WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest redshirt freshman cornerback Merrill Noel is the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year as announced by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association on Tuesday.
Noel led the nation in passes defended for the Demon Deacons, and received 31 votes for the defensive honor. Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was second with seven, followed by Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo with five.
The redshirt freshman from Pahokee, Fla., has one interception and a school-record 19 break-ups for the Demon Deacons, who are expected to return to postseason play after missing out the previous two campaigns. Noel's total of 20 defended passes is the highest by an FBS freshman in the nine seasons in which the NCAA has kept the statistic on a weekly basis.
Noel's play is one of the major reasons for the Demon Deacons' improvement from a 3-9 team a year ago to a 6-6 group that contended for the Atlantic Division title. The Deacs, 98th nationally in pass efficiency defense last year, are 45th in 2011, and Noel has been credited with a pass break-up in nine games this season.
Voting for the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference defensive rookie of the year awards, as voted on by 45 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.