The Mountain West announced its 2015 all-conference football teams and individual award winners Tuesday, with six members representing the University of Hawai'i, highlighted by first team defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealii.
The Wai‘anae, O‘ahu junior was the only Rainbow Warrior selected to either the first or second teams. Five others garnered honorable mention; offensive linemen Dejon Allen (So.) and Ben Clarke (Sr.), linebacker Julian Gener (Sr.), cornerback Nick Nelson (So.) and punter Rigoberto Sanchez (Jr.).
The teams were selected by the 12 head coaches and select media panel.
San Diego State junior running back Donnel Pumphrey was chosen as the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, while Aztecs’ junior defensive back Demontae Kazee was named MW Defensive Player of the Year. San Diego State sophomore return specialist Rashaad Penny earned the MW Special Teams Player of the Year award, while Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien was honored as the MW Freshman of the Year. Rocky Long of San Diego State was selected as the MW Coach of the Year.
Tulimasealii was featured on the preseason watch list for Polynesian Player of the Year and led the Mountain West in tackles for loss with a season total of 18.5, ranking 16th in the nation. Racking up 63 tackles this season, including a team third-best 42 solo stops, Tulimasealii ranked fifth on team in total tackles. He also stands at third in tackles among MW defensive linemen. In addition, the dangerous edge rusher topped UH with eight quarterback hurries, forcing and recovering a fumble in one smooth takedown at New Mexico.
Clarke, a senior from Littleton, Colo., appears as an honorable mention all-MW selection for the fourth consecutive season. Named the UH Most Valuable player at Sunday’s football awards, Clarke anchored the UH line at left tackle, despite battling through a broken foot in game two at Ohio State, which left him unable to practice for several weeks. Despite the injury, Clarke started every contest and finished his career with 50 straight starts—every game of his collegiate career. He graded out in a tie for top offensive lineman at 89 percent, recording a team second-best 46 knockdowns with four sacks allowed. A preseason all-MW choice, he was also a member of the Rotary Lombardi Trophy Award watch list for the second consecutive year.
Joining Clarke for his post-season honors, Compton, Calif. sophomore Dejon Allen started every game, with 12 at right guard and one on the left side. He tied Clarke for the team lead with a season grade of 89 percent and topped the Rainbow Warriors with 52 knockdowns, allowing only one sack all season.
Earning his first conference honors, Gener, a West Covina, Calif. senior, came on strong down the stretch, finishing the season with team highs of 95 tackles and 62 unassisted tackles, ranking sixth in the MW in tackles, and third in solo tackles (27th in NCAA). Much like Tulimasealii, Gener worked frequently behind the line, registering 13.0 tackles for loss to rank eighth in the conference. Against Fresno State, he logged a MW-best 5.0 TFL to tie the school game record. In addition, he collected a MW second-most 19 tackles against West Division champion San Diego State, recording a MW third-most 17 stops vs. Fresno State. He also finished the year with 2.5 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. Gener was named UH’s Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday.
Sophomore cornerback Nick Nelson hails from Forestville, Md. and broke up 15 passes on the year, coming within three of the school’s season record, the second-largest count among Mountain West defenders, which ties for eighth-most in the nation. He also earns his first conference accolades. Nelson ranks eighth for UH with 53 total tackles (38 unassisted), with 1.5 tackles for loss, including one sack; also forcing one fumble.
Rounding out the conference honorees, Hamilton City, Calif. junior Rigoberto Sanchez was a member of the Ray Guy Award watch list and was named UH’s Special Teams Player of the Year after a steady season as a consistent weapon for the Rainbow Warriors. Recording only one stray kick on the season, Sanchez registered 74 punts for 3,335 yards and a MW second-longest 45.1-yard average, ranking ninth in the NCAA. He kicked 25 punts over 50 yards, including a 73-yarder against Air Force, tying for the fifth-longest in school history. In that game, he averaged 52.0 yards per punt, earning Ray Guy National Punter of the Week. Through 12 games, Sanchez only kicked twice for touchback, successfully dropping 28 kicks inside the opposing 20-yard line, forcing 18 fair catches. Sanchez was one of only five players nationally to handle all four kicking duties, boasting a 23-of-25 PAT rate, going 8-of-11 on field goals with a long kick of 50 yards, while also kicking off 22 times for a 64.2-yard average and 14 touchbacks.