Pac-12 Media Days are set for next week, and with them comes the release of major preseason awards. Over the next few days, we at DieHards will reveal our consensus picks for preseason All-Pac-12 and the final Pac-12 standings. But before all that, we bring you our preseason Pac-12 Awards.
The votes were cast by DieHards editor Eric Yates and Pac-12 writers Max Meyer and Justin Spears. Players with a first-place vote got 3 points, a second-place vote got 2 points and a third-place vote got 1 point.
Last year’s offensive player of the year, Jake Browning, returns this season, but he’s been overtaken by USC’s Sam Darnold. A star in the making after his tremendous play last season, Darnold was the only unanimous selection for the awards.
Here are our picks for the preseason Pac-12 awards:
Offensive Player of the Year
Sam Darnold, USC quarterback (9 pts)
We can’t really say anything about Darnold that hasn’t already been said. His poise, command of the offense and elite production made him one of college football’s breakout stars last season. He returns a talented offense and should continue racking up big numbers. Darnold is currently the betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada.
Runner-up: Jake Browning, Washington (4 pts)
Also receiving votes: Royce Freeman (Oregon), Bryce Love (Stanford), Josh Rosen (UCLA), N’Keal Harry (Arizona State)
Defensive Player of the Year
Azeem Victor, Washington linebacker (6 pts)
Before breaking his right leg in November and missing the remainder of the season, Victor was the leading tackler for a star-studded Washington defense. He was also projected as a Day 2 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft before the injury. Now back healthy, he’ll be one of the leaders of the Huskies’ defense. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound senior makes plays all over the field with his speed and ability to beat blockers. He’s a hard hitter with a nasty streak and will be in the running for many postseason awards, barring injury.
Runner-up: Cameron Smith, USC (5 pts)
Also receiving votes: Lowell Lotulelei (Utah), Iman Marshall (USC), Vita Vea (Washington)
Coach of the Year
Chris Petersen, Washington (6 pts)
All Chris Petersen does is win. And he does it with class and humility. If not for the tremendous turnaround job Mike MacIntryre had with Colorado last season, Petersen almost certainly would have won coach of the year for unexpectedly leading Washington to the College Football Playoff. He gets his due this year on our list, as he’ll keep the Huskies in the hunt for the Pac-12 title despite losing many talented players on both sides of the ball.
Runner-up: Willie Taggart, Oregon (5 pts)
Also receiving votes: Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Clay Helton (USC), Todd Graham (Arizona State), Mike Leach (Washington State)
Newcomer of the Year
Jaelen Phillips, UCLA defensive end (7 pts)
Phillips might not be a household name now, but after a few weeks of terrorizing Pac-12 quarterbacks, it won’t take long. One of the fastest-rising players of the 2017 class, Phillips went from ranked No. 275 nationally a year before to country’s top overall recruit, according to the 247 Sports composite rankings. Blessed with prototypical size for a defensive end, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Phillips has a relentless motor, runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and features a variety of pass rush moves. As he continues to mature, he’ll be one of the most impactful defensive freshmen in the nation.
Runner-up: Blake Barnett, Arizona State (4 pts)
Also receiving votes: Joseph Lewis (USC), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Tyler Vaughns (USC)