Week 0 College Football Team of the Week: Ryan Hilinski and Chase Brown lead the way

The Week 0 college football Team of the Week awards the top performances from the opening slate of FBS action across the nation.

College football returned in terrific form on Saturday, welcoming the nation to the 2022 season with 11 matchups featuring FBS teams. The Week 0 College Football Team of the Week aims to award the top performers at every position from across the slate of games at each level against any competition.

Week 0 College Football Team of the Week | First team

It’s important to note that the PFN Week 0 College Football Team of the Week awards players based on their impact in their respective games and is not necessarily based on total statistical output.

The strength of competition is accounted for, as is the situation — both time of the game and score. These individual awards are also solely based on a player’s ability on Saturday and do not look into their future stock or NFL draft prospects.

Quarterback: Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern

On Saturday, the Northwestern Wildcats stunned their Big Ten rivals Nebraska from Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Paced by their backfield duo of Ryan Hilinski and Evan Hull, Northwestern took command in the second half, largely thanks to Hilinski.

Throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns, Hilinski was sharp with his reads and performed well above expectations as he helped to elevate the Wildcats to victory.

Running back: Chase Brown, Illinois

It was the Chase Brown show early and often for Illinois against Wyoming. Brown toted the rock for 38 yards on the opening play before hauling in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tommy DeVito on the very next play.

He was impressive in the open field as well as through the tackles as he created more than enough on his own and with superior run blocking up front. In total, Brown ran the ball 19 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns, chipping in with three receptions for 16 yards and another score.

Running back: Evan Hull, Northwestern

Aiding in the upset victory for Northwestern, Evan Hull ran the ball 22 times for 119 yards and a touchdown. But his effort in the receiving game and his ability to make something out of nothing impressed the most.

Hull is as strong as an ox, and if you watched the broadcast, you heard on multiple occasions about his ability to squat 515 pounds for five reps. What’s impressive is that he has that kind of strength and still maintained the elusiveness he showed against Nebraska.

Wide receiver: Ricky White, UNLV

A dominant showing from Ricky White headlined an overall strong performance for UNLV against Idaho State. While QB Doug Brumfield just missed out on earning QB honors here, White received top honors from this outing.

He hauled in eight receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns, playing just the first half. The former Michigan State receiver showcased what originally sent him to East Lansing as it appears White is Brumfield’s top target.

Wide receiver: Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky

With a ton of vacated targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the Western Kentucky offense, it was only certain that a few receivers would have to step up in 2022. Malachi Corley stepped up in a big way, hauling in three touchdowns from Austin Reed against Austin Peay.

Corley recorded five receptions for 61 yards, and his effort after the catch was as impressive as his body control and full extension on his third touchdown catch of the day.

Wide receiver: Grant DuBose, Charlotte

It was a disastrous outing for Charlotte against Florida Atlantic unless you were named Grant DuBose. The big man on the outside proved his worth in a big way, hauling in Charlotte’s only touchdowns of the game, including the best catch of the week. DuBose skied over a defender for his first touchdown catch and then one-upped himself with his second touchdown.

Against good coverage, DuBose leaped over his defender to catch the ball before it hit the defender’s back, essentially catching the football in a blindspot and through his coverage defender while falling to the ground at the sideline in the end zone. It was an impressive showing for a true next-level receiver.

Tight end: Travis Vokolek, Nebraska

It didn’t end his way, but the argument has absolutely been made that Travis Vokolek meant more to his team than any other tight end in the country in Week 0. With Vokolek in the lineup, Nebraska built an impressive lead, and Casey Thompson featured him heavily.

Despite missing the second half with an injury, Vokolek had five receptions for 63 yards, and his absence was felt the most when Nebraska’s lead evaporated and the offense was stymied.

Flex: Mike Wright, Vanderbilt

It was a big-time performance at Hawaii for Mike Wright. The Vanderbilt quarterback was in top form, as was his offensive line. Wright rushed for over 100 yards, thanks in large part to his 87-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter that blew the game wide open.

Wright totaled three TDs and nearly 300 yards of total offense before the game was truly out of hand in a dominant showing from Vanderbilt. He then connected with his second passing touchdown to another star in the making — Will Sheppard — to subsequently end his night after a 35-point third quarter.

Offensive tackle: Asim Richards, North Carolina

It took them a bit, but the North Carolina offense pulled away from Florida A&M late. However, it was an impressive performance on offense for all four quarters as Drake Maye threw five total touchdowns and the Tar Heels won convincingly in the end.

Thanks largely to their offensive line — led by left tackle Asim Richards — UNC was able to control the point of attack. Richards was downfield on run plays and kept Maye clean from backside pressure at all times.

Guard: Quantavious Leslie, Western Kentucky

Dominating the point of attack, WKU G Quantavious Leslie was terrific in both facets for the Hilltoppers against Austin Peay. In the passing game, Leslie was stout and provided a great anchor in the middle for WKU’s new quarterback.

