Strong Big East co-COY; Smith Top Rookie

The University of Louisville received two of the top awards within the BIG EAST Conference when head coach Charlie Strong was named the Co-BIG EAST Coach of the Year and red-shirt freshman Hakeem Smith was tabbed the league's Rookie of the Year.

Strong shared the award with Connecticut's Randy Edsall, whose team won the BIG EAST and will make the school's first BCS appearance.

After having just one player earn second team honors last season, Louisville put four on the first team in offensive guard Mark Wetterer, running back Bilal Powell, tight end Cameron Graham and cornerback Johnny Patrick. Smith and offensive tackle Byron Stingily were named second team All-BIG EAST. The Cardinals finished 6-6 and will play Southern Mississippi in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl on Dec. 21.

Louisville strong safety Hakeem Smith earned Big East Freshman of the Year honors. (AP)
Picked to finish last in the BIG EAST by the media, Strong earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year accolades after guiding the Cardinals to a 6-6 record and a 3-4 record in the BIG EAST Conference — a two-game turnaround for overall wins and in the league. Louisville was 4-8 and 1-6 in the BIG EAST last season. Strong is the first Louisville head coach to win the award since the Cardinals joined the league in 2005.

Smith won the Rookie of the Year Award after leading the Cardinals in tackles with 80. He is the first Cardinal to win the award since Victor Anderson was tabbed in 2008. Smith, who also earned second team All-League honors, had five games of seven or more tackles, including a career-best 13 in a win over Syracuse.

Wetterer earns first-team honors after starting 12 games at guard, while spearheading a rushing attack that ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and had one of the nation's top rushers. Wetterer has started 28 eight games in his solid Louisville career.

Powell was named to the first team after posting one of the top rushing season's in Louisville history. The 6-0 senior ran for a career-best 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns and ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and tenth nationally in rushing at 120.9 yards per game. A native of Lakeland, Fla., posted a pair of 200 yards games, running for 204 yards versus Memphis and 209 against Cincinnati. He tied a school record with seven 100-yard rushing games and has eight in his career. Heading into the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, Powell needs just 100 yards to break the school's single-season rushing record.

Leading the BIG EAST Conference in receptions among tight ends, Graham earns first-team accolades after tallying a team-high 37 receptions for 439 yards and four touchdowns. He caught a pass in every game this season, including a career-high six receptions for 95 yards versus West Virginia.

Patrick had his best season at the cornerback position, recording 47 tackles and a career-high five interceptions. He registered two interceptions, including returning one for a touchdown, in the 40-13 win over Rutgers to help the Cardinals become bowl-eligible. Patrick is tied for 15th nationally and third in the BIG EAST in interceptions. A three-year starter at cornerback, Patrick is leads the BIG EAST in passes defended with 16.

Stingily started all 12 games at offensive tackle and was one of the main reason's why the Cardinals offensive line improved quite a bit in 2010. Stingily started 11 games at tackle last season after transferring to Louisville from junior-college.

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