RALEIGH, N.C. — Running back Jonathan Dwyer thought he might be in for a big season when run-first coach Paul Johnson took over at Georgia Tech.
He had no idea just how big.
Dwyer was named both the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year and its top offensive player Wednesday after a regular season in which he led the league in rushing as the featured back in Johnson's spread-option offense.
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich was the ACC's defensive player of the year.
The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association made Dwyer the overwhelming choice for both of his awards.
He had 30 of 67 votes for the overall honor, with Florida State defensive end Everette Brown finishing with nine votes and North Carolina State redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson receiving eight. Dwyer also had 42 votes for the offensive award to outdistance Wilson (11), while North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks and Clemson multipurpose threat C.J. Spiller each receiving six votes.
Herzlich had 20 votes to 16 for Brown in voting for the defensive award. Duke linebacker Michael Tauiliili had 12 votes and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry had seven.
But the runaway choice for top honors was Dwyer, who ran out of the B-back position — the spot in Johnson's scheme most similar to a fullback — for 100 yards in nine of 12 games this season while helping the Yellow Jackets to a 9-3 record, a 4-3 mark in league play and a share of the Coastal Division title with Virginia Tech.
"Who wouldn't be excited with an offense like this?" Dwyer said, adding that the adjustment "wasn't too bad. It was probably harder on the quarterbacks and the slot backs (than it was) for me."
Dwyer became Georgia Tech's third ACC player of the year, giving the school two of the past three after receiver Calvin Johnson also won it in 2006. The running back finished with a league-best average of 110.7 yards and was the ACC's only rusher to average triple figures.
"He has a lot of talent and is a very gifted young man from that aspect," Johnson said. "We didn't have a lot of depth behind him, and he didn't miss a game or hardly any practices, so his work ethic, durability and toughness were very impressive to me. I think Jon is going to continue to get better."
Herzlich won a close vote for top defensive honors after a junior season in which he returned two of his six interceptions for touchdowns and helped the Eagles claim a second straight berth in the ACC championship game.
"I've had success this year, and our defense has had success," Herzlich said. "The numbers that we've put is can be attributed to the way our defense is designed; it really doesn't give one player free reign. That's given me a chance to make some plays, and I've been able to make them when the chance comes up."