History was made, records were set and a new gold standard was established for Pac-12 football throughout the conference's 2013 season. The playmakers responsible for an outstanding campaign deserve recognition with the regular season now in the books. But the question is, who stood out most in a standout year for the entire conference?
Paring the candidates down to just a dozen on offense and defense, with four special teams selections, is no easy feat. It stands to reason that with record depth, evident in the conference's nine bowl bids, there would be a proportionately deep talent pool.
At no position was the conference's collective depth more evident than at running back. While football at all levels becomes increasingly reliant on quarterbacks and the passing game, 2013 was the Year of the Running Back in the Pac-12.
Two Pac-12 representatives—Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey—were named finalists for the Doak Walker Award.
Open-and-shut case for All Pac-12 running back selections then, right? Not exactly.
Conference champion Stanford built its offensive game plan around hard-running senior Tyler Gaffney. Pac-12 South winner Arizona State's spread clicked with senior Marion Grice scoring touchdowns virtually at will. USC underwent a transformation with sophomore Buck Allen running buck wild in the season's second half, looking very much like the next great Trojans running back.
So how does one choose just two? In this case, one doesn't—Grice gets a nod as an all-purpose player, a fitting honor for a back as integral to the pass game as he was on the ground.
While Gaffney and Allen are left off the below All Pac-12 team, their incredible seasons deserve recognition. And it's true across the board on defense, with players like Ben Gardner, Osahon Irabor, Alden Darby, Rashaad Reynolds, Tony Washington, Scott Crichton, Devon Kennard, Damante Horton, Marquis Flowers and more all having great years.
Offensive Player of the Year: Arizona junior running back Ka'Deem Carey
Carey rewrote Arizona's record book throughout the 2013 season. In surpassing 100 yards rushing in each of his 11 appearances, Carey became the program's all-time leading ball-carrier. His 1,716 yards were fifth most in the nation, and his 156 per game ranked second.
The praise Pac-12 coaches had for Carey was almost universal, but UCLA head coach Jim Mora summarized the back best, saying, "I don't think you stop him. He's too good."
Defensive Player of the Year: Stanford senior linebacker Trent Murphy
Stanford head coach David Shaw expressed his disappointment with senior linebacker Trent Murphy not winning the conference's Defensive Player of the Year honors, and it's tough to disagree.
His 14 sacks led the nation. Murphy's 21.5 tackles for loss were third most in college football, and the 137 yards it cost opponents were the most.
Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton received the award for a second straight year, and the leader of the Sun Devils' fearsome front seven was certainly deserving in his own right. But Murphy's tenacity off the edge set the tone for the conference's stingiest bunch, the nation's No. 1 overall sacking defense.
Freshman of the Year: UCLA linebacker Myles Jack
First-year players made a mark around the conference, but none was as impacting as Myles Jack. The UCLA linebacker immediately established himself as one of the conference's most exciting defensive players.
He turned heads in the final month on offense, however, filling in at running back as injuries mounted. And all he did in the last four games was set UCLA's benchmark for rushing touchdowns in 2013 with seven.
Coach of the Year: Ed Orgeron, USC
Taking a cue from Mora, who cast his Coach of the Year ballot for Orgeron, the outstanding work of the former USC interim head coach deserves particular praise.
Orgeron got his second chance as a head coach under unenviable circumstances. The Trojans were 3-2 and coming off a 62-41 shellacking at Arizona State, which very well could have set the tone for the remainder of USC's season.
Instead, Orgeron rallied his undermanned roster to a six-game winning streak in the conference that only stalled in the season finale. The Trojans went from floundering to flourishing thanks to Orgeron's emphasis on fun.
All Pac-12 Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
AP Marion Grice, Arizona State
OL David Yankey, Stanford
OL Marcus Martin, USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
OL Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
OL Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State
All Pac-12 Defense
DL Leonard Williams, USC
DL Will Sutton, Arizona State
DL Trevor Reilly, Utah
DL Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
LB Shayne Skov, Stanford
LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Stanford
LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
DB Ed Reynolds, Stanford
DB Robert Nelson, Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Washington State
All Pac-12 Special Teams
KR Ty Montgomery, Stanford
PR Nelson Agholor, USC
K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, Utah
Play of the Year: Kodi Whitfield's touchdown catch against UCLA
Whitfield doesn't appear on the All Pac-12 team, but this play deserves special recognition.