Five seniors earn Preseason All-Conference USA laurels on Wednesday
IRVING — Five seniors earned Preseason All-Conference USA honors and UTSA was picked to finish third in the West Division, as the league office announced its annual football coaches teams, awards and predicted order of finish on Wednesday.
Offensive guard Scott Inskeep was the Roadrunners' lone representative on the offense, while free safety Triston Wade was the team's only selection on the other side of the ball. However, UTSA earned three of the five spots on special teams, as place-kicker Sean Ianno, punt returner Kenny Harrison and deep snapper Jesse Medrano all were chosen. The Roadrunners had the second-most all-conference picks, trailing only unanimous preseason favorite Marshall, which had seven.
Inskeep, who was named to the Rotary Lombardi Award (nation's top interior lineman) watch list for the second consecutive year on Monday, was a second-team all-conference choice last fall. The McAllen native recorded 61 knockdown blocks, including a season-best nine at Tulsa (Nov. 9) and again a week later against Tulane, which was good for second on the squad. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder also graded out at 82 percent and was a key part of an offensive line that did not commit a holding penalty. His blocking helped the UTSA offense average 25.6 points, 417.8 total yards (175.4 rush/242.4 pass), 21.9 first downs and 32:24 possession time per contest. It was the second straight year that Inskeep earned second-team all-league laurels, as he was an All-Western Athletic Conference choice in 2012.
Meanwhile, Wade also is coming off a junior season that saw him earn second-team All-C-USA accolades. The 2014 Jim Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) candidate followed up his 2012 first-team All-WAC campaign with a team-leading 94 tackles and two interceptions to go along with seven pass breakups and two-and-a-half tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 12 starts. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Tyler native intercepted both his passes at Tulsa (Nov. 2), one of which he returned 82 yards for a touchdown, and he also broke up a toss in the end zone to go along with four stops in that contest. Wade recorded a career-high 12 stops at Arizona (Sept. 14) and matched that feat two weeks later against Houston (Sept. 28).
Ianno connected on all 38 of his extra-point attempts last season and he has split the uprights on all 90 PATs during his three-year career. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder will enter the 2014 campaign with the nation's second-longest active extra points streak. The Pflugerville native also drilled 11 field goals a year ago, including a long of 43 yards, in addition to seeing 21 of his 60 kickoffs (35 percent) result in touchbacks.
Harrison averaged 7.3 yards on just seven punt returns a year ago as teams kicked away from him following a sophomore season that saw him finish second nationally with a 17.3 average on 12 runbacks. However, the Lindale native showed his big-return ability in the home opener against No. 13 Oklahoma State with a season-long return of 62 yards.
Medrano helped the Roadrunners connect on all 38 of their extra-point attempts and another 11 field goals in addition to setting up their 39.2 punting average. The local product out of Jay High School also added three special teams tackles.
Marshall racked up 91 points in finishing atop the East Division rankings, while North Texas (66) edged Rice (65) and UTSA (62) in the West.
The Roadrunners, 7-5 overall and 6-2 in C-USA play a year ago, will open their 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29, at Houston. The first-ever game at the brand new TDECU Stadium will kick off at 8 p.m. and be televised nationally on ESPNU.
2014 Conference USA Preseason Teams & Awards
QB - Rakeem Cato, Sr., Marshall
RB - Kenneth Dixon, Jr., Louisiana Tech
RB - Aaron Jones, So., UTEP
WR - Jamarcus Nelson, Sr., UAB
WR - Tommy Shuler, Sr., Marshall
WR - Jordan Taylor., Sr., Rice
TE - Eric Tomlinson, Sr., UTEP
OL - Scott Inskeep, Sr., UTSA
OL - Chris Jasperse, Sr., Marshall
OL - Cyril Lemon, Sr., North Texas
OL - Clint Van Horn, Jr., Marshall
OL - Mason Y’Barbo, Sr., North Texas
DL - Vernon Butler, Jr., Louisiana Tech
DL - Christian Covington, Jr., Rice
DL - Ra’Shawde Myers, Sr., Marshall
DL - James Rouse, Sr., Marshall
LB - T.T. Barber, Sr., Middle Tennessee
LB - Evan McKelvey, Sr., Marshall
LB - Andrae Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic
DB - Kevin Byard, Jr., Middle Tennessee
DB - Bryce Callahan, Sr., Rice
DB - D’Joun Smith, Sr., Florida Atlantic
DB - Triston Wade, Sr., UTSA
PK - Sean Ianno, Sr., UTSA
P - Hunter Mullins, Sr., UAB
KR - Autrey Golden, Jr., UTEP
PR - Kenny Harrison, Sr., UTSA
DS - Jesse Medrano, Sr., UTSA
Offensive Player of the Year: Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Defensive Player of the Year: James Rouse, Marshall
Special Teams Player of the Year: Hunter Mullins, UAB
Conference USA Preseason Predicted Order Of Finish
1. Marshall (91)
2. Middle Tennessee (73)
3. Florida Atlantic (60)
4. Western Kentucky (57)
5. Old Dominion (33)
6. UAB (31)
7. FIU (19)
1. North Texas (66)
2. Rice (65)
3. UTSA (62)
4. Louisiana Tech (38)
5. Southern Mississippi (24)
6. UTEP (18)