Those three players are junior Cody Slate at tight end, sophomore defensive lineman Michael Janac and junior linebacker Mario Harvey, while sophomore Darius Marshall was named HM kick returner in addition to second team as a running back. Four more Herd players were named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team including red-shirt freshmen offensive tackles Ryan Tillman and C.J. Wood, red-shirt frosh cornerback DeQuan Bembry and true freshman place kicker Tyler Warner.
Albert McClellan dragged down Illinois State QB Kevin Brockway in the opener for Marshall and closed the season as the only First Team All-Conference USA selection for the Herd. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Albert McClellan, the 2008 Pre-Season Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, was the Herd's lone first-team selection. The Lakeland, Fla. native returned after missing all of 2007 with an injury and recorded 57 stops, including 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles-for-loss. McClellan returned from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2007 season after earning Defensive Player of the Year Honors in 2006 and first team honors that year, too. He was named to both the CollegeFootballNews.com (cfn.scout.com) Sophomore and Freshmen All-American teams in both 2005 and 2006. McClellan is a Business Management major.
Darius Marshall shown picking up 142 yards against UCF on his way to 1,095 rushing yards, was named second team running back and honorable mention at kick returner by Conference USA coaches. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The second-team selections start with MU running back D. Marshall. He led the Herd with 224 carries for a career-high 1,095 yards (only the tenth player at Marshall to top 1,000 yards rushing) and five touchdowns. D. Marshall rushed for more than 100 yards in a game seven times and finished 12th all-time on Marshall's single season rushing chart. He became only the 10th individual at Marshall to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Marshall was named to the Honorable Mention All-C-USA Team as a kick returner. He led the team with 20 kick returns for 790 yards, an average of 26.3 yards per return.
Darius Passmore was the Herd's leading receiver with 56 catches for 945 yards and seven touchdowns. Passmore also got behind center in the Herd's "racehorse" formation. He carried the ball 21 times for 195 yards and a touchdown. He was scheduled to graduate this month at Marshall from the RBA program.
Brian Leggett started all 12 games this season at center, as well as 2007 and 2006 at right guard. The Meridian, Miss. native started a total of 36 consecutive games for the Herd, having spent time at both guard and center over the last three seasons. Leggett graduated from Marshall in December with a degree in Adult Fitness, and is currently working on his Masters at MU.
Maurice Kitchens ran this fumble recovery back 80 yards against Houston, and had four interceptions to lead the Herd, on his way to being named Second Team All-Conference USA this week. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
If you are going to save your best for last, Maurice Kitchens had a career year as a senior. The middle linebacker racked up 97 tackles, second on the team, and led the team in interceptions with four. In the win over Houston, he led the way with an 80-yard fumble return and an interception. He was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week following that game. His major is Management Information Systems.
C.J. Spillman, a senior from Louisville, Ky., earned his second straight all-conference selection. The ball-hawking safety finished 2008 with 71 tackles, fourth best on the team this season, in 11 games. He broke up four passes this season, recorded 1.5 tackle for loss, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble. Last year, Spillman led the Herd with 131 tackles.
Cody Slate, shown scoring against East Carolina, was named honorable mention at tight end by C-USA coaches despite catching a touchdown in eight-straight games for Marshall. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Honorable Mention selections for the Herd were led by tight end Cody Slate. He was second on the team in receptions with 40 in ten games for 510 yards. His eight touchdowns tied Slate with Passmore for the team's scoring lead with 48 points each. Slate also had 60 yards rushing. Janac was tenth on the team in tackles with 46 total, 16 solos, and had 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 quarterback sacks in addition to three quarterback hurries and one pass batted down.
Michael Janac hit the arm of Tulsa QB David Johnson in the final game of the Herd's season, and he was named to the C-USA Honorable Mention All-Conference team. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Harvey, known as "Thumper," led the Herd in tackles with 107, 43 solo. He also led the team in sacks with 4.5 for minus-37 yards and was title for the lead in tackles for loss with Kitchens with 7.0 each, but Harvey's were for minus-42 yards, more than 20 more yards than his MLB. Harvey had one interception for a 29-yard return. tied for the lead in QB hurries with five, forced two fumbles and recovered two, including a 62-yard return for a touchdown against UAB.
