Conner, the sophomore running back who set conference and Pitt school records while leading the Panthers to a spot in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, was also voted the ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
Under the auspices of the ACC, the league's 14 head football coaches voted for an All-ACC football team, as well as Players of the Year, Rookies of the Year and a Coach of the Year award. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players and ballots were worth three points for each first-team, two points for each second-team and one point for each third-team selection.
Clemson senior defensive end Vic Beasley claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson received the nod as ACC Coach of the Year. Overall and Offensive Rookie of the Year accolades went to Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, while Virginia safety Quin Blanding was voted the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 2014 Coaches All-ACC team was similar to the All-ACC squad announced last week by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA), as the two voting bodies agreed on all of the major award winners.
Conner and Beasley were among five unanimous first-team selections to the All-ACC team (named on all 13 possible ballots for 39 total points). They were joined by the Florida State trio of quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Rashad Greene and placekicker Roberto Aguayo.
Conner, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound native of Erie, Pennsylvania, received six votes to lead the coaches’ overall ACC Player of the Year voting and eight votes to lead the balloting for 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.
Conner’s total of 24 rushing touchdowns set an ACC single-season record, ranks third 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.
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.
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, who received seven votes to lead the voting for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the ACC in quarterback sacks with 11 as Clemson (9-3) prepares to meet Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29. 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.
Johnson, who has guided Georgia Tech to 10 wins and the Coastal Division championship, received 10 votes from his peers in the ACC Coach of the Year balloting.
Johnson, whose squad will carry a 10-3 record into its New Year’s Eve matchup with Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl, led the Yellow Jackets to a 6-2 ACC mark atop their division after they were picked for a fifth-place finish (with just one first-place vote) in the conference’s preseason media poll.
Georgia Tech leads the ACC in total offense with 468.8 yards per game, and the Yellow Jackets’ 333.6 yards rushing per game ranks second nationally. Tech’s 37.0 points per game also lead the conference. Johnson owns a 57-35 record in seven seasons at Georgia Tech and a 164-74 mark in 18 years as a college head coach.
Miami’s Kaaya received seven coaches’ votes for overall ACC Rookie of the Year and 10 for ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year following a 2014 regular season in which he leads the league in pass efficiency (148.2) and touchdown passes (25). The West Hills, California, currently ranks second among ACC quarterbacks in passing yards with 2,962 and fifth in total offense with 236.5 yards per game.
Kaaya’s 25 touchdown passes tie Ken Dorsey and Bernie Kosar for the fourth-most touchdown passes in a single season at Miami. His 2,962 yards passing are the fourth-best by a freshman in ACC history, trailing only Florida State’s Jameis Winston (4,057 in 2013), FSU’s Drew Weatherford (3,208 in 2005) and NC State’s Philip Rivers (3,054 in 2000). Kaaya finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 of four national statistical categories and was the only true freshman quarterback in the country to throw for 2,900 pass yards and 25 or more touchdowns.
Virginia’s Blanding made an immediate impact in his initial college season, placing second among ACC tacklers and leading all freshmen nationally in tackles per game. Blanding’s 10.3 tackles per contest rank 17th overall nationally, and his 123 total tackles rank 12th.
Nearly half of Blanding’s 123 total tackles (60) were solo stops. The 6-4, 215-pound Virginia Beach, Virginia, native also made his presence felt as a coverage defender, intercepting three passes and breaking up six.
One of two freshmen in the nation to lead his team in tackles and the only one with 80 or more tackles, Blanding was the first Virginia true freshman to start a season opener at one of the two safety positions since Tony Blount did so in 1976. Blanding emerged as the Cavaliers’ leading tackler in seven games and played a key role on a defensive unit that that ranks No. 21 nationally against the rush (120.7 yards per game).
Blanding was the choice of eight coaches for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, edging out Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander (six votes).
Florida State’s Winston, Greene and Aguayo lead a group of 18 members of the ACC champion and College Football Playoff-bound Seminoles voted to the 2014 Coaches All-ACC team (nine first-team, two second-team and seven third-team selections).
Virginia followed with nine total selections, while Miami had eight, and Duke and Georgia Tech each placed seven members on the squad.
