BYU Football: James Empey earns Freshman All-American honors

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) /

James Empey has earned Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America. The freshman center anchored a young line in 2018.

BYU Football relied heavily on freshmen during the 2018 season, especially on offense, and it started in the middle.

Redshirt freshman James Empey started every game under center for the Cougars in 2018, and he’s been recognized for his stellar play.

The Football Writers Association of America released their Freshman All-American team on Monday, and Empey earned the center spot on that team.

It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Empey was able to step in and perform at a high level so soon. He’s the son of former BYU Offensive Line Coach Mike Empey, and was a solid 3-Star recruit out of high school.

He originally committed to Utah before serving a mission, then committed to BYU before the 2017 season. He redshirted last year, learning  behind Tejan Koroma, one of the best centers the Cougars have ever had.

Koroma’s graduation left a battle for the open spot in the middle, and Empey won it during camp. And while the offensive line had their ups and downs in 2018, Pro Football Focus rated Empey as the best freshman center and second-best interior lineman in the country.

As a side note, Pro Football Focus also graded BYU’s Zach Wilson as the sixth best freshman quarterback and Brady Christensen as the second-best freshman offensive tackle.

Both Empey and Christensen helped anchor a young line that should be even better in 2019. Freshman Keanu Saleapaga also started eight games for the Cougars, while two sophomores got starts as well. Tristan Hoge started all 13 games at guard and Kieffer Longson started the final three games at the other guard spot.