All-Independent Accolades abound for 2020 Cougars

Brett Pyne | Posted: 16 Apr 2021 | Updated: 16 Apr 2021
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Phil Steele All-Independent

PROVO, Utah — Coming off an 11-1 season in 2020, BYU has placed a combined 24 players on the Phil Steele All-Independent Teams for offense, defense and special teams.

Six players from BYU's high-powered offense were named to the first team, including five who also earned All-America recognition this postseason. James Empey, who was a first-team All-Independent honoree last season, is again the first-team center joined by offensive tackle Brady Christensen, quarterback Zach Wilson, receiver Dax Milne, running back Tyler Allgeier and tight end Isaac Rex. 

Christensen, a second-team All-Independent pick last year, headlines BYU’s All-American contingent on offense with 11 All-America awards this year. Wilson and Milne have also been named to All-America teams, while Allgeier has received All-America honorable mention and Rex garnered Freshman All-America honors this season.

On defense, three Cougars—linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and cornerback Chris Wilcox—earned first-team honors. Kaufusi is a repeat honoree after being a second-team Phil Steele pick last year. 

2020 All-American kicker Jake Oldroyd, freshman punter Ryan Rehkow and kick returner Caleb Christensen received first-team honors on special teams,

Four Cougars were named to the Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team on offense—running back Lopini Katoa, receiver Neil Pau’u and offensive linemen Clark Barrington and Chandon Herring—while seven Cougar defenders made the All-Independent Second Team, including linebackers Keenan Pili, Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar; safeties Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson; and defensive linemen Zac Dawe and Bracken El-Bakri. Long snapper Britton Hogan also earned second-team accolades.   

In all, BYU had a combined 12 players earn first-team awards on offense, defense and special teams, while a dozen Cougars also received second-team recognition. See below for more information the BYU's 2020 All-Independent honorees.

FIRST TEAM—BYU PLAYERS

OFFENSE

QB ZACH WILSON (6-3, 210, Jr.)

  • No. 8 in Heisman Trophy voting
  • PFF All-America Second Team & Phil Steele All-America honorable mention
  • Manning Award Finalist
  • Walter Camp Player of the Year Semifinalist
  • Maxwell Award Semifinalist
  • Davey O'Brien Semifinalist
  • National Rankings 
    • No. 2   –  points responsible (264)
    • No. 2   –  passing touchdowns (33)
    • No. 2   –  passing efficiency (196.4)
    • No. 2   –  completion percentage (.735)
    • No. 3   –  passing yards per attempt (10.99)
    • No. 3   –  passing yards (3,692)
    • No. 3   –  points responsible for per game (22.0)
    • No. 4  –  rushing TDs by a QB (10) — No. 20 among all positions 
    • No. 7 –  passing yards per completion (14.95)
    • No. 8 –  total offense (328.8)
    • No. 9 – passing yards per game (307.7)
  • Top-rated QB among Independents in 11 NCAA categories 

WR DAX MILNE (6-1, 190, Jr.)

  • PFF All-America Second Team & Phil Steele All-America Third Team
  • Burlsworth Trophy Finalist
  • Belitnikoff Award Semifinalist
  • Six 100-yard receiving games
  • National Rankings:
    • No. 4   –  receiving yards (1,188)
    • No. 6 tie  –  catches (70)
    • No. 18 tie –  receiving touchdowns (8)
  • Top WR among all Independents in receiving yards, yards per game and receptions per game

RB TYLER ALLGEIR (5-11, 220, So.)

  • No. 8 in nation in rushing yards (1,130) and rushing yards per carry (7.53)
  • No. 9 in nation in rushing TDs (13) and No. 13 in total TDs (13)
  • No. 1 among all Independent players in rushing yards (1,130), rushing yards per game (102.7), rushing yards per carry (7.53) and all-purpose yards (118.55) and top running back in rushing touchdowns (13)

TE ISAAC REX (6-6, 247, Fr.)

  • Freshman All-American (The Athletic) 
  • No. 1 (tie) in the nation – receiving TDs among all TE (12)
  • No. 1 (tie) in the nation – scoring by any TE (72 points)
  • No. 3 overall in nation – receiving TDs (12)
  • National Rankings among freshmen Tight Ends:
    • No. 1   –  receptions (37)
    • No. 1   –  receiving yards (429)
    • No. 1   –  receiving touchdowns (12)
    • No. 1 tie – total touchdowns (12)
    • No. 1 tie  –  scoring by non kickers (72 points)

OL BRADY CHRISTENSEN (6-6, 300, Jr.)

