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Khyiris Tonga - James Empey
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BYU’s Khyiris Tonga, James Empey Named To Outland Trophy Watch List

BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and center James Empey have been named to the 2020 Outland Trophy Watch List. (Photos Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Watch list season rolls on in College Football and BYU has another pair of players receiving preseason accolades.

Senior defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and sophomore center James Empey have been named to the Outland Trophy Award watch list. The Outland Trophy is given to college football’s top interior lineman.

BYU has a rich history with the Outland Trophy Award as the Cougars boast two previous winners in sack master Jason Buck in 1986 and Mohammed Elewonibi in 1989.

Khyiris Tonga returns to BYU for one more season

Tonga considered foregoing his senior season at BYU to play in the NFL, but after talks with his parents, the 6-foot-4, 321-pound defensive lineman made the decision to come back to BYU. With how COVID-19 rocked the NFL Draft process, Tonga views the decision to return as a “blessing” with how everything played out this past spring.

In three seasons at BYU, Tonga has piled up 94 tackles and five sacks. But what might be even more impressive is his speed for a man of his size. He’s been clocked in at a 4.91 40 during his career at BYU. Now he will try to turn that speed and size into consistent production every week.

Tonga also earned a preseason watch list nod on the Bronko Nagurski Watch List which goes to the Nation’s Premier Defensive Player.

James Empey is a star along BYU’s offensive line

Two years ago, James Empey had the tall task of replacing four-year starter Tejan Koroma at center. Now heading into his junior season, Empey has the potential to be one of the best centers in BYU’s history by the time his career is over.

To highlight how Empey is viewed by the advance analytics, Pro Football Focus ranks Empey as the 10th best offensive lineman in college football for the 2020 season.

BYU Watch List Candidates for 2020 Season

Lopini Katoa, Running Back – Doak Walker Award

Matt Bushman, Tight End – Mackey Award

James Empey, Center – Outland Trophy

Khyiris Tonga, Defensive Tackle – Outland Trophy & Bronko Nagurski

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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