Going into the season, we know who all of the superstars in the Pac-12 are going to be and even the guys who could be honorable mention All-Pac-12 or a breakout freshman or star returning from injury, but somewhere in between all of those categories are those players that aren't getting preseason accolades but who will be integral to their team's success. I call these players, the Secret Weapons.
Arizona - Cayleb Jones So. WR
The Wildcats got two major transfers at receiver to bolster their already loaded unit in Jones and Davonté Neal and it sounds early on like the Texas transfer might make the most immediate impact. He has great size at 6'3 205 and could be an excellent asset if similar talent Austin Hill is rusty coming off of an injury or if teams put too much focus on slowing down the senior.
Arizona State - Marcus Hardison Sr. DE
The Sun Devils have seemed to stockpile versatile combo defensive linemen down in Tempe and Hardison is the next in line as he hopes to fill some of Will Sutton's massive shoes along with other unsung heroes who the Sun Devils lost to graduation on the defensive line. Expect him to flourish in a larger role in 2014 as he has ridiculous speed for a player that is pushing 300 pounds.
Cal - Kenny Lawler So. WR
Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs are the headliners at receiver in Cal's Bear Raid, but Lawler looks to be that dynamic third option that can kill teams with his size and speed when they put too much attention on Harper and Treggs. Unlike Harper and Treggs, he has great size at 6'3 and could fill the void left by Richard Rodgers heading early to the NFL.
Colorado - Michael Adkins II So. RB
Adkins shouldn't be a secret weapon as he ran for more than 500 yards and scored 7 touchdowns in 2013, but because he plays for Colorado I feel like much of the Pac-12 is unaware of who could actually be the conference's best sophomore running back. While backfield mate Christian Powell softens up defenses with his size and strength, he is adept at regularly busting out lengthy runs and getting out into the open field.
Oregon - Rodney Hardrick Jr. LB
A rock solid presence at linebacker, Hardrick is one of those guys who just does all of the little things right and is an unsung hero on a great team. You might remember him from last season as the guy who turned a fake punt deep in Oregon's own territory into a huge gain against UCLA and the guy who returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown late against Stanford.
Oregon State - Michael Doctor Sr. LB
Doctor was a rock for the Beavers before going down with a season-ending injury at the start of 2013 and Oregon State will be ecstatic to get him back in 2014 as a senior leader with two years of starting experience. Despite checking in at nearly 235, he has had experience working as a returner, making him quietly one of the most-athletic linebackers in the conference.
Stanford - Austin Hooper Fr. TE
The Cardinal shockingly had little to no receiving production from the tight end in 2013, but redshirt freshman Hooper could change that in 2014. A number of other talented young tight ends will also see time for the Cardinal this year, but Hooper is probably the best at blocking at receiving in the group.
UCLA - Malcolm Bunche Sr. T
The former Miami starter will be a veteran on a young UCLA line and could be first or second team All-Pac-12 in his lone year in the conference. The massive addition to the Bruin offensive line should provide an immediate boost in Brett Hundley's pass protection and the Bruin running game.
USC - J.R. Tavai Sr. DE/LB
No matter where Tavai lines up (DE, OLB or even DT) he is an underrated weapon that gets overshadowed by Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard, but is an adept pass rusher and backfield assassin. He is the perfect secret weapon as a player that you can line up at a number of places and have him create havoc in the backfield.
Utah - Jason Whittingham Jr. LB
Kyle's nephew is quietly turning into one of the conference's best linebackers as a massive 6'2 245 presence that had a great 2013 season. It is hard to get attention in a conference loaded with stars at the position like Myles Jack and Shaq Thompson, but Whittingham shouldn't be overlooked by the end of 2014.
Washington - Shaq Thompson Jr. RB (LB)
Everyone knows Thompson as a star linebacker, but reports have said that ala Myles Jack, Thompson has been getting some carries at running back in practice and has been turning heads. He was a force on offense in high school, so expect him to make a major impact as a running back even if he only gets a few carries per-game.
Washington State - Vince Mayle Sr. WR
Cougar fans are giddy about getting to Mayle this year who reportedly has some insane measurable for his 6'3 220 frame and could be unstoppable for the Cougars in the red zone in their air raid offense. Along with his size and speed, Mayle is a former basketball standout with some amazing leaping potential that could make him Washington State's best receiver in 2014.