Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, shown against Stanford, had his threw his first pass intercepted of the season on Saturday. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images / November 7, 2013)
Javorius Allen, RB, USC
The Buzz: The sophomore quickly ingratiated himself among his teammates and coaching staff, earning the team’s most valuable player honors despite only starting four games. In 14 appearances, Allen rushed for 785 yards with 14 touchdowns. Those numbers should blossom under new Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian, whose Washington Huskies ranked third in the Pac-12 last season in rushing offense.
Hau’oli Kikaha, DL, Washington
The Buzz: The Washington senior defensive end is expected to be the anchor to a defensive unit that features nine returning starters from a group that ranked second in the conference in sacks. Kikaha led the team with 13.0 sacks – good enough for second overall in the Pac-12 – while registering 15.5 tackles for loss for the Huskies.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The Buzz: UCLA’s hopes for capturing a Pac-12 title rest squarely on the shoulders of Hundley. The junior quarterback passed for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns last season while adding an additional 748 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. A possible first-round NFL pick, Hundley’s return to L.A. can only spell good things for the Bruins in 2014.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The Buzz: Hampered by a short-handed running attack, UCLA coach Jim Mora inserted Jack into the backfield for the final four games of the season and watched him inject life into the Bruins ground game, to the tune of 267 yards and seven touchdowns. On the defensive side, Jack also registered 77 total tackles and two interceptions.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Buzz: Mariota would have surely been a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, but the dual-threat quarterback opted to return to Oregon for another season. Last season, he was third in the Pac-12 in total offense after passing for 3,665 yards while rushing for an additional 715 yards with 40 total touchdowns. His return makes the Ducks a favorite to win the conference championship.
Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
The Buzz: Marshall continues the line of talented running backs to wear the Oregon uniform. Once again, the Ducks led the conference in rushing offense thanks, in part, to Marshall, who rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll team up with Marcus Mariota and Thomas Tyner to form one of the top rushing combinations in college football.
Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
The Buzz: Once again, Montgomery will be the top go-to guy for Kevin Hogan and the Stanford Cardinal in the fall. Last season, he led the team in receptions (61), receiving yards (958) and receiving touchdowns (10) while also tallying 1,091 yards in return yards. He ranked second in the country with 30.3 kickoff return yards per game.
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Buzz: Peters was named to the All-Pac-12 second team after registering 55 total tackles including five interceptions – tying him for fifth overall in the conference. He also was third in the league with 14 passes defended for a Huskies team that ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in pass defense while registering 16 total interceptions in 2013.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Buzz: A junior college transfer, Strong led the team in receptions (75), receiving yards (1,122) and receiving touchdowns (7) for the Sun Devils last season. He earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team last season for his work. With teammate D.J. Foster moving to the backfield, you can expect Strong to see more action for Arizona State in 2014.
Leonard Williams, DL, USC
The Buzz: Williams registered 74 total tackles – second on the team – including 13.5 tackles for loss for the Trojans last season. He was second on the team in sacks (6.0) on a USC squad that led the Pac-12 in total defense (335.2 yards per game) last season. He anchors a group that returns eight starters and could once again be a force on the defensive side of the ball.