USC’s Caleb Williams, Tuli Tuipulotu claim top Pac-12 season awards

The postseason awards cycle should be very generous to the 11-2 USC Trojans, after their banner first season under coach Lincoln Riley.

The Pac-12 honors announced Tuesday certainly were.

Quarterback Caleb Williams was named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year while defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu claimed Defensive Player of the Year, as voted on by the conference’s head coaches. Both players are up for numerous national awards as well, including Williams’ selection as one of four Heisman Trophy finalists.

Additionally, the Trojans had five first-team All-Pac-12 selections with Williams, Tuipulotu, wide receiver Jordan Addison, left guard Andrew Vorhees and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon; three second-team selections in running back Travis Dye, center Brett Neilon and safety Calen Bullock; and honorable mention recognition for right guard Justin Dedich, right tackle Jonah Monheim, linebacker Shane Lee, wide receiver Tahj Washington and defensive back Max Williams.

Following wide receiver Drake London last season, Williams gives the Trojans back-to-back offensive player of the year winners for the first time since 2003-05 with QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush. It’s also the first time any school has repeated winners for the prize since Stanford had three straight from 2009-11.

Williams is the 10th Trojans all-time to win the offensive award.

He has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 4,075 yards, 37 touchdown and 4 interceptions while rushing for 372 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He broke the program record for total touchdowns in a season — previously 41 by Matt Barkley (2011) and Cody Kessler (2014) — and his 4,447 total offensive yards ranks first on USC’s single-season list (Sam Darnold previously held the record with 4,225 total yards in 2017). Williams’ 372 rushing yards this season is also the most by a USC QB in the last 70 years since complete records were available. The previous record was 342 by Jim Sears in 1952

Former Trojan Cody Kessler currently holds the USC record for the lowest rate of interceptions in a season with 1.1% (5 in 452 attempts in 2014). Williams is currently at 0.9% (4 in 407 attempts) and on pace to overtake that mark too.

Williams trails only Darnold for the single-season passing yards mark (4,143) and could overtake both that and the completions record (315 by Kessler) if he plays in the Cotton Bowl next month.

In addition to the Heisman Trophy, Williams is also a finalist for the Manning Award, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award. He was named a PFF First Team All-American and to the PFF All-Pac-12 First Team.

Tuipulotu is USC’s ninth winner of the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and the second in the last three years (Talanoa Hufanga in 2020).

The junior leads all FBS players with 12.5 sacks, becoming just the third Trojan in the last 30 years to have at least 12 sacks in a season while producing the highest total the program has seen since Kenechi Udeze had 16.5 in 2003.

Tuipulotu is also the Pac-12 leader and ranks 6th nationally with 1.6 tackles for loss per game (21.0 total). He has 44 tackles (29 solo), 3 pass breakups at the line, 2 quarterback hurries – one of which turned into an intentional grounding penalty for a safety against Colorado – and 2 forced fumbles.

Tuipulotu is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Nagurski Trophy. He is also on the watch lists for the Ted Hendricks Award and Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award. By virtue of being named a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Tuipulotu earns placement on the FWAA All-American First Team. He is USC’s first FWAA All-American on defense since 2014 when defensive lineman Leonard Williams made the second team.