PFN’s All-Independent Football Team Honors for the 2021 college football season

    Honoring all of the top players, individuals, units, and teams in our All-Independent FBS Team after the 2021 college football season.

    PFN’s All-Independent Football Team Honors for the 2021 college football season

    The Independent teams in college football don’t get enough love. Save for Notre Dame, it’s hard-pressed to find any of the other six teams covered nationally. We’ll save you time from finding film on some of the programs, however, with our All-Independent teams from the 2021 college football season.

    Follow along with our All-Conference Awards given out this offseason: AAC | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Conference-USA | MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

    All-Independent Football Team Honors for 2021

    The Independent schools are going by the wayside sooner than later, as Notre Dame likely will continue to serve as the flagship program. BYU, the next-biggest-market program, is headed for the Big 12 in a few years, so they’ll get their moment to shine soon enough. Until then, we hit the tape and the data to honor those players on Independent schools from this past season.

    It’s important to note that these are awards and honors from Pro Football Network for each individual’s prowess on the field this season. This is in no way a projection of their NFL Draft status nor a report on actual conference awards that have already been handed out. These honors are from Pro Football Network, as judged upon by our team of college football analysts.

    Let’s get to the overall awards.

    • Independent Coach of the Year: Kalani Sitake, BYU
    • Independent Player of the Year: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU
    • Independent Newcomer of the Year: Puka Nacua, WR, BYU
    • Independent Game of the Year: Notre Dame vs. Florida State, Week 1

    All-Independent Offense

    There are only seven Independent programs at the FBS level, but they certainly had their moments in 2021. Taking a look closer at the data, you get to examine just how good some of those moments were.

    • Independent Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU
    • Independent Quarterback of the Year: Jaren Hall, BYU
    • Independent Running Back of the Year: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU
    • Independent Wide Receiver of the Year: Puka Nacua, BYU
    • Independent Offensive Lineman of the Year: Cain Madden, Notre Dame
    • Independent Offensive Line of the Year: BYU Cougars
    • Independent Offensive Rookie of the Year: Juwaun Price, RB, New Mexico State

    Tyler Allgeier improved his draft stock after another dominant year. Allgeier led all independent running backs with 1,414 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, ranking eighth nationally in yards. His 20 TDs tied for the national lead with a who’s who of running backs at the FBS stage. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and made the play of the season for BYU. His forced fumble against Arizona State saved the game and preserved BYU’s hopes at a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

    Jaren Hall also elevated himself and the Cougars when he was on the field. While Liberty’s Malik Willis was the talk of the FBS Independents, it was Hall who was the most impressive. Throwing for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns, Hall threw the fewest interceptions (5) of all full-time quarterbacks. His slinging fastball of a football was a thing of beauty, and he continued to grow as the season went along.

    BYU’s offensive line yet again dominates

    With a dominant rushing attack comes a dominant offensive line performance. And that’s just what BYU got yet again in 2021. After producing multiple NFL players over the past few years, the 2021 version of the Cougars’ line may be up there with some of the best. From left to right, LT Blake Freeland, LG Clark Barrington, C James Empey and Connor Pay, RG Joe Tukuafu, and RT Campbell Barrington were excellent this season. They dealt with injuries throughout the year but persevered through it all.

    First-Team All-Independent Offense

    QB: Jaren Hall, BYU
    RB: Tyler Allgeier, BYU
    RB: Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
    WR: Puka Nacua, BYU
    WR: Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame
    WR: CJ Daniels, Liberty
    TE: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
    FLEX: Gunner Romney, BYU
    LT: Blake Freeland, BYU
    LG: Clark Barrington, BYU
    C: Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame
    RG: Cain Madden, Notre Dame
    RT: Josh Lugg, Notre Dame

    Second-Team All-Independent Offense

    QB: Maik Willis, Liberty
    RB: Ellis Merriweather, UMass
    RB: Juwaun Price, New Mexico State
    WR: Jared Wyatt, New Mexico State
    WR: Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, New Mexico State
    WR: Demario Douglas, Liberty
    TE: Thomaz Whitford, New Mexico State
    FLEX: Neil Pau’u, BYU
    LT: Joe Alt, Notre Dame
    LG: Noah Knapp, Army
    C: Thomas Sargeant, Liberty
    RG: Brendan Schlittler, Liberty
    RT: Campbell Barrington, BYU

    All-Independent Defense

    The defensive side of the ball among the FBS Independents was also just as impressive. In fact, there will be several players taken in the first few rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft and beyond.

