There was no obvious choice for Pac-12 Coach of the Year this season.
The coach who probably deserved it most, Todd Graham, got fired. The coach who officially won the award, David Shaw, got swept by the coach who probably should have won it, Clay Helton.
If I had a vote, I would have picked Helton. Yes, USC came up short of the College Football Playoff. But the Trojans won the Pac-12, they lost only one league game all season – by three points at ranked Washington State on a Friday night – and did it despite a ton of injuries.
Could a case be made for Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez? Sure. CollegeFootballNews.com made it, selecting Rodriguez as its Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Here’s the argument for RichRod, per CFN:
“It wasn’t a great year for Pac-12 coaches. Clay Helton? USC won the Pac-12, but it was good enough to get to the College Football Playoff, and didn’t. Chris Petersen? David Shaw? Nah.
“Justin Wilcox at Cal had a nice year, but Rodriguez’s season was a bit better. Arizona went from being all banged up in (a) 3-9 2016 season to a fun and thrilling 7-5 squad. The knock? That Khalil Tate guy might have been the better option to start the year.”
That last part is definitely a knock on Rodriguez. As is the fact that Arizona lost three of its final four games – and might have won the last with better coaching.
But going from 3-9 to 7-5 is noteworthy. Arizona’s four-win improvement was the largest jump in the league.
Maybe Rodriguez should have played Tate sooner. But it was also Rodriguez’s call to gut the defensive coaching staff after the 2015 season. The coaches he hired - Marcel Yates and crew - are largely responsible for landing the players and laying the foundation for what has the makings of a dynamic defense.
Speaking of which, CFN picked redshirt-freshman cornerback Lorenzo Burns for its All-Pac-12 Team. Burns leads the conference with five interceptions.
CFN also ranked its top 30 players in each conference. Tate came it at No. 4 in the Pac-12 behind three heavyweights: Bryce Love, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
UA senior tackle Gerhard de Beer has been invited to play in the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is a relatively new all-star showcase for pro prospects. The game is slated for Jan. 20 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
De Beer came to Arizona from South Africa primarily to throw the discus for the track team. He also joined the football team. Initially unaware of even the most basic elements of the sport, de Beer eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle.