As true freshmen like Colin Schooler and Kylan Wilborn burst onto the scene for the Arizona Wildcats’ defense in 2017, junior cornerback Jace Whittaker quietly developed into one of the Pac-12’s top players.
Whittaker was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Pac-12 Second Team, earning a player grade of 84.4.
(PFF analysts graded every play Whittaker was involved in on a -2 to 2 scale, then standardized the score to a 0-100 scale.)
The 2017 PFF All-Pac 12 Second Team Defense pic.twitter.com/A3ODlTF9Pm— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 9, 2017
Opposing quarterbacks only had a passer rating of 61.4 when targeting Whittaker this year, the sixth-lowest mark in the Pac-12 (minimum 130 snaps in cornerback coverage).
Whittaker was also an All-Pac-12 honorable mention and was on the Associated Press’ All-Pac-12 Second Team.
He finished the regular season with 34 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Two of those interceptions came in the win against Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins on Oct. 14. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown.
Arizona was 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense this season, but the unit should improve in 2018 so long as its standout freshmen continue to develop and Whittaker continues to make life difficult for opposing receivers.
Arizona redshirt senior guard Jacob Alsadek made PFF’s All-Pac-12 First Team with an 86.4 grade.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire