O'Brien Named ACC Rookie of the Year

O'Brien named ACC Rookie of the Year and six other Terps receive All-ACC honors

After what can only be considered the signature win of his young career, Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Rookie of the Year, receiving all but seven of the 61 votes for the award.

Defeating the North Carolina State Wolfpack Saturday sealed the Terps’ eighth win on the season, the sixth since taking the reins of the offense. O’Brien has become a source of stability that the team has lacked from the quarterback position for years.

In his first nine career starts, O’Brien threw for 2,257 yards and 21 touchdowns, which ranks second in school history to Scott Milanovich, who threw 26 in 1993. O’Brien’s interception total, which reached just six, accounted for the lowest percentage of picks among freshman signal-callers in the nation.

Five times O’Brien has taken home ACC Rookie of the Week honors. Most recently, he earned it after his Terrapins upset the No. 23 team in the country and spoiling their chance to take home the ACC crown. It was the first victory over a ranked team since 2008, and may be the deciding factor to which bowl game the Terps are invited to.

More importantly, the game set the precedent for how prolific the Maryland offense can be in 2011. Head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was forced to start his redshirt freshman quarterback after the incumbent starter Jamarr Robinson suffered a shoulder injury, watched a performance like none other Saturday.

“I’ve never seen a redshirt freshman play as well as that,” Friedgen said. O’Brien threw for a career-best 417 yards, four scores and completed over 70 percent of his passes. “If he can just keep working he is going to be something special. I think people should get real excited about this kid. He has a chance to be really special.”

For O’Brien, a young man who never seems phased by the circumstances he finds himself in, finally showed some emotion after receiving the honor.

“It’s been a crazy ride. It seems like this season has flown by,” O’Brien said. “I can’t really believe it; I’m still sort of soaking it in. it’s been a heck of ride this year.”

Four Terps Named to First-Team All-ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference selected wide receiver Torrey Smith, linebacker Alex Wujciak, safety Kenny Tate and punt return specialist Tony Logan to the first-team All-ACC this week, which tied for the second-highest total from one team with Clemson.

Defensive tackle Joe Vellano was named to the second, and versatile offensive lineman Paul Pinegar received an honorable mention selection.

“Obviously that is the highest form of respect,” head coach Ralph Friedgen said of being nominated for the honor from your opponents. “The seniors can cherish it for the rest of their lives.”

Smith, who became the first Maryland player to catch four touchdown passes in a single game Saturday versus N.C. State, also became the school’s all-time all-purpose yardage leader. In his junior season, he caught 65 balls for 1,065 yards with 12 scores. He also set the ACC kickoff return yardage record earlier this season.

In his senior season, Wujciak once again led the team in tackles with 112, the third straight season in which he surpassed the century mark for tackles in a season. He joins the company of NFL players D’Qwell Jackson, E.J. Henderson and Eric Barton, as well as Ratcliff Thomas and Chuck Faucette.

Tate enjoyed a breakout season at the safety position in 2010. The defensive captain, according to his head coach, led an attacking defense that scored the fourth most touchdowns in the nation – four – all of which coming via interception returns. Tate accounted for three picks and one of those scores, in addition to finishing second on the team with tackles and second on the team with tackles, with a staggering 3.5 for a loss of 30 yards.

For Vellano and Pinegar, it is simply a feel-good story. The coaching staff was unsure about Vellano on the defensive line after an impressive display during spring ball, but was pleasantly surprised he was the real deal. Vellano recorded a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and finished seventh on the team with tackles.

The M.V.P. of the 2010 Terps, Pinegar, started the season at center before playing the role of the utility lineman, filling in admirably as adversity struck the offensive line time and time again throughout the season. Pinegar began his career at Maryland as a walk-on, and will graduate in the spring.

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