The 2014 Pac-12 Conference Football Awards were announced on Monday, and it’s no surprise who took home the league’s most coveted hardware.
Let’s start from the top with Arizona Wildcats’ head coach Rich Rodriguez, who was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The third year coach led his team to its first 10-win season since 1998, and a 10-2 overall record, 7-2 in-conference. The Wildcats clinched the Pac-12 South title and will play the North Champions, the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, CA.
Oregon Ducks’ junior quarterback Marcus Mariota is easily one of the front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy, and is a finalist for the Davey O’Brien, and Maxwell awards. But Santa came a little early this year during Monday’s Pac-12 Awards when he was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Mariota ranked fifth in the nation in total offense this season, averaging 342.2 yards per game, while passing for 3,470 total yards, 36 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He also rushed for 636 rushing yards, and 11 rushing touchdowns. The Honolulu, Hawaii native is expected to declare for the NFL Draft in early January.
With Mariota headlining the offensive side of the football, it’s no wonder why freshmen Oregon running back Royce Freeman was named the Freshmen Offensive Player of the Year. The Calif. native led the conference in rushing with an average of 232 yards per game this season. This was based off a high-octane offense that collectively averaged 539.5 yards of total offense per game, and averaged 45.9 points per game. Solo, Freeman accumulated 16 rushing touchdowns with one in the air, and averaged 8.5 points per game. His 1,185 total rushing yards helped the Ducks reach eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
On to the defensive side of the football, Arizona Wildcats’ linebacker Scooby Wright III received the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Award. Wright registered six forced fumbles, 27 tackles for loss, 139 tackles, and was ranked third in the nation in sacks at 14 for the season — all key contributing factors to Arizona’s first Pac-12 South Championship. The three-time 2014 Defensive Player of the Week is also a finalist of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and the Rotary Lombardi Awards.
University of Southern California Trojans’ triple threat cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was named the Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, and for good reason. Jackson was heavily tested this season at cornerback, receiver, and as a kick return specialist on special teams. The USC defense held quarterbacks to a 118.5 passing efficiency, which was the second lowest in the conference, and with Jackson played as a lockdown corner, he certainly played a role in that average. Jackson also accounted for nine batted passes, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 42 tackles. At receiver, Jackson recorded two receiving touchdowns and averaged 9.3 yards per reception. But where he really made his mark was at special teams. Jackson was the fourth ranked kick returner in the nation, averaging 27.7 yards per return, with one 100-yard touchdown return against Utah. Jackson is the third Trojan to take home this award in four years joining Dion Bailey, Leonard Williams, and Taylor Mays.
*Section Photo credit to George Frey, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Greg M. Cooper, USA Today Sports.