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Posted at 11:39 AM ET, 12/ 1/2010

'Tis the season

By Rick Nelligan

‘Tis the season, boys and girls, and no I’m not talking about the holidays, or the time when you usually start giving up on the Redskins’ playoff hopes. I’m talking about the time of year when college football honors start to be passed out.

While national awards and trophies like the Bronko Nagurski (top defensive player), Heisman (college football MVP), and the all important Lou Groza (top kicker) won’t be awarded for a few weeks, the ACC has begun rolling out its all conference teams and award winners. After tallying the votes, what a sweet time it is to be a part of Terrapin Nation.

On Monday, four Terps were named to the All-ACC First Team, and one was named to the All-ACC Second Team. It is the most first teamers that the Terps have produced since the ACC started to expand to twelve teams in 2004, and the most student-athletes the Terps have had honored on the first and second teams combined since that same year.

WR Torrey Smith – First Team

Mr. Record Breaker himself. Not only did Smith demolish the Wolfpack on Saturday, but he has placed himself in the top five for just about every Maryland receiving record. This season, he ranks first in the ACC in both all-purpose yards per game (130.5) and receiving TDs (12), second in receiving yards (1,045), and third in both receptions (65) and scoring TDs (12). Once again I plead, one more year, Torrey!

LB Alex Wujciak – First Team

This is the third year in a row that the senior linebacker has made an All-ACC team. Wujciak is ranked fourth in the ACC in tackles per game (9.3) and arguably first in the country in hustle and heart on each snap (100 percent). It will be sad to see him go after the bowl game, but what a great career it has been. We can, however, take solace in the fact that Maryland seems to churn out stud linebackers like Willy Wonka does chocolate.

S Kenny Tate – First Team

It’s been a breakout year for the wide receiver turned safety. Tate led ACC defensive backs in tackles (94) and sacks (3.5), while leading the ACC in fumbles forced (4). He is one of the more exciting players to watch every Saturday and the sky is the limit for the young athlete. Like Torrey, I hope he decides to play one more year at Byrd Stadium.

Specialist Tony Logan – First Team

The player I coined as the phase one MVP, Logan is a heart attack in a bottle. Listed at just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he is seemingly fearless when returning punts. I haven’t been able to find a stat to back it up, but I can’t recall him calling for a fair catch all year long, despite bigger players in his face ready to crush him. Logan led the ACC in punt return average (18.8 yards) and punt returns for touchdowns (2), instilling the fear in opposing coaches that he never showed himself.

DT Joe Vellano – Second Team

I’d like to take some credit for the sophomore finally getting recognized, as I named him one of Maryland’s key players this season a couple weeks back. But Vellano earned this honor with his play on the field by consistently disrupting opposing offenses. He finished the regular season leading the Terps in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (10.5).

Senior offensive tackle Paul Pinegar was named as an honorable mention, which seems about right. He was arguably the Terps most consistent offensive lineman, all while having to play three different positions throughout the season.

My main gripe is that Adrian Moten didn’t even receive honorable mention. While Moten was only able to produce six tackles a game, the senior leader seemed to be a part of every key play on defense and produced one of the most exciting plays of the year.

All that could top Monday’s news was the two announcements made by the ACC on Tuesday. Redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and the Top Offensive Newcomer. That was followed up by the big man on campus, Ralph Friedgen, being named as the ACC Coach of the Year.

While the news of O’Brien being named the ACC’s top rookie came as no surprise considering he won five ACC Rookie of the Week awards, it doesn’t make it any less special. He is the first Maryland freshman to ever win the award, which only makes the Terps' future look that much brighter. O’Brien finished the regular season with 2,257 yards passing, 22 total touchdowns (21 passing, one rushing), only six interceptions, and was fourth in the ACC in passing efficiency (135.2). The 21 passing touchdowns are the second most in school history. What makes it more impressive is that he only started nine games this season. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Terps young gun.

Finally, what might be the most satisfying award of them all; Ralph Friedgen was named the ACC Coach of the Year. The Fridge was on the verge of being fired by former athletic director Debbie Yow a year ago. But this year he led the second best resurgence in college football, beating last year’s record by six wins (Ohio University bested their 2009 record by seven wins) and competing with Yow’s new school, N.C. State, for a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl. There wasn’t a coach more deserving of the honor, and it’s easily one of the best feel-good stories in college football this year. Fridge built this program, and will be the one to take it to the top after receiving the vote of confidence from new athletic director Kevin Anderson.

This is a young team that will only get better with a solid (albeit unfinished) incoming recruiting class, while only losing seven senior starters. It’s been a great year to be a Terp fan, and it’s not over yet. The Terps are still in the running for a top bowl game. Check back on Friday for my preview of Maryland’s bowl options.

By Rick Nelligan  | December 1, 2010; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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