Dec. 12, 2012
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Marshall linebacker D.J. Hunter earned a second team spot on Phil Steele’s Freshman All-America football team, while eight other Herd student-athletes were selected to his three All-Conference USA teams.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato, tight end Gator Hoskins and wide receiver Tommy Shuler placed on the first team, while wideout Aaron Dobson and safety Dominick LeGrande made the second team. Defensive lineman Alex Bazzie, linebacker Jermaine Holmes and safety Okechukwu Okoroha were third-team honorees.
Hunter, a redshirt freshman from Middletown, Ohio, played in every game and started the last 11 at strongside linebacker for the Herd, piling up 102 tackles (the most 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 in the season finale at East Carolina. Against league-leading Tulsa, he also returned a fumbled point-after attempt for two points. This is his second top honor as The Sporting News also bestowed him with Freshman All-America honors after also earning All-Freshman Team honors from the league’s 12 head coaches.
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-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). The Herd quarterback has also been named the league’s MVP, CollegeSportsMadness.com’s Offensive Player of the Year and one of the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ 2013 Players to Watch. In addition to Wednesday’s announcement, he has also earned all-league honors from the C-USA coaches and CollegeSportsMadness.com. His MVP honor marked the first time C-USA awarded it to an underclassman and it was the Herd’s first since joining Conference USA. He 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.
Hoskins, a first team selection by CollegeSportsMadness.com and 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.
Shuler, also a first team selection by the C-USA coaches and CollegeSportsMadness.com, 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 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 more than a decade.
Dobson, a second team selection by the league’s coaches, is seventh in the league in catches per game (5.7) and receiving yards (67.9). The Dunbar, W.Va., resident 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, also a second team pick by the C-USA coaches and CollegeSportsMadness.com, earned his degree from Boston College before transferring to Marshall in the offseason. The Staten Island, N.Y., native 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. He was also a C-USA All-Academic Team honoree.
Bazzie, an honorable mention selection by the league’s coaches, amassed 80 tackles (39 solo) this season, including 9.0 for loss and two sacks with two pass breakups, while starting every game at defensive end. The tackle total stands as the second-highest total among C-USA defensive linemen. He was one of 11 Herd players named to Phil Steele’s midseason all-league team. In 2012, he posted double-digit tackle outings against then-11th ranked West Virginia, and in back-to-back games against Purdue and league-leading Tulsa.
Holmes, whose 13.5 tackles for loss rank seventh in C-USA, piled up 82 tackles this season (34 solo), with a sack, an interception, a pass breakup, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. The Valdosta, Ga., native really turned it on in the Herd’s last three games, totaling 42 tackles and four tackles for loss. He also had 11 tackles against eventual C-USA champion Tulsa on October 6.
Okoroha, an honorable mention selection by the league’s coaches, also earned his degree from Boston College before transferring to Marshall in the offseason. He is ninth in the league with 9.0 tackles per game (108 total) and was also one of 11 MU players named to Phil Steele’s midseason all-conference team. A starter at free safety in all 12 games for Marshall, he posted four double-digit tackle games this season, including 16 at Rice. He also had 3.0 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and four pass breakups.