Pac-12 announces football players and co-coaches of the year
SAN FRANCISCO—Running back Christian McCaffrey of STANFORD has been named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, defensive end DeForest Buckner of OREGON the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and Mike Leach of WASHINGTON STATE and David Shaw of Stanford, the Pac-12 Co-Coaches of the Year. Quarterback Josh Rosen of UCLA has been named the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and linebacker Cameron Smith of USC has been named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. In addition, quarterback Mike Bercovici of Arizona State has been named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Offensive Player of the Year – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: McCaffrey, a sophomore from Castle Rock, Colo., totaled 3,035 all-purpose yards, a Pac-12 single-season record, and currently leads the nation. The Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp Player of the Year semifinalist and Hornung finalist led Stanford to wins over No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 18 UCLA and No. 6 USC to earn a berth in the Pac-12 championship game and the third North Division title in the last four years. McCaffrey set several school records this season, including totaling 243 yards rushing on 25 carries against UCLA, recorded nine-consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and amassed 389 all-purpose yards against California, breaking a 25-year-old school record. McCaffrey was selected as the Conference’s Player of the Week twice this season, once on offense and once on special teams.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: Buckner, a senior lineman from Waianae, Hawai’i, finished the regular season for the second-straight year as the team leader in tackles for loss. In 2015, he recorded 76 tackles (6.3 avg), including 16.0 TFL for 82 yards and totaled 9.5 sacks, which ties for 13th in the nation. The Ted Hendricks Award and Polynesian College Football Player of the Year semifinalist is tied for ninth in Duck history with 35 tackles for loss.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year - Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Rosen, a quarterback from Manhattan Beach, Calif., took over for the Bruins under center as a true freshman and was the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for the Bruins. In his first outing, Rosen went 28-of-35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-16 win over Virginia and was named Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. He finished the regular season completing 266 passes in 447 attempts (.595) for a UCLA freshman record 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. The rookie went on to set a Bruin record with 245 pass attempts without an interception.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year - Cameron Smith, LB, USC: Smith, a freshman from Roseville, Calif., helped the Trojans to an 8-4 overall record, a share of the Pac-12 South title and a berth to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Smith was the first USC freshman to start at middle linebacker since 1978. He started nine of 10 games and finished his rookie season with a team-leading 78 tackles as well as three interceptions. Smith became the first USC player to intercept three passes in a game since 1991, picking off three passes in the win over then-No. 3 Utah and was named Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Smith was one of six USC true freshmen to score a touchdown this season. Smith now becomes the fourth Trojan in the last five years to be named Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
Co-Coach of the Year – Mike Leach, Washington State: In his fourth year at the helm of the Cougar program, Leach led WSU to a 8-4 record and a 6-3 mark in Pac-12 play after being picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 North in the preseason. WSU led the country in passing offense at 397.0 and recorded its first three-game conference-winning streak since 2003. The Cougars appeared at No. 20 in the AP and Coaches polls, its highest ranking since 2003. Under Leach’s tutelage, Washington State at 8-4 is bowl eligible for just the second time since 2003. The Cougars’ win over Oregon State gave Leach his 100th-career win.
Co-Coach of the Year – David Shaw, Stanford: In his fifth year as the Stanford Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, Shaw led the Cardinal to a 10-2 record and an 8-1 mark in Conference play and his fourth 10+ win season. Shaw guided the Cardinal to its third Pac-12 North title in four years for a berth to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Stanford saw three wins over ranked opponents this year with the help of an offense that averaged 36.9 points behind the Pac-12’s most efficient passing game (157.9 passing efficiency) and a rushing attack that’s averaged 222.0 yards per game – the third best single-season average in school history. The Cardinal top the FBS in time of possession average at 35.12 minutes per game.
Scholar Athlete of the Year – Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State: Bercovici, a redshirt senior from Calabasas, Calif., graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business management in three years, and maintained a 3.25 grade point average through his undergraduate studies and a 3.67 GPA combined with his graduate-level studies.
Bercovici has guided Arizona State to it’s fifth straight bowl-eligible season and has thrown for 4,915 yards in his career with 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 136 yards and six touchdowns.
Off the field, Bercovici is a 10-time Scholar Baller at Arizona State, an ASU honor given to student-athletes who achieve a GPA of 3.0 or above. The two-time Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention honoree is currently enrolled in a Master’s of Sports Law and Business and is on track to graduate in May of 2016. The program combines classes from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law and the W.P. Carey School of Business.
The Scholar-Athlete award has been established to honor collegiate student-athletes that are standouts both academically and in their sports discipline.
Other Scholar-Athlete Award nominees include: Casey Skowron, ARIZ, Nelson Spruce, COLO, Tyler Johnstone, ORE, Conrad Ukropina, STAN, Jake Brendel, UCLA, Travis Wilson, UTAH.