Dec. 6, 2012
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - One day after earning Conference USA’s top honor, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato was named Offensive Player of the Year by College Sports Madness (CollegeSportsMadness.com) on Thursday, leading a Herd contingent on the outlet’s three all-conference teams.
Cato claimed first team honors, as did wide receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins. Wide receiver Antavious Wilson was named to the second team, as was safety Dominick LeGrande. Offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries made the third team.
Cato, who was named Conference USA’s MVP on Wednesday after also earning first team honors from the league’s coaches, 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-of-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).
His MVP honor marked the first time the league awarded it to an underclassman and it was the Herd’s first since joining Conference USA. The Miami native also became the first Marshall offensive player to win a top conference award since Leftwich was named the Mid-American Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2002.
Shuler, also a first team selection by C-USA coaches, 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, a second team pick by the C-USA coaches, 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.
Wilson, an honorable mention selection by the C-USA coaches, is sixth in the league in catches per game (5.8). He was also one of 11 MU honorees on Phil Steele’s midseason all-conference list. His 187 career catches are seventh-highest in school history, while his 2,269 receiving yards are 10th. His 69 catches this season are a career-high, as are his 741 receiving yards. His best game came against league-leading Tulsa, when he amassed seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He also posted touchdown catches against Purdue, Southern Miss, UCF and Houston.
LeGrande, also a second team pick by the C-USA coaches, 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 strong safety had eight double-figure 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.
Jeffries, who also claimed an honorable mention from the league’s coaches, started every game at left tackle for the Herd. 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.