OPINION: Pac-12 award predictions

Columnist shares his predictions for Pac-12 awards this season


A Pac-12 referee makes a call at Martin Stadium, Sept. 20, 2014.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

Every year the Pac-12 gives out awards to the best players in the conference. Last year, WSU had two award winners. Gardner Minshew took home offensive player of the year and Mike Leach won coach of the year.

It does not seem like the Cougs will be as fortunate this year but there are still some quality players in the Pac-12 that are worthy of taking home the end-of-season awards.

Offensive Player of the Year: University of Utah running back Zack Moss

Despite missing one game, Moss still takes home this award for being the best player on a Utes team that finds itself ranked in the top 10. He leads the conference in rushing yards with 955 and total touchdowns with 14. He has put up those numbers even though he recorded a combined 11 rushing attempts in two games while he was dealing with his injury. He still rushed for more than 120 yards and two touchdowns on five carries against Oregon State during that stretch. He has six games of more than 100 rushing yards including his last three games.

Runner-up: University of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert

Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: California linebacker Evan Weaver

Weaver is going to win this award in an absolute landslide. He has recorded 150 total tackles this season, the next closest is WSU linebacker Jahad Woods with 101. Weaver averages an incredible 15 tackles per game. He also has 10.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes defended. He has shown his versatility and ability to make plays all over the field for a Golden Bears team that has underperformed but still fielded a solid defensive unit led by Weaver.

Runner-up: Oregon State defensive lineman Hamilcar Rashed Jr.

Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: USC quarterback Kedon Slovis

Slovis was a backup to start the year but took over after starter J.T. Daniels tore his ACL early in the season. All Slovis has done since taking over is throw for over 2,700 yards and 24 touchdowns while leading the Trojans to a second-place position in the Pac-12 South. He left the game against Utah with an injury and had a rough showing against Oregon, but other than that has looked good in his first season under center. He had a respectable showing in the loss against Notre Dame and just recently had his best game of the season, throwing more than 400 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against California.

Runner-up: Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels

Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Oregon cornerback Verone McKinley III

This is a weak freshman class on the defensive side of the ball, but McKinley has made his fair share of plays for the Ducks this season. He is tied for the lead in interceptions with four and has also chipped in 34 total tackles. He had his best game against the University of Colorado when he hauled in two interceptions and had five tackles. He has been a big reason why the Oregon secondary has been improved this year and is allowing just more than 200 passing yards per game.

Runner-up: USC defensive end Drake Jackson

Coach of the Year: University of Oregon’s Mario Cristobal

This award is a clear two-man race between Cristobal and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. Cristobal gets the edge because the Ducks are ranked slightly higher and are on an impressive run of nine straight wins. Cristobal also deserves credit for taking an Oregon team mismanaged by former head coach Willie Taggart two seasons ago and turning them into a possible college football playoff team. Cristobal has had a successful turnaround thanks to his stellar recruiting classes, but he has also proven that he knows what to do with them when they get on the field.

Runner-up: Kyle Whittingham