C-USA Announces 2014 Preseason Football Awards
July 16, 2014
A trio of senior standouts headline the list of 2014 preseason Conference USA Football award winners, as chosen by the league's 13 head coaches. Marshall senior QB Rakeem Cato was tabbed the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Marshall senior DL James Rouse was named the Defensive Player of the Year and UAB senior P Hunter Mullins earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
Cato was named the Offensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2013, following his selection as league MVP in 2012. The Miami native led Conference USA and finished third in the FBS in touchdown passes with 39 (the fourth-highest total in school history). Cato completed 298-of-499 passes for 3,916 yards and rushed for 294 yards and six touchdowns. With Cato at the helm, Marshall was seventh in the FBS in scoring offense (42.1 points per game) and 12th in total offense (500.4 yards per game). He closed out the season with at least one touchdown pass in 32 consecutive games, the longest streak in Marshall history. It is the longest active streak among all FBS QBs entering the 2014 season and just six shy of tying the all-time record.
Rouse was voted the Marshall 2013 MVP by his teammates and was a key player on a defensive unit that made the biggest one-season improvement in FBS scoring defense (20.2-point improvement) since 1998. He made a successful return to the field after playing just three games over two seasons due to injuries and was named a First-Team All-Conference USA selection last year. Rouse started 13-of-14 games, leading the Herd with 14.0 tackles for loss and six sacks. He finished with 39 tackles (22 solo), three pass breakups and five QB hurries. Rouse blocked a field goal attempt at Virginia Tech and had season highs of six tackles at Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee, where he also had three TFLs.
Mullins, a senior from Tallassee, Ala., has been the Blazers' starting punter the past two seasons. He ranks No. 1 on UAB's career charts with a 44.0-yard punting average. Last season, Mullins averaged 43.1 yards on 51 kicks as he was named First-Team All-Conference USA. He has 28 career punts inside the 20-yard line and has 22 punts of 50 yards or more.
Marshall had the most overall preseason selections with seven, while UTSA had five. Rice and UTEP each placed three players on the team. Nine C-USA schools had at least one player named to the squad.
Marshall was unanimously chosen as the preseason favorite to win the East Division. North Texas was picked as the team favored to take the West Division crown, narrowly edging Rice and UTSA.
The 10th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West divisions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 6.
The 2014 C-USA Football season kicks off Friday, Aug. 29, with a pair of non-conference games. All 13 of the league's teams are in action during opening weekend, with nine games scheduled to air on national or regional television.
2014 C-USA FOOTBALL COACHES PRESEASON AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Special Teams Player of the Year
First Team Offense QB Rakeem Cato, Sr., Marshall RB Kenneth Dixon, Jr., Louisiana Tech RB Aaron Jones, So., UTEP OL Scott Inskeep, Sr., UTSA OL Chris Jasperse, Sr., Marshall OL Cyril Lemon, Sr., North Texas OL Clint Van Horn, Jr., Marshall OL Mason Y'Barbo, Sr., North Texas WR Jamarcus Nelson, Sr., UAB WR Tommy Shuler, Sr., Marshall WR Jordan Taylor., Sr., Rice TE Eric Tomlinson, Sr., UTEP
First Team Defense DL Vernon Butler, Jr., Louisiana Tech DL Christian Covington, Jr., Rice DL Ra'Shawde Myers, Sr., Marshall DL James Rouse, Sr., Marshall LB T.T. Barber, Sr., Middle Tennessee LB Evan McKelvey, Sr., Marshall LB Andrae Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic DB Kevin Byard, Jr., Middle Tennessee DB Bryce Callahan, Sr., Rice DB D'Joun Smith, Sr., Florida Atlantic DB Triston Wade, Sr., UTSA
First Team Special Teams K Sean Ianno, Sr., UTSA P Hunter Mullins, Sr., UAB KR Autrey Golden, Jr., UTEP PR Kenny Harrison, Sr., UTSA LS Jesse Medrano, Sr., UTSA
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
EAST DIVISION Pts 1. Marshall 91 2. Middle Tennessee 73 3. Florida Atlantic 60 4. WKU 57 5. Old Dominion 33 6. UAB 31 7. FIU 19
WEST DIVISION Pts 1. North Texas 66 2. Rice 65 3. UTSA 62 4. Louisiana Tech 38 5. Southern Miss 24 6. UTEP 18