Voting members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) overwhelmingly gave the nod to Watson, who was also voted the ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Duke senior safety Jeremy Cash earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
“If you look at any championship team out there, most of them have a great quarterback and leader,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s what we have. It’s a huge advantage when you have the best player in the nation, and I believe he is that.”
Watson enters this weekend’s Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship game leading all conference players with 331.6 total yards per game while accounting for 36 total touchdowns. He tops the league in passing yardage (3,223), touchdown passes (27) and passing efficiency rating (161.9).
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of Gainesville, Georgia, has also rushed for 756 yards and nine touchdowns to further balance a Clemson offense that leads the conference in total yardage (502.5 yards per game) and ranks second in points scored (37.9 per contest).
“Deshaun can beat you with his feet and his arm, (and) he has shown that on a consistent basis, especially the second half of the season,” Swinney said “We are very proud of what he has done this year in leading our team to a 12-0 record so far. He is very deserving of the ACC Player of the Year.”
A four-time selection as the ACC Offensive Back of the Week, Watson owns a 16-1 record in less than two full seasons as Clemson’s starting quarterback and is 15-0 when he starts and finishes a game in a healthy state.
Watson becomes the ninth Clemson student-athlete to be named the ACC Football Player of the Year and the third in the last seven seasons. Quarterback Tajh Boyd received the honor in 2012, and running back C.J. Spiller was recognized in 2009.
Watson received 39 ACC Player of the Year votes from the 50 voting members of ACSMA. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was second with nine votes, while Duke’s Cash and North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams picked up one each.
In balloting for ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Watson received 40 votes, followed by Cook with nine and Williams with one.
After earning All-America honors each of the past two seasons, Duke’s Cash has been just as productive during his senior year.
The Miami, Florida, native ranks among the ACC leaders in total tackles with 101 and among the nation’s top 10 in tackles for loss with 18. He is the only defensive back to rank among the nation’s top 50 in the latter category.
The three-time All-ACC safety, who has forced three fumbles this season and is Duke’s career leader in the same category with nine, is one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award which goes to the nation’s top defensive back, and one of five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy which is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player. Cash’s nine career forced fumbles are also tied for the most among active players.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said Cash bought into the Duke student-athlete experience from day one after transferring from Ohio State following his freshman season and having to sit out the following year (2012) in accordance with NCAA rules.
“I don’t think you can say anything better about an athlete than they were a great teammate,” Cutcliffe said. “Jeremy became a great teammate when he came here and had to sit out for a year after transferring. That experience taught me a lot about him and how much he cared about his team and his teammates.
“From a football standpoint, there’s nothing he can’t do. He is simply one of the best football players that I’ve had the privilege to be around. Jeremy Cash is simply the best.”
Cash is the first Duke student-athlete to be recognized as the ACC Football Defensive Player of the Year since the award’s inception in 1993.
Cash led the Defensive Player of the Year balloting with 19 votes, followed by Clemson’s Shaq Lawson with 13, and Pitt’s Ejuan Price and Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey with seven each. Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins picked up two votes, followed by Virginia Tech’s Luther Maddy and Virginia’s Quin Blanding with one apiece.