According to PFF, O'Connell last season only allowed one sack, one hit and four hurries -- on 649 pass-blocking snaps.
His 92.9 pass-block grade on PFF ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS offensive linemen. He's also pretty good when WSU hands the ball off.
“O’Connell isn’t just a one-trick pony, as he is also a people-moving run blocker. O’Connell’s 87.7 run-block grade ranks No. 1 among all returning Pac-12 offensive linemen,” says PFF.
O’Connell ranks third on Pro Football Focus' Pac-12 list behind a pair of returning quarterbacks, USC’s Sam Darnold and UW’s Jake Browning.
Meanwhile, Cougar QB Luke Falk comes in at No. 5 on PFF’s list.
Falk’s 78.0 accuracy percentage ranks No. 2 among returning Power Five quarterbacks, says PFF, trailing only Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (80.1) and his accuracy percentage under pressure (64.6) ranks No. 4 among returning Power Five quarterbacks. PFF, however, doesn’t see Falk putting up quite the same numbers in 2017.
“Falk lost two of his best targets in Gabe Marks and River Cracraft so it is highly likely that Falk’s numbers won’t be as big as they have the past two seasons,” writes PFF.
Cougar DE Hercules Mata'afa checks in at No. 10, having “done nothing but out-produce his size for two-straight seasons.”
PFF says Mata’afa generated five sacks, 15 hits and 35 hurries on 361 pass-rush snaps, with a pass-rushing productivity rating of 11.8 (No. 1 among returning Pac-12 defensive tackles, No. 3 Power Five). Mata’afa’s 25 run stops rank No. 1 among all returning Pac-12 defensive tackles.
“Mata’afa’s size and playing style are very reminiscent of Tedy Bruschi when he was at the University of Arizona. Mata’afa relies on quickness, instincts and last-second pre-snap shifts to consistently beat the blocker across from him,” writes PFF.
So just one more reason to start thinking about the Apple Cup already here in February: WSU and UW each have three members on PFF’s top 10 list. USC has two, Cal and Colorado each have one. No other Pac-12 schools made the PFF list.