Duke senior Jamison Crowder was named to the first team as both a wide receiver and return specialist. Florida State’s Cameron Erving, the 2014 ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipient, was voted to the team as a first-team offensive tackle and third-team center after playing both positions during the season. Pitt’s Tyler Boyd was voted to the first team at wide receiver and to the second team as a return specialist.
Twenty-three of the 26 first-team selections to the 2014 ACC Coaches’ All-ACC team were also first-team selections to the ACSMA All-ACC announced on Dec. 1. Miami center Shane McDermott earned a first-team spot on the Coaches’ All-ACC team after earning honorable mention from ACSMA. On the defensive side, Clemson cornerback Garry Peters and Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin received first-team nods from the ACC Coaches after being voted to ACSMA’s second team.
2014 ACC Coaches’ Award Winners and All-ACC Team
Coach of the Year
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (10)
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (2)
David Cutcliffe, Duke (2)
Player of the Year
James Conner, RB, So.,Pitt (6)
Jameis Winston, QB, So., FSU (2)
Rashad Greene, WR, Sr., FSU (2)
Vic Beasley, DE, Sr., Clemson (1)
Jamison Crowder, WR, Sr., Duke (1)
Gerod Holliman, S, So.-R, Louisville, (1)
Duke Johnson, RB, Jr., Miami (1)
Offensive Player of the Year
James Conner, RB, So., Pitt (8)
Jameis Winston, QB, So.-R, FSU (3)
Rashad Greene, WR, FSU (2)
Jamison Crowder, WR, Sr., Duke (1)
Defensive Player of the Year
Vic Beasley, DE, Sr., Clemson (7)
Gerod Holliman, S, So.-R, Louisville (5)
Denzel Perryman, LB, Sr., Miami, (2)
Rookie of the Year
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (7)
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia (4)
Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU (2)
Shaun Wilson, Duke (1)
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (10)
Jon Hilliman, RB, Boston College (1)
Shaun Wilson, RB, Duke (1)
Dalvin Cook, RB FSU (1)
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (1)
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia (8)
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (6)
1st Team Offense
WR Rashad Greene, Sr., Florida State* 39
WR Jamison Crowder, Sr., Duke* 35
WR Tyler Boyd, So., Pitt* 31
TE Nick O’Leary, Sr., Florida State* 36
T Cameron Erving, Sr.-R., Florida State* 38
T T.J. Clemmings, Sr.-R, Pitt 34
G Laken Tomlinson, Sr.-R, Duke* 30
G Tre’ Jackson, Sr., Florida State * 28
C Shane McDermott, Sr., Miami* 22
QB Jameis Winston, So.-R, Florida State* 39
RB James Conner, So., Pitt 39
RB Duke Johnson, Jr., Miami* 38
K Roberto Aguayo, So.-R, Florida State* 39
Sp. Jamison Crowder, Sr., Duke* 25
2nd Team Offense
WR DeVante Parker, Sr., Louisville 28
WR Phillip Dorsett, Sr., Miami 24
WR DeAndre Smelter, Sr., Georgia Tech 22
TE Clive Walford, Sr.-R, Miami 25
T Ereck Flowers, Jr., Miami 21
T Jamon Brown, Sr., Louisville 18
G Shaquille Mason, Sr., Georgia Tech* 21
G Matt Rotheram, Sr.-R, Pitt 19
C Andy Gallik, Sr.-R, Boston College 21
QB Justin Thomas, So., Georgia Tech 18
RB Kevin Parks, Sr.-R, Virginia* 18
RB Zach Laskey, Sr., Georgia Tech 16
K Ian Frye, Jr.-R, Virginia 17
Sp. Tyler Boyd, So., Pitt 19
3rd Team Offense
WR Mike Williams, So., Clemson 21
WR Artavis Scott, Fr., Clemson 15
WR Ryan Switzer, So., North Carolina* 11
TE Gerald Christian, Sr.-R, Louisville 9
T Bobby Hart, Sr., Florida State 13
T Sean Hickey, Sr., Syracuse 11
G Bobby Vardaro, Sr.-R, Boston College 15
G Josue Matias, Sr., Florida State* 15
C Cameron Erving, Sr.-R, Florida State 16
QB Marquise Williams, Jr., North Carolina 8
RB Dalvin Cook, Fr., Florida State 15
RB Jon Hilliman, Fr., Boston College 10
K Ross Martin, Jr., Duke 14
Sp. Rashad Greene, Sr., Florida State 17
* Selected to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd Coaches’ All-ACC Team in 2013
Honorable Mention: Offense (7 or more points):
QB--Anthony Boone, Sr.-R, Duke (7); RB--Shadrach Thornton, Jr., NC State (9); Karlos Williams, Sr., Florida State (8); Synjyn Days, Sr.-R, Georgia Tech (7); WR--Mack Hollins, So.-R, North Carolina (7); Isaiah Ford, Fr., Virginia Tech (7); T--Ian Silberman, Sr.-R, Boston College (9); Rob Crisp, Sr.-R, NC State (7); G--Jon Feliciano, Sr.-R, Miami (13); David Beasley, Sr.-R, Clemson (11); John Miller, Sr., Louisville (7). C--Matt Skura, Jr.-R, Duke; PK-Ammon Lakip, Jr., Clemson (9). SP--Darius Jennings, Sr., Virginia (7).