  • Left tackle named to 11 different All-America teams to date in 2020, including six first-team honors
  • Set BYU record for most All-America awards in a single season
  • Key member of 2020 Joe Moore Award semifinalists (BYU offensive line unit)
  • Achieved 96.0 grade at LT by PFF—setting new PPF record for highest graded season by OL player (Penei Sewell 95.5 in 2019) 
  • Only allowed two pressures on 293 pass blocking regular season snaps
  • BYU offensive line ranks No. 8 in nation for fewest sacks allowed (12 sacks in 12 games)
  • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2), and No. 8 passing offense (322.1), while adding  190.1 yards rushing per game
  • Part of offensive line that created many explosive play opportunities, helping BYU rank No. 1 for the most plays of 30 or more yards and No. 2 for the most plays of 10+ yards 

OL JAMES EMPEY (6-4, 303, Jr.)

  • 2019 All-Indy center and anchor to BYU’s Joe Moore Semifinalist OL unit in 2020
  • BYU offensive line ranked No. 8 in nation for fewest sacks (12 in 12 games)
  • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5) and No. 7 in total offense (522.2)
  • Called protections/blocking for Cougars ranked No. 8 in nation with 322.1 passing yards per game and ground attack that added 190.1 yards rushing
  • Part of offensive line that created many explosive play opportunities, helping BYU rank No. 1 for the most plays of 30 or more yards and No. 2 for the most plays of 10+ yards 

DEFENSE

LB ISAIAH KAUFUSI (6-2, 215, Sr.)

  • Lott Impact Trophy Semifinalist
  • Captain of BYU’s No. 9 ranked defense; No. 3 scoring defense
  • Ranked No. 3 in the nation in fumbles recovered (3)
  • 83 tackles (team leader)
  • 4.0 sacks (team leader)
  • 4.5 tackles for loss; 3 forced fumbles, 1 INT (returned for TD)
  • Recorded stats in every defensive category except blocked kick and safety
  • Has five career INTs, including a pick-6 against Texas State on 10/24/2020

    DT KHYIRIS TONGA (6-4, 321, Sr.)

    • Anchor to BYU’s defense making significant impact far beyond recorded stats, allowing Cougars to stop the run and apply pressure in the backfield often with only a three-man front while dropping eight players
    • Made 36 tackles, with 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss and three QB hurries
    • With unique athleticism for such a big man, he made 5 pass breakups from his DL position, and chased down a ball career from behind to forced a fumble
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    CB CHRIS WILCOX (6-2, 195, Sr.)

    • BYU’s best cover corner blanketed opponent receivers, often keeping opponent QBs from throwing his way
    • Made 18 tackles with 1 pass breakup
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    PK JAKE OLDROYD (6-1, 195, So.)

    • Lou Groza Award Finalist
    • 2020 All-American (2nd team The Athletic, 3rd Team AP, Phil Steele)
    • Perfect 13-13 field goals in 2020 - the most by an FBS kicker without a miss this season. 
    • More than half of those kicks came from at least 40 yards out, including three from over 50.
      • 4-4 FG of 40-49 yards
      • 3-3 FG of 50-plus 
    • Made more 50-yard field goals in a perfect season than any FBS kicker since at least 2004. 
      • Holds BYU record for PATs in a row (72) 
    • 60 of 62 extra points in 2020
    • National Rankings:
      • No. 1 tie  –  field goal percentage (1.000, but most made of any, 13 of 13)
      • No. 2   –  PATs made (60)
      • No. 6   –  scoring among kickers (99 points)
    • Top kicker among all independents in FG%, Points and tied No. 1 for most FG per game
    • Executed amazingly accurate surprise on-side kick from a regular running kickoff approach to change the momentum in BYU’s comeback win at Houston

    P  RYAN REHKOW (6-5, 240, Fr.)

    • Averaged 45.1 yards per punt on 28 kicks but didn’t meet the minimum per-game attempts required by the NCAA to be listed among the national leaders
    • Season-long boot was 61 yards while sending 8 punts over 50 yards.
    • Placed 16 punts inside the 20-yard line while having only one touchback
    • His tremendous hang time limited returns, forcing 14 fair catches and giving BYU a 41.9 net punting average to rank No. 17 in the nation and No. 1 among Independent teams
    • Great athlete who on rugby-style call on fourth down, ran 49 yards to convert a first down

    KR CALEB CHRISTENSEN (5-9, 193, Fr.)

