For the few Marshall fans who don’t have orbit-high expectations over their football team, maybe Conference USA coaches could help them out.
As preseason awards were unveiled Tuesday, the Thundering Herd was unanimously chosen to win the East Division by the league’s 13 coaches. On top of that, quarterback Rakeem Cato was selected the Offensive Player of the Year, with tackle James Rouse the Defensive Player of the Year.
All told, seven Herd players landed on the preseason all-conference teams, of which there was a single unit.
The only one is this: Will the Herd live up to this hype?
Marshall scored the maximum 91 points in its selection to repeat as C-USA East champion. Following in second is Middle Tennessee, which beat the Herd last year, and third is Florida Atlantic. The Owls took the Herd to the final seconds last year in Boca Raton, before Justin Haig kicked a last-play field goal to win 24-23.
Newcomers Western Kentucky and Old Dominion are next, followed by Alabama-Birmingham and Florida International.
North Texas is narrowly picked to win the West, being voted 66-65 over defending champion Rice. Texas-San Antonio is a close third, followed not so closely by Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi and Texas-El Paso.
Cato, who passed for 3,916 yards and 33 touchdowns and added six rushing TDs, leads the all-league offense. Not surprisingly, he is joined by his longtime connection, wide receiver Tommy Shuler. Beckley native Clinton Van Horn and center Chris Jasperse were selected among five interior linemen.
Rouse, who led the Herd with 14 tackles for loss, was selected alongside end Ra’Shawde Myers. Joining them is linebacker Evan McKelvey.
UAB punter Hunter Mullins was picked as the Special Teams Player of the Year. He averaged 43.1 yards per attempt last year, with 14 fair catches, 14 going inside the 20-yard line and 10 topping 50 yards.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.com/dougsmock.