Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington
Burr-Kirven, a senior from Menlo Park, Calif., anchored the Husky defense that led the Pac-12 and was 12th in the nation in total defense (301.8 yards allowed per game), led the Pac-12 in pass defense (185.4 yards allowed per game), and second in rush defense (116.4 yards allowed per game). He led the Pac-12 with 165 tackles and his 12.7 tackles per game ranked third-best in the FBS. Burr-Kirven is the first Pac-12 player to earn both Conference Player of the Year and the Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Offensive Player of the Year: Gardner Minshew II, Washington State
Minshew, from Brandon, Miss., not only led the Pac-12 in passing, but the FBS as well, averaging 373.1 yards per game. Heading into the Alamo Bowl, Minshew, a fifth-year graduate transfer from East Carolina, needed just 238 yards to break Jared Goff’s Pac-12 single-season record of 4,719 yards set in 2015. Against Iowa State, the record-breaker came on a 20-yard toss to Tay Martin in the fourth quarter of WSU’s 28-26 win over the Cyclones.
In the regular season, he completed 433 of 613 pass attempts for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns, with just nine interceptions. He threw for 300 or more yards in 11 games, including a season-best 473 yards in Washington State’s 69-28 win over Arizona, where he tied a Pac-12 record with seven touchdown passes in regulation play.
NOTEWORTHY DRAFTABLES: Bryce Love won the award in 2017; Jake Browning took home the award in 2016.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Jefferson, a freshman from Harbor City, Calif., topped all FBS freshmen in rushing with 1,380 yards (5.8 yards/carry) and an average of 115.0 yards per game (7th overall in the FBS). His 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for second most in the Pac-12. Jefferson’s 1,380 rushing yards set an Oregon State true freshman rushing record and is the sixth-best single-season total. He twice rushed for 200 or more yards in a game, including a Pac-12 freshman single-game record 254 yards vs. Arizona State.
Honorable Mention Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon; Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC; Max Borghi, RB, Washington State.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Merlin Robertson, Arizona State
Robertson, a freshman from Gardena, Calif., ranked 20th in the Pac-12 with 6.4 tackles per game, while his team-leading 77 total tackles led all Pac-12 freshmen. Named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after he tallied nine tackles and 1.5 sacks in a 16-13 win over Michigan State. Posted a season-best 11 tackles at Washington. In all, Robertson had 77 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and an interception. Robertson’s play kept the Sun Devils in every game as their five losses were by seven or fewer points.
Honorable Mention Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Paulson Adebo, DB, Stanford; Jay Tufele, DL, USC.
Coach of the Year: Washington State’s Mike Leach
Leach guided his Cougars to their sixth 10-win season, and first since 2003. Washington State won seven straight Pac-12 games and finished tied atop the Pac-12 North Division standings with a 7-2 league record and 10-2 overall.
Under Leach, the Cougars climbed to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings where they sat for four weeks (Oct. 30 – Nov. 20). The Cougars led the Pac-12 in scoring (38.3 ppg), total offense (461.8 ypg) and passing offense (379.8 ypg). It’s the second time Leach has earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors (Co-Coach with Stanford’s David Shaw in 2015).