    • Independent Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Carter II, Army
    • Independent Defensive Lineman of the Year: Andre Carter II, Army
    • Independent Linebacker of the Year: Payton Wilgar, BYU
    • Independent Defensive Back of the Year: Kaleb Hayes, BYU
    • Independent Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ben Bywater, LB, BYU
    • Independent Defensive Line of the Year: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    • Independent Secondary of the Year: BYU Cougars

    Andre Carter II was a monster off the edge for the Black Knights in 2021. While Army still has a game left, Carter likely won’t add to his sack totals against Navy. He finished the first 11 games of Army’s schedule with 13.5 sacks, ranking third in the country behind only Alabama’s Will Anderson and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. Carter was a man on a mission against every opponent and caused more havoc than any Army edge defender in recent memory.

    Payton Wilgar didn’t get to finish the season the right way, but he still performed admirably in 2021. He recorded 57 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and a handful of other QB pressures. A terrific blitzer and even better coverage linebacker, Wilgar’s return to Provo in 2022 will pay dividends for the Cougars’ defense next fall.

    Get to know the BYU secondary

    In his first season as a member of the Cougars, Kaleb Hayes was dominant. He led the Independent school defensive backs with 11 pass breakups as well as a slew of other forced incompletions. Hayes may not have started the season right away, but his insertion into the lineup was crucial down the stretch.

    In addition to Hayes, Malik Moore, Jakob Robinson, Hayden Livingston, and Matthew Criddle all impressed at different times. Moore and Robinson led the group with 3 interceptions, tying for first among FBS Independent schools. It was a dominant year against the pass as very few teams, if any, were able to throw on them for more than a quarter.

    First-Team All-Independent Defense

    EDGE: Andre Carter II, Army
    EDGE: Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
    DI: Jayson Ademilola, Notre Dame
    DI: Travis Jones, UConn
    LB: Jackson Mitchell, UConn
    LB: Ben Bywater, BYU
    LB: Payton Wilgar, BYU
    CB: Jakob Robinson, BYU
    CB: Cam Hart, Notre Dame
    CB: D.J. McCullough, New Mexico State
    S: DJ Brown, Notre Dame
    S: Malik Moore, BYU
    FLEX: Kaleb Hayes, BYU

    Second-Team All-Independent Defense

    EDGE: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame
    EDGE: Tyler Batty, BYU
    DI: Rylie Mills, Notre Dame
    DI: Elijah Hames, Liberty
    LB: Storey Jackson, Liberty
    LB: JD Bertrand, Notre Dame
    LB: Drew White, Notre Dame
    CB: Duron Lowe, Liberty
    CB: Tre Wortham, UConn
    CB: Jabari Moore, Army
    S: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
    S: Caleb Mills, New Mexico State
    FLEX: Marquel Broughton, Army | Cedrick Cunningham Jr., Army

    Independent Special Teams

    The special-teams units were full of game-winning moments on the Independent stage. With some special moments from the special teams, we give out our individual awards to the FBS Independents.

    • Independent Kicker of the Year: Jonathan Doerer, Notre Dame
    • Independent Punter of the Year: Ryan Rehkow, BYU
    • Independent Specialist of the Year: Brian Brewton, UConn

    Brian Brewton returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns, leading the Independents with 656 return yards in the process. Doerer finished off the Notre Dame vs. FSU game in Week 1 on a high note, despite a sour note prior. Doerer was impressive enough as a placekicker but also handled kickoff duties.

    First-Team All-Independent Specialists

    Kicker: Jonathan Doerer, Notre Dame
    Kickoff Specialist: Jonathan Doerer, Notre Dame
    Punter: Ryan Rehkow, BYU
    Kick Returner: Brian Brewton, UConn
    Punt Returner: Demario Douglas, Liberty
    Special Teamer: Fabrice Voyne, Army

    Second-Team All-Independent Specialists

    Kicker: Ethan Albertson, New Mexico State
    Kickoff Specialist: Ethan Albertson, New Mexico State
    Punter: George Georgopoulos, UMass
    Kick Returner: Chris Tyree, Notre Dame
    Punt Returner: Hobbs Nyberg, BYU
    Special Teamer: Jacob Boren, BYU

    Congratulations to all those players selected. For any questions regarding these selections or the process behind them, please ask on Twitter (@CamMellor).

    Cam Mellor is the senior director of college football and NFL Draft at Pro Football Network. You can read all of Cam’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.


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