The Marshall football team's high-octane offense earned some preseason recognition in Conference USA Wednesday, with quarterback Rakeem Cato being named preseason offensive player of the year and Cato, receiver Tommy Shuler, tight end Gator Hoskins all being named to the preseason all-conference team with punter Tyler Williams.
The Herd, which finished 5-7 last season and third in Conference USA's East Division, was picked to finish second in the East this coming season behind East Carolina. Marshall got two first-place votes to ECU's 11. The conference's 14 coaches voted on the preseason awards.
All four of Marshall's preseason all-conference representatives are on the watch lists for awards for their respective positions – Cato on the Davey O'Brien Award list for best quarterback, Shuler on the Biletnikoff Award list for best receiver, Hoskins on the Mackey Award list for best tight end and Williams on the Ray Guy Award list for best punter. Cato, the reigning C-USA MVP, also was named to the Maxwell Award watch list for best overall player.
Tulsa was the unanimous pick to win the West Division. Both the Golden Hurricane and Pirates are in their final year in C-USA and will depart for the American Athletic Conference in 2014. The projected order of finish is, in the East, ECU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Southern Mississippi, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. In the West, it's Tulsa, followed by Rice, Louisiana Tech, the University of Texas at El Paso, North Texas, Tulane and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Rice defensive back Phillip Gaines was named preseason defensive player of the year, while Tulane kicker Cairos Santos was named preseason special teams player of the year.