PAC-12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sr. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
While there is only one “Sunshine,” this one is a no brainer for me. He’s a Heisman front runner. A potential #1-#1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and while Kenjon Barner might rack up a whole lot of yards and touchdowns running the ball for the Ducks, so much was expected of this kid to be the next great quarterback at USC. Last year he ran an offense full of skill, but low on depth. This year he has the full complement of weapons at his disposal, not to mention depth in the backfield with returning 1,000 yard rusher Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd who rushed for 1,000 yards last year with the Penn State.
Oh right, and the receivers! No one in the nation can touch what USC starts at wide receiver every week in junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marqise Lee. They just complement each other so well in this offense, and teamed with Barkley they put up numbers in a pro-style offense not seen in California since Montana and Young were throwing balls to Jerry Rice and John Taylor for the 49ers. Not to mention the guys on the second team offense in George Farmer and newcomer Nelson Agholor.
If he can beat Oregon at the Coliseum and potentially again in the PAC-12 Championship game, he will have justified to everyone out there that he made the correct choice in returning to the Trojans for one more year. This is a team built to compete with the heavy weights of the SEC, and Barkley is its leader.
Honorable mention: Sr. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon. Sr. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford. Jr. Robert Woods, WR, USC. Jr. Keith Price, QB, Washington. Sr. John White IV, RB, Utah.
PAC-12 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sr. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Just what you wanted to read. More about the star power of the men of Troy. McDonald had an up-and-down year in 2011, the lows of the game in Tempe against the Sun Devils, committing personal fouls that made Vontaze Burfict blush. As well as the loss in the Coliseum to the Cardinal. But the kid has amazing ability to go with that great big 6’2 200lb frame of his at the safety position. He is the player Kiffin built his Tampa 2 defenses around in the NFL, and is the reason it is evolving more into an aggressive mutation of its former self. He lead his team in picks and lead the secondary in tackles. If he can just add a bit more discipline to his game he like Barkley could push his name into legendary status if he can help to shut down Oregon’s rushing attack when the teams meet in early November.
Honorable mention: Sr. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. Sr. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon. Sr. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford. Sr. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State.
PAC-12 NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Fr. Gabriel Marks, WR, Washington State
John White literally ran away with this award in 2011. And while I can see Don preparing his argument already with me, I just loved this get from the beginning for head coach Mike Leach. This explosive receiver out of Los Angeles had quite a few offers from PAC-12 teams, but it looked at first like he was going to the Run ‘N Shoot offense of June Junes at SMU. But thanks to an interview that Jones took with the representatives of Arizona State looking to fill a spot for the recently fired Dennis Erickson, Marks reportedly had a change of heart. Leach knows wide outs, and he really liked this guy from the start by all reports out of Pullman. Would not be surprised to see him catch 60+ passes this year in the Air Raid working out of the slot and working off of future NFLer Marquess Wilson.
Honorable mention: Jr. Silas Redd, RB,USC. FR. Shaq Thompson, S, Washington. Fr. Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon. Fr. Fr. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
PAC-12 COACH OF THE YEAR
Lane Kiffin, USC
It wasn’t so much that he came to USC with the cupboard bare, but more so how he managed this team without the necessary depth that keeps a powerhouse team on top, week in and week out. Say what you want about his personality, but the guy has won 18 games in his two seasons after picking up the pieces from Pete Carroll. Things could have gotten much, much worse (see UCLA).
There are lots of big games on this schedule, especially those on the road: Stanford, Utah, and Washington. But with games against Notre Dame and Oregon at the Coliseum, this could be Kiffin’s best shot at a contract extension with a defense that has a great mix of youth, ability, and experience to put that offense back on the field as much as possible.
If he makes it through the gauntlet twice with Oregon and can manage to dethrone the SEC, you will see PR firms in Los Angeles lining up to make him one of the star clients.
Honorable mention: Chip Kelly, Oregon. Brian Shaw, Stanford. Kyle Whittingham, Utah. Steve Sarkisian, Washington.