Leslie was even better in the run game, both in their scripted offensive plays and when the rain forced the ball to the ground. It was a solid game all around from the third-year interior blocker.

Center: Corey Gaynor, North Carolina

He was flagged for an uncharacteristic penalty, but Corey Gaynor’s impressive ability at the first and second level was on display for North Carolina in Week 0. The former Miami Hurricane was dominant in his first outing for the Tar Heels.

He was calling his shots ahead of time and finishing his attempts with imposing strength and contact balance. Most notably, however, was Gaynor’s leadership over the entire UNC team. He was the first one on the field, the last one off of it, and the most vocal of the entire Tar Heel offense.

Guard: Falepule Alo, Utah State

Moving incredibly well for a big man, Falepule Alo was integral in Utah State’s comeback bid against UConn. Alo was the big man who created crease after crease until those creases became massive rushing lanes for Aggie running backs. He moved incredibly well in their power-rushing attack, coming across the formation easily. Alo was also sound in pass protection, rounding out a great outing.

Offensive tackle: Chaz Neal, FAU

The FAU Owls looked very impressive from the opening whistle against Charlotte. They weathered the storm and ultimately pulled away with a dominant performance on the ground. Chaz Neal was integral in that performance as he paved rushing lanes on wide carries and kept N’Kosi Perry clean from pressure from his tackle spot. It was a great debut for FAU against conference foe Charlotte.

EDGE: Byron Vaughns, Utah State

There wasn’t much that Byron Vaughns did against UConn that wasn’t impactful. Actually, the Huskies ran away from Vaughns as their only big plays and points came in the first half.

Vaughns continually pushed the pocket with an impressive display of pass-rushing skills, but his presence up and down the line of scrimmage was felt all game long by UConn. All in all, Vaughns proved why he was on the Shrine Bowl 1000 and was so highly thought of among opposing Mountain West coaches.

EDGE: Jared Verse, Florida State

Welcome to Florida State, welcome to the ACC, welcome to major college football, and welcome to Jared Verse. One of the top FCS pass rushers from a season ago, Verse transferred to FSU from Albany, where he recorded double-digit sacks and tackles for loss a year ago.

He’s well on his way to doing such a thing at FSU, as Verse was too much to handle for Duquesne. He came up and down the line of scrimmage well and put the exclamation point on his dominant performance with a sack in the second half. Verse had equally as many dominant plays in run defense as well.

Interior defender: Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore simply dominated against Nebraska. Going up against the massive 6’9″ Bryce Benhart more often than not, Adebawore utilized his leverage and strength to keep Benhart off balance all game long.

Adebawore followed that up with impressive inside and outside moves as he stymied ball carriers and got pressure on Northwestern’s four-man rush on multiple occasions.

Interior defender: Dom Peterson, Nevada

It didn’t take long for New Mexico State to feel the force of Dom Peterson. Rushing from all over the Nevada defensive line, Peterson got home with his first sack of the 2022 campaign from the edge, where he swiftly overpowered the tackle and simultaneously sacked the quarterback and ripped the ball out of his hands for a strip-sack and fumble recovery at the same time. Peterson was all over the field against New Mexico State.

Linebacker: Tatum Bethune, Florida State

One of the more underrated transfers from this offseason, former UCF linebacker Tatum Bethune made his presence known for the Seminoles in Week 0. Bethune had multiple plays in coverage and was dominant against the run.

On one occasion, Bethune blew up the point of attack on a short-yardage attempt, diagnosing the play quickly, tossing his would-be blocker to the side, and taking down the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. Bethune covered the underneath routes incredibly well to round out a great debut.

Linebacker: Jackson Mitchell, UConn

It was largely thanks to Jackson Mitchell that UConn led 14-0 at one point against Utah State. Mitchell was dominant throughout most of the game, making plays in run defense and coverage for the Huskies. It was all for not in the end, but Mitchell turned heads with his all-around performance that gives hope for the future of UConn football.

Linebacker: Anfernee Orji, Vanderbilt

The Week 0 slate was capped by a terrific performance from Vanderbilt LB Anfernee Orji at Hawaii. Orji wasted no time having his impact felt as he changed the point of attack on a run play, forcing the ball carrier outside where he fumbled, and Orji was “johnny on the spot” to catch the ball and scoot down the sidelines for a touchdown. Orji was a force running the alley and just as dominant when he patrolled in coverage or blitzed.

Cornerback: Cameron Mitchell, Northwestern

At one point against Nebraska, Cameron Mitchell ran his receiver’s route better than the receiver and stepped in front of a pass for an interception. Mitchell had a great game overall in coverage as he was targeted more than a handful of times but ultimately kept his receivers out of the stat sheet for the most part. He showcased sound coverage skills from both zone and man coverage schemes as Mitchell has made a name for himself in the Big Ten this season.

