Whittingham, Lloyd, Tafuna Take Home Top Pac-12 Honors
SAN FRANCISCO – The University of Utah Football program took home three of the top five Pac-12 awards today, highlighted by head coach Kyle Whittingham being named Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Linebacker Devin Lloyd also earned Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year with Junior Tafuna earning Freshman Defensive Player of the Year as well.
Whittingham takes home the award for the second time in the past three seasons, also winning Coach of the Year honors in 2019. After starting the year 1-2, Whittingham led the Utes to a 10-3 overall record, going 8-1 in Pac-12 play to win the Pac-12 South title and eventually the Pac-12 Championship game.
Whittingham, who is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, became Utah's all-time wins leader (144-69) after the Utes' sixth 10+ win season since taking the helm. He has led the Utes to three Pac-12 South titles in the last four years with Utah winning 19 of its last 22 conference games.
Lloyd becomes the first Ute to win the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award since joining the conference in 2011 after being named the MVP of the 2021 Pac-12 Championship game. The Chula Vista, Calif., native leads the Utes with a career high 106 tackles which includes 22.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks.
Lloyd ranks second in the FBS and first in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss (22.0), also ranking in the top five in the league in sacks (8.0) and total tackles (106). Lloyd is also tied for the lead among linebackers in the FBS in total interceptions (4) and is one of just two linebackers nationally that have scored multiple pick-sixes this season.
Lloyd has had seven or more tackles in 10 of the Utes 13 games this season, including starting the season with three straight games in double-digits. He has had at least one tackle for loss in 18 of the last 21 games, including in 10 this season.
Tafuna has started the last 10 games of the season, becoming the first Utah player to win Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. The Taylorsville, Utah, native has 32 tackles through 12 games, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
His 4.5 sacks this season ranks second among Pac-12 freshmen, also adding a pass breakup and a fumble recovery to his stat line for the year. Highlighting Tafuna's freshman campaign was his career high nine-tackle performance against Arizona on the road, along with his 1.5 sacks vs. then-ranked No. 3 Oregon to earn Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week.
With Lloyd and Tafuna's player of the year awards, the Utes now have four players who have won the Pac-12 annual awards. Current Buffalo Bill and former Utah All-American running back Zack Moss won Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 with Ty Jordan winning Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2020.
Utah also landed 15 players on the Pac-12 All-Conference first, second and honorable mention teams today, highlighted by a league-high six first-team selections. Utah's 10 combined first and second-team honorees is also the most in the Pac-12 this season.
The Utes return to action on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 when they head to Pasadena, Calif., to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. The game, which is set to air on ESPN, will kick off at 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT.