PFN’s All-Independent team honors ahead of the 2022 college football season

The All-Independent team honors offer up the best of the best from the FBS Independents ahead of the 2022 college football season.

Putting together the list of All-Independent team honors was no easy feat. Yet, it gets harder in 2023 as BYU is set to join the Big 12 ranks, and Notre Dame’s future remains unsure. Ahead of the 2022 college football season, Pro Football Network is proud to debut our All-Conference team honors for each of the 10 conferences and the FBS Independents.

Detailing out our projected top players, units, and teams ahead of the action, PFN’s team of draft evaluators and national college football analysts looked at who they each thought would be the conference’s best in 2022. The results are in, and here is the cream of the crop heading into the fall.

Follow along with all of our All-Conference awards this preseason: AAC | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Conference USA | MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

Preseason All-Independent football team honors for 2022

It’s important to note that these are awards and honors from Pro Football Network for each individual’s expected prowess on the field this season. This is in no way a projection of their NFL draft status nor a report on the specific conference awards given this preseason. These honors are from Pro Football Network, as judged by our team of college football analysts and draft evaluators projecting their success on the field in 2022.

  • Independent Player of the Year
    Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
  • Independent Offensive Player of the Year
    Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
  • Independent Defensive Player of the Year
    Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
  • Independent Newcomer of the Year
    Chris Brooks, RB, BYU

Jaren Hall takes the top two honors individually here. Hall is rising the ranks of every national analyst’s big board of quarterbacks after wowing last season in his first year as the starter. Taking over for Zach Wilson, Hall had the proverbial flip switched late in the season when he really showcased what makes him a dominant passer. He’s a big-armed QB with terrific mobility and an athletic profile. But it’s his ability to throw from a variety of platforms and maneuver the pocket that sets him apart from most quarterbacks nationally.

Andre Carter edges out Isaiah Foskey for top defensive honors individually. Carter is a dominant force with a massive frame and illustrious traits. He’ll be must-watch TV whenever he’s on the field this fall.

Chris Brooks, a one-time Cal standout, will handle the ball-carrying duties for BYU this season. In four seasons at Cal, Brooks totaled 1,734 yards and 14 touchdowns. Multiple times, he showcased an ability to make defenders miss both with his elusiveness and speed despite standing 6’1″ and 235 pounds.

Offensive All-Independent team and player honors

  • Independent QB of the Year
    Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
  • Independent RB of the Year
    Ellis Merriweather, UMass
  • Independent WR of the Year
    Puka Nacua, BYU
  • Independent TE of the Year
    Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
  • Independent Offensive Line of the Year
    BYU Cougars
  • Independent Offensive Lineman of the Year
    Blake Freeland, OT, BYU

Once again, Hall takes the top individual awards, but Ellis Merriweather earns the spot for top running back. Last season, the 6’2″, 225-pound running back totaled 1,138 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. His streak of 218 carries without a fumble literally carried the Minutemen in 2021, and he chipped in out of the backfield quite nicely.

Puka Nacua returns to Provo to reap the benefits of Hall at quarterback. Nacua’s elite-level traits are nice, as he’s an all-around receiver, but his body control is among the best in the country. Nacua also runs crisp routes.

He and Hall will have the benefit of the Independent’s top offensive line returning to football as the five starters in Provo stand toe-to-toe with any unit in the country. Blake Freeland is among the best tackles in the country, while the Barrington Bros (Campbell and Clark) pair up to form one of the top guard duos at any institution.

In other individual honors, Michael Mayer grabs the top TE of the Year for the Independent schools. Mayer is the clear-cut favorite to be the first tight end drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft as he’s a receiver in a tackle’s body or a tackle in a receiver’s body, whichever way you slice it.

Defensive All-Independent team and player honors

  • Independent Defensive Line of the Year
    Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Independent DL of the Year
    Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
  • Independent LB of the Year
    Payton Wilgar, BYU
  • Independent Secondary of the Year
    Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Independent CB of the Year
    Cam Hart, Notre Dame
  • Independent S of the Year
    Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame

On defense, it’s certainly more of the BYU and Notre Dame show. The Fighting Irish are granted the luxury of having a dominant defensive line at nearly every position. Included in that is Foskey, who is an elite athlete off the edge himself. Carter earns the top individual honors on the defensive front, but it’s Foskey and Co. who win out as a unit.

Payton Wilgar is back for the Cougars to once again patrol the middle of the field. Wilgar is a dominant three-down linebacker with enough coverage prowess to stop anything underneath. He’ll run the alley and stuff the point of attack in the run game all the same.

The Fighting Irish also have the luxury of owning one of the top secondaries in the nation. Cam Hart is a budding star at cornerback, while Brandon Joseph transfers in from Northwestern, where he led the nation in interceptions back in 2019.

Special teams All-Independent team and player honors

  • Independent K of the Year
    Blake Grupe, Notre Dame
  • Independent P of the Year
    Ryan Rehkow, BYU
  • Independent Specialist of the Year
    Brian Brewton, UConn
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