>>> BIG EAST RELEASE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Connecticut running back Jordan Todman and Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who helped their respective teams to shares of the BIG EAST championship, have been named the 2010 BIG EAST Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in the annual postseason vote of the league’s eight head football coaches.
USF wide receiver Lindsey Lamar was chosen as the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year, while Louisville safety Hakeem Smith was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.
Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall, who led the Huskies to their first Bowl Championship Series appearance, and Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, who brought the Cardinals to the postseason for the first time in four years, shared BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors.
The conference also announced the selections to the All-BIG EAST First and Second Teams, highlighted by five unanimous selections to the first team.
Todman was unanimously chosen as BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the second Connecticut running back in the last three years to earn the conference’s top offensive honor. Todman joins 2008 winner Donald Brown as the only Connecticut players to be named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year.
Todman finished the regular season ranked second nationally in rushing, averaging 143.1 yards per game. He ran for 1,574 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the BIG EAST in both categories, and went for at least 100 yards nine times in 11 games. He had at least one rushing touchdown in eight games and had two games with three rushing touchdowns. He ran for a season-high 222 yards on 37 carries in a 30-28 win against Pittsburgh, went for 190 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-21 win against Vanderbilt and had 175 yards and three TDs in a 38-17 win against Cincinnati.
Sheard’s selection as BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year marks the third consecutive season, and the fourth time in the last five years, that a Pittsburgh player earned top defensive honors from the conference. He is the Panthers’ fifth BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year selection, joining 2006 winner H.B. Blades, 2008 winner Scott McKillop and 2009 winners Greg Romeus and Mick Williams.
With Romeus sidelined by injury for all but two games of the 2010 season, Sheard was the focal point of opposing offensive lines, yet still finished the regular season with nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, ranking second in the BIG EAST in both categories. He had four forced fumbles, 15 quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and four pass breakups to go with 52 tackles.
Lamar becomes USF’s first BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year honoree and joins 2007 Defensive Player of the Year George Selvie as the only USF players to earn a major individual honor from the conference.
Lamar averaged 28.1 yards on 30 kickoff returns in the regular season, leading the BIG EAST with 842 yards and two touchdowns. He sprung a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Syracuse and had a 100-yard return for a score against Louisville, becoming the 10th player in BIG EAST history to register two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season. Lamar finished the regular season with 1,004 all-purpose yards and had six games with at least 100 all-purpose yards.
Smith is the second Louisville player in the last three years to be named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, joining running back Victor Anderson, who was selected in 2008. He is just the fifth defensive player to win the award.
Smith, who made 11 starts at strong safety as a freshman, was the leading tackler on a resurgent Louisville defense in 2010. He led the Cardinals with 80 tackles, anchoring a defense that ranked third in the BIG EAST in points allowed (18.7 ppg) and yards allowed (302.4 ypg). Louisville was next-to-last in the BIG EAST in both categories last year.
Edsall and Strong tied in the voting for BIG EAST Coach of the Year, marking the first tie since the award was first presented in 1991. Both coaches are first-time winners of the award.
Edsall, whose team started the year with three wins in its first seven games, turned the Huskies around to win the last five games of the regular season and claim a share of the BIG EAST championship. Connecticut earned its second BIG EAST title in four years and was awarded the conference’s BCS bid, sending the Huskies to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl for the first time. Connecticut, which will make its fourth consecutive postseason appearance, will face Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
Strong took over a team that had finished last in the BIG EAST in each of the past two seasons, and was picked last in the 2010 preseason media poll, and brought the Cardinals back to the postseason for the first time since 2006. Louisville finished the regular season 6-6 overall and 3-4 in the BIG EAST, including road wins at Syracuse and Rutgers.
The BIG EAST also has recognized the members of its All-BIG EAST First and Second Teams. Todman and Sheard highlight a group of five unanimous selections to the first team. Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros, Connecticut offensive guard Zach Hurd and Louisville offensive guard Mark Wetterer joined Todman and Sheard as unanimous picks of the league’s head coaches.
Hurd joins Pittsburgh wide receiver Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jason Pinkston and West Virginia safety Robert Sands as back-to-back selections to the All-BIG EAST First Team.