Dec. 4, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Marshall Football had nine student-athletes named to the All-Conference USA and the C-USA All-Freshman teams, the league office announced Tuesday. The vote was conducted amongst the conference’s 12 head coaches.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler were named to the all-conference first team, while tight end Gator Hoskins, wide receiver Aaron Dobson and strong safety Dominick LeGrande were voted to the second team.
Running back Kevin Grooms, center Cameron Dees, linebacker D.J. Hunter and punter Tyler Williams earned spots on the All-Freshman team.
Cato leads the FBS in completions/game (33.83) and passing yards/game (350.08) and is third in TD passes (37), fifth in total offense/game (352.67) and completion percentage (69.5). He also leads C-USA in pass efficiency (147.1). He led a Herd unit that is second in the nation in third-down conversion percentage (54.59) and first downs per game (29.42) and his 66.2% career completion mark (588-888) is currently a school record, just ahead of Herd legends Chad Pennington (65.1) and Byron Leftwich (63.4). Earlier this season, he was named to the Manning Award Watch List (nation’s top collegiate quarterback).
Shuler is tied for second nationally with 9.17 catches per game (leading C-USA) and his 110 total catches set a school record, becoming just the fifth C-USA student-athlete to record 100-plus single-season catches and the first underclassman to accomplish the feat. He is also currently second in the league in receiving yards per game (94.8). Midway through the season, he joined teammate Aaron Dobson as a Biletnikoff Award Watch List honoree. His 19 catches at Purdue not only set a school record, but were the most in the nation since the 2009 C-USA Championship Game. His 200 receiving yards in that game also were the most by a Herd player in over a decade.
Hoskins had 10 touchdown catches this season, the highest total nationally among tight ends and a mark that is tied for the most in C-USA. His 72-yard touchdown catch against league-leading Tulsa was the Herd’s longest play of the season. He was named to the John Mackey Award Watch List and the National Tight End of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards after his three-touchdown performance in West Lafayette.
Dobson is seventh in the league in catches per game (5.7) and receiving yards (67.9). He finished his career with 24 touchdown receptions, tying former NFL star Troy Brown for fourth in the school’s all-time records. A captain on this year’s team, the Biletnikoff Award Watch List wideout missed virtually all of two games due to injury, but that didn’t stop him from setting a career-high with 57 catches this season. For his career, he finished ninth in the school’s all-time record book with 2,398 receiving yards and will attend this year’s Senior Bowl.
LeGrande, who earned his degree from Boston College before transferring to Marshall in the offseason, averaged 11.0 tackles per game (132 total), the eighth-highest mark nationally (second in C-USA) and the most nationally among defensive backs. The Herd’s strong safety had eight double-digit tackle performances this season, including 16 against league-leading Tulsa. He started every game at strong safety this season and also had a forced fumble, two interceptions and five pass breakups.
Grooms led all C-USA freshmen with 67.0 rushing yards per game with eight rushing touchdowns and another through the air. His 737 rushing yards is the fourth-highest total all-time among Marshall freshmen. His breakout game came against Rice, when he posted 103 rushing yards with three touchdowns to go with a 5-yard touchdown catch. He also tallied 155 rushing yards and a touchdown against Houston on 21 carries. In addition, he served on MU’s special teams, registering three tackles and returning 10 kicks.
Dees stepped up on the Herd’s offensive line, playing in every contest, starting the last three at center. He helped Marshall rack up 365.08 passing yards/game (first in FBS), 534.25 yards of total offense (sixth in FBS) and 40.92 pts./game (eighth in FBS), all C-USA highs. He also anchored a line that, not only withstood the pounding of an FBS-high 90.6 plays/game, but paved the way for 24 rushing TDs in 2012, 15 more than the 2011 total, which came in 13 games. His unit also produced 20.25 plays of 10 yards or longer per game this season, the second-highest total nationally.
Hunter played in every game and started the last 11 at strongside linebacker for the Herd, piling up 102 tackles (the highest among freshmen linebackers in C-USA) to go with 3.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He posted four double-digit tackle games this season, including three straight against Southern Miss (11), UCF (10) and Memphis (12) and a season-high 18 at East Carolina. Against league champion Tulsa, Hunter also returned a fumbled point-after attempt for two points.
Williams, the league’s only Ray Guy Award semifinalist, was one of the Herd’s most pleasant surprises this year, averaging 45.19 yards per punt, the ninth-highest average nationally. He had 13 kicks of 50 or more yards, while landing 16 inside the 20 and nine more that were fair caught. He posted a 66-yard boot at Rice, where he averaged 50.8 yards per kick. He also averaged 51.2 yards per punt in his four kicks at then-No. 11 ranked West Virginia and 50.5 at East Carolina.
Earning honorable mention all-conference honors were: offensive linemen Chris Jasperse, Jordan Jeffries, Alex Schooler, wide receiver Antavious Wilson, defensive linemen Alex Bazzie and Brandon Sparrow, safety Okechukwu Okoroha and kicker Justin Haig.
The league’s individual awards will be announced Wednesday.
A look at Marshall’s All-Conference USA first team football selections since the Thundering Herd joined the league in 2005:
2012 – (2) Rakeem Cato, QB; Tommy Shuler, WR.
2011 – (2) Vinny Curry, DL; Omar Brown, DB.
2010 – (2) Vinny Curry, DL; Mario Harvey, LB.
2009 – (4) Cody Slate, TE; Mario Harvey, LB; Craig Ratanamorn, PK; Sean McClellan, LS.
2008 – (1) Albert McClellan, DL.
2007 – (1) Doug Legursky, OL.
2006 – (4) Ahmad Bradshaw, RB; Doug Legursky, OL; Albert McClellan, DL; Curtis Keyes, DB.
2005 – None.