July 16, 2014
IRVING, Texas – Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and defensive lineman James Rouse were named Conference USA’s Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, as the league announced its top football awards, preseason poll and all-conference team on Wednesday, as chosen by the league’s 13 head coaches.
Cato, also a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards, is on numerous preseason All-Conference USA lists and has been named the league’s top player by most magazines and websites. The Miami native has thrown a touchdown pass in 32 consecutive games, the high for an active FBS quarterback (FBS record is 38 by Russell Wilson, 2009-11 at N.C. State; 2011 at Wisconsin).
Rouse, also a candidate for the Bednarik Award, will begin his sixth year as a member of the program in August. The tackle from Harrisonburg, Va., was voted Marshall’s 2013 season Team MVP by teammates after helping the Herd to a 10-4 finish and Military Bowl victory over Maryland. Rouse, who has also been named to numerous preseason all-league lists, was a key player on a defense that made the biggest one-season improvement in FBS scoring defense (20.2-point improvement) since 1998.
The duo was joined on the preseason all-conference team by offensive linemen Chris Jasperse (center) and Clint Van Horn (tackle), wide receiver Tommy Shuler, defensive lineman Ra’Shawde Myers (end) and linebacker Evan McKelvey. Marshall’s seven selections were the most in the league, two more than UTSA’s five.
Jasperse, Shuler and Rouse were All-C-USA first team selections for the 2013 season, when Cato was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
In the preseason poll, Marshall was unanimously chosen to win the East Division with 91 points, followed by Middle Tennessee (73), Florida Atlantic (60), WKU (57), Old Dominion (33), UAB (31) and FIU (19). The voting was tight atop the West Division, with North Texas (66) edging Rice (65) and UTSA (62), followed by Louisiana Tech (38), Southern Miss (24) and UTEP (18).
The 10th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West divisions, will be played Saturday, Dec. 6.