We published our All-ACC team already this week, and now we’re unveiling our players and coach of the year. While there was plenty of competition across the board, the final selections proved to be a clean sweep for the ACC’s best team.
Offensive player of the year: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
It’s almost hard to remember all those injury questions surrounding Watson before the season began, because he’s not only played in every game, not only been a vital part of Clemson’s ground game as a runner, not only been the ACC’s most prolific passer -- but he’s done everything without the slightest hint that last year’s injuries are even swirling in the back of his mind. Watson will be in New York as a Heisman finalist, and it’s a richly deserved honor for the ACC’s top offensive player.
Defensive player of the year: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson
There are worthwhile cases to be made for a number of other players here, including Duke’s Jeremy Cash, Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker and Jalen Ramsey, and Pitt’s Ejuan Price, but no player was so consistently disruptive for a team pushing for a playoff berth than Lawson. In his first year as a starter alongside a defensive front that featured five other first-year starters, Lawson may have done the impossible: He was every bit as good as last year’s superstar pass-rusher, Vic Beasley. Lawson had at least one tackle for loss in 12 of 13 games, finished fourth in sacks with 9.5 and had 55 tackles for a defense that wrapped the year No. 2 in ESPN’s defensive efficiency.
Coach of the year: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney
How should we pick the coach of the year? Is it the coach who recruits the best talent? Swinney has had among the top recruiting classes in the nation the last few years. Is it the coach who does more with less? For all the talent on the roster, Swinney had to oversee a complete transformation on both lines of scrimmage, and he did it flawlessly. Is it the coach that wins the most games? Swinney led Clemson through immense expectations, kept the team focused, and won the ACC title at 13-0. Add it all up, and there’s simply no metric by which Swinney didn’t excel in 2015 to become the ACC’s coach of the year.