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Doug Smock: Rouse finally gets his preseason ‘cred’

Doug Smock

BETTING POOL material: Which hits the proverbial table first, Dana Holgorsen’s head or the first blueprints for a new, enormous indoor practice facility at West Virginia University?

Sorry, folks, couldn’t help myself there. I shall leave those issue to increasingly empurpled WVU fans.

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As annoying as they can be, watch lists have their place in college football. If nothing else, they tell you which opponents to watch for as the season rolls along.

When the Herd plays Old Dominion, watch for quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Middle Tennessee, you look out for linebacker T.T. Barber and cornerback Kevin Byard. At Ohio, safety Josh Kristoff and kicker Josiah Yazdani.

Don’t even have to pick up a preseason mag, right? Ummmm …

As many players as these lists name, there are defects. Consider the Lombardi Trophy list. Like most other lists, Marshall is represented with inside linebacker Jermaine Holmes, center Chris Jasperse and tackle Clint Van Horn.

Good candidates all. But did you notice an absence?

The Outland Trophy list (best interior linemen, either side), compiled by the Football Writers Association of America, is impressed with Rice D-tackle Christian Covington, placing him on a 64-man list.

No beef there, but did you notice an absence?

If you’re a Thundering Herd fan, you’ve probably groused about this one. Why in the name of James Rouse is there no James Rouse on these lists?

I guess there are extenuating circumstances. Injuries have limited him to having one outstanding season, 2013, and he was listed as a senior last year. Not everybody knew he had a slam-dunk case for a sixth-year waiver.

Whatever the case, Conference USA coaches settled that score, at least in the preseason sense. As they crowned quarterback Rakeem Cato the Offensive Player of the Year, they handed the defensive honor to Rouse.

Which they should have. It isn’t every year a tackle leads your defense in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (six), and he’s only going to get better. And it says here he will rectify his off-performance in the C-USA championship game at Rice when the Owls come to Huntington on Nov. 15. With interest.

(What Herd players didn’t have a bad game at Rice?)

Should the Cato/Rouse picks stand up in the 2014 postseason, it would the first time since 2008 a C-USA team has swept the two. (An asterisk here: Houston QB Case Keenum and linebacker Phillip Hunt were honored, but neither won the inaugural MVP award, which went to Rice QB Chase Clement.) That likely will mean Marshall does what it is expected to do, win the league title.

For the time being, I’m just glad I wasn’t over-hyping Rouse. After all his injury problems, his rise to dominance has been refreshing.

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One advisory about the Conference USA basketball tournament next March in Birmingham, Ala.: Not everybody will be invited.

With a 14-team league and, I figure, a desire to reel the event back in from five days to four, only the top 12 teams will make it. C-USA had done that before Marshall came along in the 2005-06 realignment.

As much excitement is being generated over the arrival of new coach Dan D’Antoni, I can’t get past the possibility of this coming into play. As I write this, I can’t see more than a 6-12 conference record out of this edition of the Herd.

And yes, there will be an 18-game league season, much to the relief of coaches/athletic directors who suffer scheduling migraines.

Reach Doug Smock at, 304-348-5130 or follow @DougSmock on Twitter.

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