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BYU Football Postseason Awards For Memorable 2020 Season

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 16: Zach Wilson #1 of the BYU Cougars congratulates Dax Milne #5 after a fourth quarter touchdown against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on October 16, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The 2020 BYU football season will go down as the best year to date in the Independence era. People will try to discredit the season because of the weaker strength of schedule, but it’s hard to ignore BYU’s dominance in an unprecedented season.

BYU finished 2020 with an 11-1 record and ranked No. 11 in the final AP Top 25 poll, the highest final ranking since 1996.

BYU Football 2020 Season Awards

It was a memorable year that gave BYU football a taste of national success they haven’t experienced since setting out on the path of Independence. To highlight some of the accomplishments from the 2020 season, let’s dish out some awards.

Offensive MVP: Zach Wilson, QB

You would think this was an easy choice, but there were many quality options from the high-powered BYU offense to choose from. But I had to go with Zach Wilson. Great BYU seasons are always defined by elite quarterback play, and Wilson proved to be one of the nation’s best quarterbacks this season.

Finishing eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting, Wilson passed for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and completed 74 percent of his passes. He also tore it up on the ground rushing for 10 touchdowns and 254 yards.

Wilson capped off his BYU career in style with a dominant performance against UCF, throwing for 425 yards and accounting for five touchdowns. BYU produced the No. 3 scoring offense in large part because of Wilson’s efficient play.

The Draper native now sets his sights on the NFL, where he is projected to be a top-ten pick.

Defensive MVP: Isaiah Kaufusi, LB

The rise from Isaiah Kaufusi over the course of his BYU career was impressive to watch. When he began his time at BYU in 2016, coaches didn’t believe he had what it took to be a significant contributor to the program. He had breakthrough moments in 2018 as a sophomore, and he continued to get better from there.

During his senior season this past fall, Kaufusi finished the year leading the team with 83 tackles and was a playmaker all over the field for the Cougars. Kaufusi was also a co-leader in sacks with four. The former Brighton Bengal recorded a pick-six and forced three fumbles while also recovering three.

Kaufusi is moving forward with his career to the professional level, where he was invited to participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Best Moment of BYU Football Season: Win at Boise State

On that first Friday in November, BYU football was riding high after a dominating 51-17 win over Boise State on the Blue Turf. At that moment, BYU moved to 8-0 on the season and looked to be well on their way towards a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Everyone knows how the story played out. The College Football Playoff Committee didn’t value the Cougars win over a Boise team down to its third-string quarterback. But as Kalani Sitake pointed out, the Broncos quarterback play didn’t impact their defense. A defense that squandered 51 to BYU, as the Cougars handed Boise their worst home loss since 1996.

Biggest Surprise: Dax Milne, WR

The moment Dax Milne committed to BYU as a preferred walk-on in 2018, the BYU coaching staff was high on the former Bingham High product’s potential. So there was always the thought that he could become a solid receiver in the program. But did anyone envision the 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete having one of the best individual receiving seasons in BYU history? Probably not.

Milne gave fans flashbacks of Austin Collie with the way he shed man press defense as he piled up 70 receptions for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020. The 1,188 receiving yards is the fifth most ever in a season by a player. After that impressive year, Milne made a smart move declaring early for the NFL draft.

Freshman of the Year: Micah Harper, CB

BYU was blessed with a roster in 2020 that featured a lot of returning upperclassmen. The Cougars didn’t have to turn to many underclassmen, but there’s one who stood out from the rest in true freshman Micah Harper who excelled at cornerback. Harper started in five games during his first season with the Cougars, including the Boca Raton Bowl against UCF.

Harper had 25 tackles, one fumble recovery, and one pass breakup in his first year at BYU. He nearly had an interception against UCF.

One of the top signees in the class of 2020 for BYU, Harper, drew comparisons to Dayan Ghanwoloku when he signed, and he already has made an impact in the program. He has a bright future ahead.

Most Improved BYU Football Player: Zach Wilson

To go from having to secure the starting quarterback job again to a potential top-10 NFL draft pick, Wilson’s rise over the past has been remarkable. It shows what happens when a quarterback isn’t battling shoulder pain or a thumb injury. Wilson, who loves football, is relentless with his work ethic in preparing for the game, and that work paid off with a season that no one is soon to forget.

Coach of the Year: Ilaisa Tuiaki, Defensive Coordinator

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki silenced many of his critics with the Cougars’ play on defense in 2020. Tuiaki’s group finished No. 4 in scoring defense this season, allowing 15.3 points per game. BYU held its opponents on average to 13.8 points lower than their scoring average in 2020.

Tuiaki incorporated a scheme that was flexible to the opponent they were facing. BYU would use many three-down fronts but had no problem going to a four-down front if needed. All to get the best 11 players on the field.

Since taking over the defense in 2016, Tuiaki has had three defenses finish in the top 25 in scoring defense. All five years have been in the top 50. Two of his defenses since his arrival has finished in the top 20 in total defense, and three have been in the top 50.

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 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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