Cornerback: Upton Stout, Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers saw a bevy of great defensive plays in their season-opening performance against Austin Peay. Noticeably, Upton Stout scampered his way into the end zone for a 34-yard pick-six in the second quarter. Stout was also a factor in keeping the Governors’ passing attack out of the end zone when it counted most, maintaining his tight coverage in every area of the field on Saturday.

Cornerback: Justin McKithen, FAU

Showcasing his incredible ball skills, Justin McKithen nabbed an interception on a tipped ball from Charlotte QB James Foster. McKithen then knew what to do with the ball in his hands, weaving his way through would-be tacklers for a 63-yard pick-six. McKithen also recorded three total tackles and forced another incompletion with his sticky coverage.

Safety: Coco Azema, Northwestern

Making plays in every facet, Coco Azema literally flew all around the field for Northwestern. Whether it was pressuring the quarterback from backside blitzes or coming downhill in the run game, Azema didn’t let anything get by him.

Yet, those weren’t his top impact plays, as Azema was a bully on the back end in coverage. If someone did catch the ball over the middle, Azema was punishing them at the catch point and attempting to separate the ball from the man with every hit.

Safety: A.J. Brathwaite Jr., Western Kentucky

A.J. Brathwaite sparked the WKU defensive efforts against Austin Peay. He may have been kept clean from the stat sheet elsewhere, but you better believe Brathwaite was avoided at all costs after his interception on the first series.

He was outstanding in coverage on the back end. As a testament to his ability early, he truly was avoided in coverage after that, forcing throws into other potentially covered areas.

Flex: Isaiah Essissima, Nevada

The lightning delay worked wonders on the Nevada defense after crawling out of the gates against New Mexico State. Following the delay, the Wolf Pack intercepted New Mexico State three times on their next six passes as Isaiah Essissima was on the receiving end of two of those impressive picks that changed the game before halftime. Essissima was solid in coverage all game long and reaped the benefits of Nevada’s quick pass rush getting home and forcing errant throws.

Kicker: Daniel Gutierrez, UNLV

Incredibly active in the Rebels’ first game, Daniel Gutierrez was perfect on the afternoon. In total, Gutierrez made all eight of his kicks — 7 for 7 on extra points –, including a 39-yard field goal. He proved his leg and consistency were top-notch, as Gutierrez is a name to know for the Lou Groza Award and the 2023 NFL Draft.

Punter: Luke Akers, Northwestern

It was about as impressive a performance the Irish fans could have asked for from a kicker as Luke Akers dropped punt after punt inside the 5-yard line for Northwestern. It was his punt in the game’s waning moments that pinned the Cornhuskers near their own 1-yard line, forcing them to go the length of the field to win or tie the contest. In total, Akers hit six punts for 245 yards, with four of them landing inside the Nebraska 20.

Kick returner: Omarion Hampton, North Carolina

It was slim pickings for Kick Returner of the Week, with very few kick returns even attempted or allowed in Week 0. Still, the fabulous true freshman Omarion Hampton has electricity in his legs, so every time he touched the ball, it felt like he could go the distance. It seems like only a matter of time before he takes a kick all the way home for UNC.

Punt returner: Upton Stout, Western Kentucky

It was tough to find a punt returner to earn honors here. Upton Stout nearly broke what would have been his second touchdown of the game on his long punt return as he averaged 15.5 yards per return on two attempts.

Week 0 College Football Team of the Week | Second team


QB: Doug Brumfield, UNLV
RB: Treshaun Ward/Trey Benson/Lawrance Tofaili, Florida State
RB: Nathan Carter, UConn
WR: Tyrin Smith, UTEP
WR: Brian Cobbs, Utah State
WR: Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, Nebraska
TE: Jake Roberts, North Texas
Flex: Calvin Tyler, Utah State
OT: Jacob South, Utah State
G: Zac Welch, Nevada
C: Julian Hernandez, Vanderbilt
G: Ben Cox, Vanderbilt
OT: Alex Palczewski, Illinois


EDGE: JaQues Evans, Western Kentucky
EDGE: Kaimon Rucker, North Carolina
IDL: Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
IDL: Elijah McAllister, Vanderbilt
LB: Power Echols, North Carolina
LB: DJ Lundy, Florida State
LB: Xander Mueller, Northwestern
CB: Storm Duck, North Carolina
CB: Jartavius Martin, Illinois
CB: Kahlef Hailassie, Western Kentucky
Flex: Juwuan Jones, Western Kentucky
S: Jammie Robinson, Florida State
S: Wyatt Ekeler, Wyoming

Special teams

K: Morgan Suarez, FAU
P: Brian Buschini, Nebraska
KR: Nohl Williams, UNLV
PR: Isaiah Williams, Illinois