By Staff Report.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Pitt running back James Conner has been selected as the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year following a standout sophomore season in which he ranks fourth nationally in rushing and set a number of conference and school records.
Conner, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound native of Erie, Pennsylvania, also earned recognition as the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Conner will enter the Panthers’ upcoming bowl game as the conference’s leading rusher with 1,675 yards and leading scorer with 144 points on 24 rushing touchdowns.
The ACC Player of the Year nod went to Conner in a tight vote among 55 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA). The Pitt running back received 16 votes to finish three ahead of Florida State sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and ACC Player of the Year.
Clemson redshirt senior defensive end Vic Beasley, who finished third in the overall Player of the Year balloting with eight votes, was selected by ACSMA as the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Louisville safety Gerod Holliman placed fourth with six votes, and Miami running back Duke Johnson had five. Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene, Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas and North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams received two votes each, and Georgia Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy had one.
Conner’s total of 24 rushing touchdowns set an ACC single-season record, ranks second nationally and is a Pitt school record, surpassing the legendary Tony Dorsett’s previous mark of 22. Conner has also broken Dorsett’s Pitt single-season records for total TDs (23) and points scored (140). Dorsett set each of those records during his 1976 Heisman Trophy season.
“We are tremendously proud of James and all that he achieved this season,” Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. “In addition to his production on the field, James has been an excellent teammate and leader. I know our entire program takes pride in James receiving this prestigious honor.”
A candidate for numerous national awards, Conner earned back-to-back ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors at the outset of the season. Conner opened the 2014 campaign by rushing for 153 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 carries versus Delaware, and followed up with 214 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries in an ACC road win at Boston College.
Conner already has 2,474 rushing yards for his career to rank 10th all-time at Pitt.
Conner led the ACC Offensive Player of the Year balloting with 23 votes, followed by FSU’s Winston with 16. Miami’s Johnson was named on seven ballots, while FSU’s Greene (four), Georgia Tech’s Thomas (three) and UNC’s Williams (two) rounded out the voting.
Clemson’s Beasley is the ACC Defensive Player of the Year following a 2014 regular season in which he continued to establish himself as one of the league’s all-time top pass rushers and front line enforcers.
Beasley received 24 votes for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, four ahead of Louisville’s Holliman. Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman received seven votes, while Duke linebacker David Helton and Georgia Tech’s Nealy each received two
Despite special attention from most opposing offenses, Beasley leads the ACC in quarterback sacks with 11 as Clemson (9-3) prepares for its bowl game, and his 18.5 total tackles for loss also lead the conference. Seventeen of Beasley’s tackles for loss have been solo stops.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound native of Adairsville, Georgia, holds the Clemson school record and leads all active FBS players with 32 career sacks. A finalist for the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Trophy, Beasley’s 52 career tackles for loss have accounted for 292 negative yards, also the most of any active FBS player.
“He came back for his senior year to graduate, and to have a great season and improve as an all-around player,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said of Beasley. “He has done that – he is a complete player. He is a big reason we currently rank number-one in the nation in total defense and many other areas. He is the best defensive player in the ACC, and I really feel he is the best defensive player in the nation.”