CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Marshall University has a Heisman Trophy campaign in the works for its star quarterback, Rakeem Cato. The record-setting signal-caller already has the attention of another national-player-of-the-year committee.
Cato, the 2012 Conference USA MVP and 2013 conference offensive player of the year, was named to his second straight Maxwell Award watch list Monday. He’s neither the only Marshall player nor the only player from a West Virginia school on a national award radar. His Thundering Herd teammate, defensive lineman James Rouse, and West Virginia University safety Karl Joseph both were named to the watch list of the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.
Also, Marshall running back Steward Butler was named to the College Football Performance Awards watch list for top running back.
Cato’s numbers in 2013 were down slightly from his 2012 MVP campaign, when he led the nation in passing yards per game (350.08) and set the school record for single-season completions (406). Last season, he completed 298 of 499 attempts (59.7 percent) for 3,916 yards (279.7 per game), 39 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He also has thrown a touchdown pass in 32 straight games, the high for an active Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback. The record is 38 straight, set by Russell Wilson in 2009-11.
Cato, a senior from Miami, Fla., led the Herd to its first 10-win season since 2002, the C-USA East Division title and a Military Bowl win over Maryland. Some college football experts predict that, with Cato under center, Marshall will earn the spot given to the five smaller football conferences among the “access bowl” slots. Athlon predicts Marshall will play in the Peach Bowl, while Phil Steele pencils in the Herd for the Orange Bowl.
Rouse, a sixth-year senior from Harrisonburg, Va., bounced back from a couple of injury-marred seasons to earn all-C-USA first-team honors in 2013. He finished fourth in the conference with 14 tackles for loss, including six sacks. His teammates voted him team MVP, and he has been named to numerous preseason all-conference lists. Rouse helped Marshall’s defense make the biggest one season improvement in scoring allowed (20.2 points) since 1998.
Joseph, a junior from Orlando, Fla., earned all-Big 12 honorable mention after finishing fourth on the Mountaineers with 68 tackles, three for a loss. He was third on the team with four pass breakups, led WVU with four fumble recoveries and added an interception. He has started all 25 games in which he’s played.
The Maxwell and Bednarik Awards committees will announce semifinalists for both awards on Nov. 3, with three finalists for each announced on Nov. 24. The winners will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards show on Dec. 11.
Butler was second on Marshall’s 2013 squad with 765 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. His 8.8 yards-per-carry average ranked third in the nation. He also has been named to several preseason-all conference lists. The CFPA is in its seventh season of player and team performance recognition, broken down by offense, defense and special teams.