By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It was inevitable that the familiarity between former high school teammates Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler would eventually pay off for Marshall’s offense.
Tuesday, the connection resulted in both being named all-conference.
Cato and Shuler were Marshall’s representatives on the All-Conference USA first team as announced by the league. The duo from Miami Central High School became a prolific combination for the Thundering Herd, who finished the season a disappointing 5-7 but had the No. 1 offense in C-USA.
Cato leads the FBS in completions per game (33.83) and passing yards per game (350.08), and is third in touchdown passes (37), fifth in total offense (352.67) and completion percentage (69.5). He also leads C-USA in pass efficiency (147.1).
He led a Herd unit that is second in the nation in third-down conversion percentage (54.59) and first downs per game (29.42), and his 66.2 percent career completion mark (588 for 888) is currently a school record, just ahead of Herd legends Chad Pennington (65.1) and Byron Leftwich (63.4).
Shuler was the biggest beneficiary of Cato’s big year. The sophomore is tied for second nationally with 9.17 catches per game, and his 110 total catches set a school record. He is just the fifth C-USA player to record 100-plus single-season catches and the first underclassman to accomplish the feat.
He is also currently second in the league in receiving yards per game (94.8).
Midway through the season, he joined teammate Aaron Dobson as a Biletnikoff Award Watch List honoree. His 19 catches at Purdue, and his 200 receiving yards in that game were the most by a Herd player in over a decade.
Representing the Herd on second-team offense are Dobson and tight end Gator Hoskins. On defense is safety Dominick LeGrande, who transferred to Marshall from Boston College.
Four players were selected to the All-Freshman team. They are running back Kevin Grooms (leading freshman rusher in C-USA), offensive lineman Cameron Dees (played in all 12 games, starting the final three), linebacker D.J. Hunter (fourth on team with 102 tackles) and punter Tyler Williams (Ray Guy Award semifinalist, averaged 47.19 yards per punt, ninth-best in the nation).
Earning honorable mention all-conference honors were: offensive linemen Chris Jasperse, Jordan Jeffries, Alex Schooler, wide receiver Antavious Wilson, defensive linemen Alex Bazzie and Brandon Sparrow, safety Okechukwu Okoroha and kicker Justin Haig.
The league’s individual awards will be announced today.
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