By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Rakeem Cato didn’t repeat as Conference USA Most Valuable Player, but he was still recognized for another big year.
Marshall’s junior quarterback was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, one day after he was named second-team all-conference.
Also, defensive back Corey Tindal was named co-Freshman of the Year, sharing the award with Tulane linebacker Nico Marley.
This year’s MVP award went to East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden, who beat out Cato for first-team honors.
Cato, whose 36 touchdown passes are third in Football Bowl Subdivision, completed 270 of 455 passes for 3,579 yards, and also rushed for 279 yards and six scores. Marshall, the C-USA East Division champion, is seventh in FBS in scoring offense at 43.0 points per game and 13th in total offense at 503.2 yards per game.
“The strides Rakeem Cato has made from a leadership and intangibles standpoint, I’m proud of the kid,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said earlier this season. “Every week when he steps on the field, you know what you’re going to get. He may be the most competitive quarterback I’ve ever coached or been around. He competes in practice and in games because he just loves to play. He’s really grown up as a quarterback and as a leader to the football team. I’m just so proud of him.”
Carden was named MVP after a big junior year. He led the conference with 3,866 passing yards while throwing 32 touchdowns and running for 10. His 71 percent completion percentage (368 of 504) leads the conference.
Tindal was recognized after registering 55 tackles, five tackles for loss, six pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Running back Kevin Grooms earned the honor last year.
Tindal was named a team captain for Marshall’s game at Ohio in September.
“I’ve said all along that you don’t have to be a senior to lead,” Holliday said in that week’s press conference. “Maybe the best leader I’ve ever been associated with was Philip Rivers at N.C. State when he was a freshman. Corey Tindal has been no different. From the time he stepped out on the field, he’s been a tremendous leader and it helps when you’re a tremendous player. Those things kind of go hand in hand. It’s great to see him develop the way that he has and I’m just glad he’s on our team.”
Also honored were Coach of the Year David Bailiff of league champion Rice; Defensive Player of the Year Shawn Jackson, a linebacker at Tulane; Special Teams Player of the Year Brelan Chancellor of North Texas; and Newcomer of the Year Jaquez Johnson, quarterback at FAU.
In all, Marshall had 19 players recognized, including nine on the first and second teams. Among them was Beckley native and offensive lineman Clint Van Horn as a second-teamer.
“Clint has stepped up for us at that right tackle spot,” Holliday said in October. “He’s a big massive guy that can give us some stability there. We’ve been really pleased with his development and look for that to continue.”
Center Chris Japerse, wide receiver Tommy Shuler, tight end Gator Hoskins and defensive lineman James Rouse were named to the first team. Joining Van Horn and Cato on the second team were offensive lineman Garrett Scott, linebacker Jermaine Holmes and punt returner Devon Smith.
Running back Essray Taliaferro, defensive linemen Alex Bazzie and Ra’Shawde Myers, linebacker Evan McKelvey, defensive backs Darryl Roberts, Monterius Lovett and Tindal were all named honorable mention.
On the all-freshman team were offensive lineman Michael Selby, defensive lineman Gary Thompson, linebacker Stefan Houston and defensive backs A.J. Leggett and Tindal.
— E-mail: gfauber@
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