Mario Harvey wrapped up Wisconsin back P.J. Hill on the way to leading the Herd in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. Harvey was an Honorable Mention All-Conference USA player to the surprise of many in the Herd camp who expected the junior to place higher. photo by Neil Ament for HI
On the All-Freshman team, Wood and Tillman both started all 12 games at tackle in 2008 after sitting our the previous season as true freshmen. They anchored a unit that allowed just 13 sacks in those 12 games, as the Herd rushed for nearly 1,900 yards and threw for nearly 2,100 more. The offense averaged 5.1 yards per play.
Bembry had a banner year, finishing third on the Herd defense with 80 tackles. He also had a team-high 7.5 tackles-for-loss. Bembry broke up 11 passes and recorded the first interception of his career against West Virginia. Marshall true freshman kicker Tyler Warner is one of two in-state players to be named to post-season honors, including Matt Altobello, the Herd's senior right guard who made the All-Academic C-USA team from Keyser, W.Va. Warner is from Parkersburg, W.Va., and he made his collegiate debut in a big way for MU at Southern Miss. Warner learned that he would be kicking in place of the injured junior, Craig Ratanamorn, just 15 minutes prior to kickoff. Despite a heavy rain, the walk-on frosh managed to connect on both of his field goal attempts from 37 and 28 yards. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on PATs while handling all of the kickoffs as well. Warner handled seven kickoffs with only one touchback.
On Wednesday, the league announced the Coach of the Year was David Baliff of Rice. The league also announced its 2008 Players of the Year today, as selected by the league's 12 head football coaches. C-USA is completing its 13th football campaign by sending six teams to bowl games for the third time in four years.
Rice senior QB Chase Clement was named the first recipient of the C-USA Most Valuable Player Award. Clement has completed 296-of-446 passes for 3,812 yards and 41 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He threw at least one touchdown pass in his final 25 C-USA games and posted a 15-8 record as a starter in league play over the last three years. Clement set the C-USA record for career TD passes (96) and total touchdowns (120). He now holds six C-USA records and leads all C-USA signal callers with 52 total touchdowns this season. He holds all the Owls records in passing and total offense and heads into bowl action as the only quarterback in the nation to have amassed over 500 yards rushing (a career-high 621) while throwing for over 3,500 yards.
Houston sophomore QB Case Keenum was named Offensive Player of the Year, the ninth time in the last 11 years that a quarterback has won the award. He has passed for more than 300 yards in every game this season and leads the nation in total offense (4,993 yards), while ranking second in passing yards (4,768) and passing touchdowns (43). The 2007 C-USA Freshman of the Year has completed 67 percent of his passes (375-of-556) and is averaging 397.3 yards per game. With Keenum at the controls, the Cougars lead the FBS in total offense at 575.1 yards per game, while averaging 41.7 points per game. His efforts have led Houston to its fourth straight bowl game as its gets ready to face Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on December 31 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Defensive honors went to Houston senior DE Phillip Hunt, who becomes the second Cougar to win the honor, joining Wayne Rogers, who shared the award following the 2000 season. Hunt leads Conference USA and ranks fourth nationally with 12 sacks, all solo. He is third in the league lead in tackles for loss with 16.5, totaling 110 lost yards. Hunt has posted 40 total tackles, forced a team-high three fumbles (second in C-USA), broke up one pass and blocked a field goal attempt.
The Special Teams Player of the Year award went to UCF senior kick returner/punt returner Joe Burnett. The first player in C-USA history to be named first team all-conference at three different positions, Burnett ranked 10th in C-USA in total all-purpose yards without registering a single rush or reception. He led C-USA and ranked seventh nationally in kick return yardage at 28.7. Included was a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns. Burnett led the league in punt return yardage at 14.3 per return, nearly six yards more than any other player. He closed his career as C-USA's all-time leader in punt return yardage with 1,304 yards, ranking 19th in FBS history.
Red-shirt freshman RB Bryce Beall of Houston was named the league's Freshman of the Year. He became the first freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards, ranking fourth in C-USA with 1,112 (92.7 ypg). Beall led Conference USA in rushing touchdowns with 12, while adding four receiving scores to rank third in the league in total touchdowns with 16. He had five 100-yard rushing games and ran for a score and caught a TD in the same game three times.
Junior RB Curtis Steele of Memphis garnered the league's Newcomer of the Year award. Steele leads the Tigers in rushing with 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns on 206 carries. He logged his sixth 100-yard rushing game with his 135-yard effort versus Tulane in the regular season finale. Steele ranks fourth all-time in single-season yardage at U of M and is the first Tiger to rush for over 1,000 yards since DeAngelo Williams did so in 2005. The transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College is averaging 97.9 rushing yards in 12 games and has averaged 112.2 yards in his last nine contests.