1st Team Defense
DE Vic Beasley, Sr.-R, Clemson* 39
DE Mario Edwards Jr., Jr., Florida State * 29
DT Grady Jarrett, Sr., Clemson 38
DT Eddie Goldman, Jr., Florida State 30
LB Denzel Perryman, Sr., Miami* 36
LB Stephone Anthony, Sr., Clemson* 31
LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr., Louisville 25
CB Kendall Fuller, So., Virginia Tech* 35
CB Garry Peters, Sr., Clemson 24
S Gerod Holliman, So.-R, Louisville 37
S Jalen Ramsey, So., Florida State 25
P Wil Baumann, Sr., NC State 30
2nd Team Defense
DE Dadi Nicolas, Jr.-R, Virginia Tech 25
DE Eli Harold, Jr., Virginia 20
DT Adam Gotsis, Jr., Georgia Tech 16
DT Corey Marshall, Jr.-R, Virginia Tech 13
LB David Helton, Sr., Duke 22
LB Terrance Smith, Jr.-R, Florida State 20
LB Henry Coley, Sr.-R, Virginia 15
CB P.J. Williams, Jr., Florida State 23
CB Kevin Johnson, Sr.-R, Wake Forest 21
S Quin Blanding, Fr., Virginia 21
S Jeremy Cash, Jr.-R, Duke* 17
P Alex Kinal, Jr.-R, Wake Forest 21
3rd Team Defense
DE Sheldon Rankins, Jr., Louisville 17
DE Anthony Chickillo, Sr., Miami 12
DT David Dean, Jr.-R, Virginia 12
DT Connor Wujciak, Jr., Boston College 12
LB Max Valles, So., Virginia 13
LB Quayshawn Nealy, Sr.-R, Georgia Tech 12
LB(tie)Josh Keyes, Sr., Boston College 10
LB(tie)Reggie Northrup, Jr., Florida State 10
LB(tie)Cameron Lynch, Sr., Syracuse 10
LB(tie)Brandon Chubb, Jr.-R, Wake Forest 10
CB Maurice Canady, Jr., Virginia 12
CB(tie)Merrill Noel, Sr.-R, Wake Forest 11
CB(tie)Ronald Darby, Jr., Florida State 11
S Jamal Golden, Jr., Georgia Tech 16
S Anthony Harris, Sr., Virginia 10
P(tie)Justin Vogel, So., Miami 12
P(tie) Will Monday, Jr.-R, Duke 12
* Selected to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd Coaches’ All-ACC Coaches Team in 2013
Honorable Mention: Defense: (7 or more points)
DT--Tylor Harris, Jr., Wake Forest (11); Luther Maddy, Sr., Virginia Tech (11); Olsen Pierre, Sr., Miami (7); LB--Anthony Gonzalez, Sr.-R, Pitt (9); CB--Charles Gaines, Jr.-R, Louisville (10); Artie Burns, So., Miami (9); Mackensie Alexander, Fr.-R, Clemson (7); S--Robert Smith, Sr., Clemson (8); Deon Bush, Jr., Miami (7).