The Mountain West Conference (MW) released its All-Conference awards on Tuesday.
Unsurprisingly, as the only team ranked in any major poll, SDSU was well represented on the All-MW teams.
In total, 14 Aztecs were on the list, led by Cameron Thomas and Matt Araiza. Thomas was named the Defensive Player of the Year, while Araiza was the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year. They were joined on the first team by OT Zachary Thomas, OG William Dunkle, S Trenton Thompson, S Patrick McMorris, Caden McDonald, and KR Jordan Byrd.
In addition, four Aztecs were represented on the second team. Araiza made the second team as a kicker; he made the first team for his punting exploits. DE Keshawn Banks, RB Greg Bell, and CB Tayler Hawkins also earned a place on the second team. Rounding out SDSU’s league-leading 15 selections were the Honorable Mention honors given to DL Jonah Tavai, C Alama Uluave, and LB Michael Shawcroft.
Most Respect: Patrick McMorris
Pro Football Focus released their all-MW picks yesterday. Their list included first, second, third, and honorable mention selections. McMorris did not make any of those teams. While all statistics are biased by the assumptions of the formulas used to create them, McMorris’ exclusion from the list has more to do with the uniqueness of the Aztec position than any errors in PFF’s methodology.
McMorris has been so good for the Aztecs. There is an argument to be made that he – not Cameron Thomas – was SDSU’s best defender. Kudos to the coaches and media for recognizing the invaluable contributions McMorris made to the defense.
Nailed it: Trenton Thompson
With McMorris having the flashiest play at the position, it may have been easy to place a safety from another team on the first team ballot, but Thompson deserved to be on the top spot. Throughout the MW schedule, teams have attack the Aztecs from the slot, and Thompson has more than held his own. His ten pass breakups during conference play leads the MW, and his three interceptions are second.
Thompson stepped into the void left behind future Aztec Hall of Famer Tariq Thompson to provide veteran leadership at the Warrior Safety. In the preseason, Defensive Coordinator Kurt Mattix said it would take a few players to replace Tariq Thompson, but Trenton Thompson has done the job by himself. The third best safety for much of his career, he has stepped up this year and was deservedly recognized by the conference.
Least Respect: Jonah Tavai
Taylor Hawkins’ inclusion on the second team and not the first was a mistake, but Tavai not cracking either the first or second teams is ridiculous. Tavai, especially towards the end of the year when SDSU had to win to keep their place on top of the division, was a monster. Of the eight first and second-team defensive line selections, only three played DL like Tavai: Nevada’s Triston Nichols, Air Force’s Jordan Jackson, and Boise State’s Scott Matlock. Nichols was deservedly a fist team selection. However, Tavai should have been placed above Jackson and Matlock on the second team.
Statistically, the difference in the players is slight. Tavai should have earned the nod over the two because he was the anchor of a much better defense. Anyone watching SDSU knows that he commands as many double teams as Cameron Thomas. Plus, for Tavai to have as much production as the others, surrounded by as many stars as the Aztecs defense possesses, means he made as many plays with fewer opportunities than his conference colleagues.
Odd omission: Jesse Matthews
Matthews (35 366 yards 6 TDs) did not deserve a place on the first or second-team lists, but he should have been an honorable mention selection. The Hometown Hero’s production during Mountain West play was easily in line with the other Honorable Mention receivers. If Boise State’s Octavious Evans (22 rec receptions 256 yards 3TD), Fresno State’s Josh Kelly (31 rec 395 yards 1 TD), Hawaii’s Nick Mardner (29 rec 551 yards 2 TDs), and Utah State’s Derek Wright 23 rec 519 yards 7 TDs) Matthews (35 rec 366 yards 6 TDs) certainly should have been included too.
Coach and Player(s) of the Year
Matthews’ omission aside, the coaches and media showed SDSU much respect today. SDSU’s 15 selections led the conference, and they took three of the five individual honors. Matt Araiza brought home the Special Teams Player of the Year, Cameron Thomas earned Defensive Player of the Year, and Brady Hoke won Coach of the Year. Araiza’s win is the least surprising of the three, and he will likely become the first player in program history to win a national award. Thomas’ win, while not a shock, had some intrigue to it. A couple of players were on his statistical level.
The award which showed the conference’s greatest respect for SDSU was honoring Hoke as the Coach of the Year. Utah State’s Blake Anderson has done an unbelievable job, and if he had won the award over Hoke, it would have been understandable. Anderson is in his first with the Aggies, who were 1-5 in 2020. Their five defeats last season were by an average score of 36.8-10.4. Yet, Hoke was given the award because of the adversity he led his team through en route to an 11-1 record.