O'Connell (pictured above with James Williams and Luke Falk) is joined by Ohio State center Pat Elflein and Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson as Outland finalists.
His rise his made even more remarkable when considering O'Connell's first career start at WSU came just this season, tutoring under WSU o-line coach Clay McGuire.
O’Connell, from Wenatchee is the first Cougar Outland Trophy finalist since defensive lineman Rien Long won the award in 2002. O’Connell has started 10 games at left guard and played in 11 for the No. 23 Cougars. WSU has nation’s second-rated passing offense (380.0) and its rushing attack owns seven 100-yard efforts including three 200-yard performances. WSU’s rushing offense has gone from 80.1 ypg ilast season to 132.5 ypg this season.
O’Connell, nicknamed “The Continent” by Mike Leach, was O'Connell was named to the Midseason All-America First Team by FOX Sports and CBSSports.com, 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.
The winner of the 2016 Outland Trophy will be announced Dec. 8.
The Outland Trophy is s the third-oldest player award in major college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. It is named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. It has been awarded to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense since 1946.