WSU’s Cody O'Connell one of five Outland Trophy semifinalists; Mike Leach's nickname for 6-8, 354-pounder is The Continent

WASHINGTON STATE left guard Cody O’Connell has been named a semifinalist -- one of five -- for the Outland Trophy, the Football Writers Association of America announced Wednesday. O’Connell, nicknamed The Continent by Mike Leach for his 6-8, 354-pound frame, is the first Cougar Outland Trophy semifinalist since Wazzu defensive lineman Rien Long won the award in 2002.

The Outland Trophy is presented to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense.

O'Connell, a fourth-year junior from Wenatchee,  has started nine games at left guard for the No. 20 Cougars (8-2, 7-0 Pac-12).

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His first career start at WSU came just this season, tutoring under WSU o-line coach Clay McGuire.

O’Connell in 2016 has helped protect for the nation’s second-rated passing offense (385.5) and blocked for a rushing attack that owns six 100-yard efforts including three 200-yard performances. WSU’s run game has gone from 80.1 ypg in 2015 to 132.0 ypg this season.

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The five Outland semifinalists – all offensive linemen – in alphabetical order, are: Pat Elflein, Ohio State; Cody O’Connell, Washington State; Ethan Pocic, LSU; Cam Robinson, Alabama; and Connor Williams, Texas.

O'Connell was named to the Midseason All-America First Team by FOX Sports and, and  Midseason All-America second team by Sports Illustrated. More recently, he was ranked second nationally among guards and best in the country as a pass-blocker by Pro Football Focus.

Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 22,. The winner of the 2016 Outland Trophy will be announced Dec. 8.

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