only gave up 5 receptions for 38 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT when he was in coverage per Pro Football Focus so that almost exclusively came against other defenders. There should be no question he’s the favorite to be the top corner in the conference next year. That sometimes means opponents won’t throw in your direction but if he’s the only defensive All-American coming out of the Pac-12 next year then he’ll get some DPOY votes.

Ron Stone Jr.- EDGE, Washington State

2021 Stats- 44 solo tackles, 6 sacks, 43 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble

After a couple of only so-so seasons as a solid pass rusher Stone had his breakout year in 2021. He finished 3rd in the Pac-12 in quarterback pressures with 43 and leads all returners in that regard. The sack numbers don’t quite match up with the pressures so he will need to turn more of those hurries into hits in order to have any chance at sniffing this award. But the pressure numbers from last year were elite for a regular every down pass rusher so the possibility can’t be overlooked.

Zion Tupuola-Fetui- EDGE, Washington

2021 Stats- 7 solo tackles, 1 sack, 9 QB pressures

If this weren’t a Husky blog then I would almost certainly have ZTF in the honorable mentions instead. But I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here. Zion came back last year earlier than could’ve reasonably been expected for such a serious injury and was merely fine in 5 games. Then in spring practices he mostly ran with the 2’s. He’s also only played in just over 500 career defensive snaps.

But...he also had the most ridiculous 3-game stretch in 2020 that any of us has ever seen. In those 3 games he had more sacks and forced fumbles than Ron Stone Jr. had all of last season. If ZTF comes out and only performs at 75% of that level over an entire season then he still would be one of the elite pass rushers in all of college football. It’s not impossible that we never see that dazzling display again but the upside with ZTF is so high that I don’t think it’s crazy to put him on the watch list and re-assess after a couple of weeks.

Tuli Tuipulotu- DL, USC

2021 Stats- 34 solo tackles, 6 sacks, 29 QB pressures

It takes a dominant Vita Vea-esque season to win DPOY as a defensive lineman but Tuli could potentially make it happen (and I’m not even talking about UW’s DT named Tuli). He plays as an oversized defensive end which helps the pass rush stats but USC categorizes him as a defensive lineman. If that’s the case then he led the conference’s DL in sacks, was 3rd in tackles, and 2nd in pressures. You would expect that the new look offense will be more explosive which should mean more leads and therefore more pass rushing opportunities and more sacks for Tuli. Hitting double digit sacks isn’t out of the question at which point he becomes a legitimate contender for the award.

Honorable Mention

Jackson Sirmon- Linebacker, California

Laugh if you want but technically Sirmon is the leading returner in the conference in total solo tackles so he could put up a lot of counting stats in the Evan Weaver role for Cal.


Who will win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Noah Sewell- Linebacker, Oregon
    (50 votes)
  • 12%
    Clark Phillips III- Cornerback, Utah
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Ron Stone Jr.- EDGE, Washington State
    (2 votes)
  • 51%
    Zion Tupuola-Fetui- EDGE, Washington
    (103 votes)
  • 3%
    Tuli Tuipulotu- DL, USC
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Other (say who in the comments)
    (13 votes)
201 votes total Vote Now