    • Named Boca Raton Bowl Special Teams MVP in BYU’s 49-23 win over UCF
    • Averaged 20.6 yards on 16 kick returns with a long of 31 yards in 2020


    SECOND TEAM—BYU PLAYERS

    OFFENSE

    RB LOPINI KATOA (6-1, 210, Jr.)

    • Key playmaker at running back who was second on team with 444 rushing yards averaging 5.3 yards per carry
    • Versatile player who was also a weapon adding 293 receiving yards out of the backfield
    • Ran for 5 touchdowns and added 3 more receiving scores for 8 total TDs
    • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2), and No. 8 passing offense (322.1) 

    WR NEIL PAU’U (6-4, 215, Jr.)

    • Had 45 catches to rank No. 2 on team, with 603 receiving yards ranking No. 3 on the team
    • Recorded 4 receiving touchdowns  
    • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2), and No. 8 passing offense (322.1) 

    OL CLARK BARRINGTON (6-6, 3-2, So.)

    • 2019 All-Freshman honorable mention earned full-time starting role at left guard on BYU’s Joe Moore Semifinalist OL unit in 2020
    • BYU offensive line ranked No. 8 in nation for fewest sacks (12 in 12 games)
    • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2), and No. 8 passing offense (322.1) 
    • Consistently tough in the interior helped BYU ground attack add 190.1 yards rushing
    • BYU OL was key to creating many explosive plays in 2020, BYU ranks No. 1 for the most plays of 30 or more yards and No. 2 for the most plays of 10+ yards 

    OL CHANDON HERRING (6-7, 310, Sr.)

    • Versatile athlete started at RT, RG and LG on BYU’s Joe Moore Semifinalist OL unit in 2020
    • Helped BYU offensive line ranked No. 8 in nation for fewest sacks (12 in 12 games)
    • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2), and No. 8 passing offense (322.1), while adding  190.1 yards rushing per game
    • BYU OL was key to creating many explosive plays in 2020, BYU ranks No. 1 for the most plays of 30 or more yards and No. 2 for the most plays of 10+ yards 

    DEFENSE

    LB KEENAN PILI (6-3, 233, So.)

    • Made 72 tackles, No. 2 on team, while sharing team-high of 37 assisted tackles with Isaiah Kaufusi, adding 2 TFLs from middle linebacker spot
    • Named Boca Raton Bowl Defensive MVP after BYU’s 49-23 win over UCF
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    LB MAX TOOLEY (6-2, 215, So.)

    • Versatile defender for BYU had 44 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 QB hurries, one interception, one pass breakup and one blocked kick
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    LB PAYTON WILGAR (6-3, 245, So.)

    • Key player in run and pass defense on a BYU defense rated in the top-10 most of the year
    • Made 57 tackles, No. 3 on team, with 5 tackles for loss, while adding a team-best 5 QB hurries, 4 pass breakups and forced a fumble
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    DL ZAC DAWE (6-4, 271, Sr.)

    • Led BYU in tackles for loss with 7.0 while teaming with Khyiris Tonga and Bracken El-Bakri to provide a stout 3-man front that was able to not only be effective in stopping the run and but also applying pressure on passing plays with only a three-man rush.
    • Added 43 tackles with 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries and 2 pass breakups while having a knack for making timely plays to end opponent drives
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    DL BRACKEN EL-BAKRI (6-3, 286, Sr.)

    • Tough and dependable defensive lineman who teamed with Khyiris Tonga and Zac Dawe to provide a stout 3-man front that was able to not only be effective in stopping the run and but also applying pressure on passing plays with only a three-man rush.
    • His 52 tackles was tops among defensive lineman while adding 2.5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss and 3 QB hurries
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    S TROY WARNER (6-1, 200, Sr.)

    • Team captain who started every game and was part of most snaps during the season helping direct BYU’s defense. He also started at corner back when needed as a defensive back who can play both positions.
    • Led BYU with 2 interceptions, the first of his career, while adding 29 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB hurry and 2 pass breakups
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    S ZAYNE ANDERSON (6-2, 210, Sr.)

    • Team captain was a critical leader for BYU in 2020, playing in 11 of 12 games (missed one due to injury)
    • Made 41 tackles while adding 2 pass breakups
    • Helped strong BYU defense in 2020 rank No. 4  in scoring defense (15.3), No. 12 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 24 in passing defense (197.5)

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    LS BRITTON HOGAN (6-3, 200, So.)

    • Consistently provided on-target short and long snaps in his first-year as first-string snapper for the Cougars. 
    • With 62 PATs and 13 FGs and 28 punts he helped BYU score points and change field position without mistakes.
    • Helped BYU offense rank No. 4 in scoring (43.5) in 2020.

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