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Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead voted ACC Rookie Of The Year

pitt1Pitt freshman strong safety Jordan Whitehead has been voted the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year following a regular season in which he emerged as one of the conference’s leading tacklers and helped the Panthers to eight wins and bowl bid.

Whitehead was also chosen as the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in voting by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA), which selected Panthers running back Qadree Ollison as the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. Pitt became the first school to sweep both ACC Rookie of the Year honors since the conference began honoring first-year players on both sides of the ball in 2007.

“Our entire program takes great pride in these well-deserved honors for Jordan and Qadree,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Even though they are freshmen, we gave them a lot of responsibility this season and they responded in outstanding fashion. Their production on the field speaks for itself. More importantly, both Jordan and Qadree grew as leaders for our team.”

Whitehead is the first defensive player since North Carolina cornerback Dre’ Bly to be named the overall ACC Rookie of the Year and just the seventh defensive player to win the award since its establishment in 1974.

Whitehead received 19 votes for the overall award from ACSMA members, and Ollison placed second with nine.  Florida State defensive back Derwin James was third with six votes, one more than Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

A natural fit for the defensive-minded Panthers under first-year head coach Pat Narduzzi, Whitehead finished the regular season with 99 tackles to rank among the ACC leaders.

The steady defensive back from Alquippa, Pennsylvania, has five games this season with double-digit tackles, and is one tackle shy of becoming just the second freshman in Pitt history to record 100 tackles in a single season. Whitehead has intercepted one pass while breaking up six others and has 5.5 tackles for loss, including a quarterback sack.

A versatile player who also saw time on offense, Whitehead has rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries and has two pass receptions.

Forced into an expanded role in September due to injuries, Ollison responded by rushing for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead a Panther ground attack that ranks fourth in the ACC.

Ollison was voted the ACC Rookie of the Week on two occasions, the first of which followed his 207-yard rushing performance against Youngstown State in the season opener. Ollison’s 1,048 rushing yards are the seventh-most by a freshman in ACC history.

A native of Niagara Falls, New York, Ollison is one of just five freshmen in Pitt school history to reach the 1,000-yard rushing milestone.

Whitehead led the balloting for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year with 28 votes, followed by Florida State’s James with 11 and Clemson lineman Christian Wilkins with six.

Ollison received 23 votes in ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year balloting. Virginia Tech running back Travon McMillian placed second with eight votes, followed by Louisville’s Jackson with seven.