The Pac-12 announced player and coach of the year awards today.
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
Defensive Player of the Year: Scooby Wright, LB Arizona
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Royce Freeman, RB Oregon
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Adoree Jackson, DB USC
Offensive player of the year is no surprise, as Mariota has established himself as the best player in not just the conference, but the nation. Scooby Wright as defensive player of the year wasn’t a huge surprise, but an argument could be made for both Nate Orchard and Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha. Wright did finish first in tackles, with 140, almost double either Orchard or Kikaha, and recorded 14 sacks, so it’s hard to argue against the call there.
For coach of the year, Rich Rodriguez got the nod, guiding Arizona to the Pac-12 title game with a freshman quarterback. Looking around the conference, an argument could be made for Mark Helfrich at Oregon who has the Ducks positioned for a title run. Our own Kyle Wittingham guided the Utes to a three game improvement from the past two seasons and even Sonny Dykes had a much improved Cal squad. I think Rodriguez getting an Arizona team that wasn’t expected to make a lot of noise to Pac-12 championship game puts him over the top here. If the Utes had beaten Arizona and didn't blow the game against Washington State, I think more of an argument could have been made for coach Whitt. Don’t have any qualms with the selection here.
Utah fans got a good look at both freshman of the year selections. Adoree Jackson had a kick return for a touchdown against the Utes, while Royce Freeman ran for 99 yards and a touchdown against Utah. Both are supremely talented and look to be future stars in the Pac-12. A case could be made for either of the Arizona freshman, running back Nick Wilson or quarterback Anu Soloman.
Looking ahead to next year, do the Utes have any players that could be candidates for Pac-12 awards? I think if Gionni Paul comes back 100% from his foot injury he has a chance to make a run at Defensive Player of the year. Paul, when he was able to play, showed he was a big time player capable of changing the game from the defensive side of the ball. Obviously players like UCLA's Myles Jack, Arizona State's Jordan Simone and Shaq Thompson at Washington (if he returns) will be in the running. Scooby Wright is only a sophomore, so he could win it again as well.
On the offensive side of the ball, Booker is the obvious choice for the Utes, assuming he returns for a redshirt Junior season. If the Utes can get any kind of passing game together to open up running lanes, Booker could be poised for a big season next year. Other Pac-12 players to watch for next year are Anu Soloman of Arizona, Jared Goff at Cal, and DJ Foster of Arizona State.
For incoming Freshman, the Pac-12 has a load of talented freshman coming in. Watch for names like running back Dominic Davis at USC, linebacker Keisan Lucier-South at UCLA, or Defensive lineman Canton Kaumatule at Oregon to make noise as a freshman next year.