HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's Rakeem Cato was named the Conference USA football Offensive Player of the Year Wednesday.Cato, the league's MVP in 2012, won the honor despite the fact that this year's C-USA MVP, East Carolina's Shane Carden, was the first-team quarterback on the all-conference team, announced Tuesday.Cato's teammate, nickel back Corey Tindal, was named the co-winner of the league's Freshman of the Year honor, sharing it with Tulane linebacker Nico Marley. Tindal, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was an All-Freshman Team pick a day earlier.It was Marshall's second straight season with a Freshman of the Year. Running back Kevin Grooms won the honor in 2012.
In 2012, Cato led the nation in passing yards per game (350.1), completions (406) and attempts (584). He threw for 37 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions.
This season, Cato's yardage per game is down by 75 from a year ago, and he's had 130 fewer attempts and 136 fewer completions. He has 36 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.However, Marshall coach Doc Holliday repeatedly has said the Herd's offense is better this year than it was in 2012, and he has praised offensive coordinator Bill Legg's work in helping Cato mature as a quarterback and a person in the Miamian's three years in the program.Marshall is averaging 32 more yards per game (534.3) than a year ago and is ranked seventh nationally in scoring offense (43 points per game).Cato used his legs as well as his arm, rushing for 279 yards and six touchdowns.Rice's David Bailiff won the 2013 C-USA Coach of the Year honor, his second of those (also 2008). The conference's other top awards went to Carden (MVP), Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson (Defensive Player of the Year), North Texas kick-punt returner Brelan Chancellor (Special Teams Player of the Year) and FAU sophomore quarterback Jaquez Johnson (Newcomer of the Year).