Pac-12 Football: Bleacher Report's 2013 All-Conference Team
The Pac-12 comprises one of the most talented and exciting conferences in the nation.
An eclectic mix of offensive capabilities and innovation is married together with tremendous passion and support from 12 loyal fan bases. Not to be outdone, there are multiple defensive standouts with the capabilities to impact immensely on the next level.
The 2013 season was a very competitive year for the conference. Both the North and South divisions were ultimately decided by one game each. The play throughout the season lends credence to the notion that the Pac-12 should be regarded as one of the best leagues in college football.
Without further ado, let's take a look at my all-conference team for the Pac-12.
*Note: The piece includes the best player at every position, along with a few honorable mentions.
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota
Although his play tailed off a bit towards the end of the season, the comprehensive body of work allows for Marcus Mariota to be the top quarterback in the Pac-12 for 2013.
Mariota ended the season with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He threw for 3,412 yards and completed passes at a 63.1 percent clip.
The Ducks quarterback was as lethal with his legs as he was with his arm. Although slowed by a knee injury towards the middle of the season, Oregon's signal-caller still managed to accrue 582 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Mariota displayed immense poise and savvy from the position, and is primed for a Heisman Trophy run in 2014.
Honorable mention: Taylor Kelly
Running Back: Ka'Deem Carey
The running back position in the Pac-12 this season was absolutely stacked. There were a half-dozen backs with the ability to vie for postseason honors. Marion Grice, Tyler Gaffney, Byron Marshall and Buck Allen all had very good seasons.
In the end, the title belongs to Arizona tailback Ka'Deem Carey.
Carey was recently named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. For the season, the dynamic athlete was the nation's fifth-leading rusher with 1,716 yards. Carey has rushed for over 100 yards in 15 straight games, a feat not accomplished by any back in more than a decade.
Bishop Sankey is a worthy candidate for the award. The Washington tailback actually rushed for more yards than Carey, but Carey meant more to his team than perhaps any other player this season.
For that reason, Carey gets the nod as the top back in the conference.
Honorable mention: Bishop Sankey
Wide Receivers: Paul Richardson and Brandin Cooks
One would be hard-pressed to find two more productive receivers in the country when speaking about Brandin Cooks and Paul Richardson.
If Cooks doesn't win the Biletnikoff Award, it would be a travesty. Cooks is the nation's leading receiver with 1,670 receiving yards. He also caught an eye-popping 120 receptions, good for second-best in the country.
The electric receiver from Northern California is an absolute terror to match up against. He's quick enough to make defenders miss in space, but also has the pure speed to run away from his opponents on routes exploiting the field vertically. Cooks is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.
Richardson is the nation's sixth-leading receiver with 1,343 receiving yards. He caught 83 passes this season and was arguably the conference's best deep threat. His average of 16.2 yards per catch is one of the best in the conference.
Honorable mentions: Marqise Lee, Ty Montgomery, Jaelen Strong
Both David Yankey and Andrus Peat help to make the Stanford offensive line one of the top groups in college football. Yankey is a potential All-American candidate and Peat has the upside to be a future top NFL draft choice.
Hroniss Grasu has anchored the Oregon offensive line for the past three seasons. The former Crespi High School product is a finalist for the Remington Trophy, awarded to the nation's top center.
If Grasu is the conference's top center, Marcus Martin is a close second. He was the glue that held together USC's offensive line this season. He's a smart, physical competitor with a bright future.
Xavier Su'a-Filo is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the country. Out of necessity, he was forced from his natural offensive guard position and moved to left tackle. Not only did Su'a-Filo effectively protect Brett Hundley's blindside, but he was also a force for UCLA in the run game.
Honorable mentions: Evan Finkenberg, Issac Seumalo, Dexter Charles, Khalil Wilkes, Cameron Fleming
Tight End: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was among the best tight ends in the Pac-12 in receiving yards (413), receptions (33) and touchdowns (7).
At 6'6", 276 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins is an absolute nightmare to defend against. His soft hands and surprising mobility gave Washington a lethal option in the pass game. He has all of the tools to be a very good tight end in the National Football League.
Seferian-Jenkins is one of three finalists for the Mackey Award, recognizing the nation's best tight end.
Honorable mentions: Connor Hamlett, Chris Coyle
Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton has proven to be an absolute load for offensive linemen to deal with in the trenches.
Although built low to the ground and rotund, Sutton plays with great leverage and quickness. He was very disruptive this season, constantly getting into opposing backfields and making plays for Arizona State.
Williams matched Kennard with 13.5 tackles for loss, and in terms of pure ability, there's not another defensive lineman in the conference who can match Williams. He's a bonafide NFL prospect with an extremely bright future.
Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly was a tackling machine. Reilly led the Utes in tackles (100), tackles for loss (16) and sacks (nine), ranking in the top five in the conference in all three categories.
Honorable mentions: Ben Gardner, Tenny Palepoi, Scott Crichton, Hau'oli Kikaha, Tony Washington
Shayne Skov is the heart and soul of the Stanford defense. Skov is blessed with superlative anticipation, being extremely adept at diagnosing plays and making the tackle. Skov effectively quarterbacks one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.
Along with Skov, Trent Murphy makes up perhaps the best linebacking duo in the nation. Murphy was an absolute terror off the edge for the Cardinal in 2013.
Murphy led the conference in sacks with 14. He also utilized his impressive length to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage and was constantly getting after the quarterback. His motor is unparalleled to any other defender in the conference.
In terms of pure physical ability, Anthony Barr is in another stratosphere. UCLA's elite pass-rusher was second in the conference in sacks with 10. Barr is equipped with elite speed, quickness, power and length. He has all of the physical characteristics needed to be an impact player in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Young, Myles Jack, Carl Bradford, Addison Gillam
Alden Darby and Robert Nelson led a potent Arizona State secondary. Nelson led the conference in interceptions with six. Darby marshaled an ASU back end which was the top unit against the pass in the entire conference.
Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is arguably the hardest-hitting safety in the league. He has great instincts and can make plays on the ball exceptionally well. Bucannon led the conference in tackles with 109.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu might be the top cover corner in the country. He's cat-quick and can turn quite well in coverage. He's also a great tackler in space and rarely is beaten down the field. Ekpre-Olomu has the skill set to be a very effective cornerback in the NFL for a long time.
Honorable mentions: Ed Reynolds, Rashaad Reynolds, Osahon Irabor, Randall Goforth
Special Team Returners
Punt returner: Nelson Agholor,, USC
Kick returner: Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Nelson Agholor, a dynamic punt returner from Tampa, had two punt returns for touchdowns against Cal this season. Agholor is seventh nationally with 346 punt return yards and leads the nation with an average of 20.4 yards per return.
Montgomery has been a dangerous kick returner throughout the 2013 season. He is ranked fifth nationally with 997 kickoff return yards and his average of 31.2 yards per return is the best in the country. Montgomery has also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season.
Honorable mentions: Khalfani Muhammad, Bralon Addison
Special Teams: Kickers
Punter: Tom Hackett, Utah
Kicker: Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
Utah punter Tom Hackett led the conference in punt average (43.4 yards), punts inside of the 20-yard line (27) and punts that traveled longer than 50 yards (19). Hackett also set a Utah record for most punting yards in a single season with 3,300.
Zane Gonzalez attempted 26 field goals this season, and connected on 22. His 127 total points scored this season set a single-season record for an Arizona State kicker. Gonzalez is also the only special teamer to win the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week more than once.
Honorable mentions: Travis Coons, Vincenzo D'Amato