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Whatley, Byard on Preseason All-C-USA team

Blue Raiders picked third in East

July 17, 2013 ·

IRVING, TX - Middle Tennessee's Kevin Byard and Reggie Whatley were both voted to Conference USA's preseason first team as announced by the league office on Wednesday. The voting was done by the league's 14 head coaches.

Byard, a redshirt sophomore from Lithonia, Ga., was an FWAA Freshman All-American in 2012. The safety came up with numerous plays for the Blue Raiders all year and finished his first year with 74 tackles, a team-best four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

Whatley, a redshirt junior, was voted as the team's kickoff return specialist. Whatley, who returned a kick 96 yards for the game-winning score at WKU last season, averaged 30.5 yards per return to rank fourth nationally in 2012.

Tulsa had the most overall preseason selections with five, while East Carolina and Marshall had four. Rice and Tulane each placed three players on the team. Twelve C-USA schools had at least one player named to the team.

Middle Tennessee, one of three teams to garner a first place vote in the East Division, was picked third with 70 total votes behind favorite East Carolina and Marshall. Defending Conference USA Champion Tulsa was chosen unanimously as the preseason favorite to win the West Division.

The league's ninth annual Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West divisions, will be held Saturday, December 7.

The Blue Raiders will open the 2013 season at home against Western Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 PM.

2013 CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON TEAM

Offensive Player of the Year
Rakeem Cato, Jr., QB, Marshall

Defensive Player of the Year
Phillip Gaines, Sr., DB, Rice

Special Teams Player of the Year
Cairo Santos, Sr., K, Tulane

First Team Offense
QB Rakeem Cato, Jr., Marshall
RB Vintavious Cooper, Sr., East Carolina
RB Darrin Reaves, Jr., UAB
OL Jake Alexander, Jr., Tulsa
OL Stetson Burnett, Sr., Tulsa
OL Scott Inskeep, Jr., UTSA
OL Nate Richards, Sr., Rice
OL Matt Shepperd, Jr., Louisiana Tech
OL Will Simmons, Sr., East Carolina
WR Justin Hardy, Jr., East Carolina
WR Ryan Grant, Sr., Tulane
WR Tommy Shuler, Jr., Marshall
TE Gator Hoskins, Sr., Marshall

First Team Defense
DL Christian Covington, So., Rice
DL Justin Ellis, Sr., Louisiana Tech
DL Greg Hickman, Sr., FIU
DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DL, Southern Miss
LB Shawn Jackson, Sr., Tulsa
LB Derrell Johnson, Sr., East Carolina
LB Andre Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic
DB Kevin Byard, So., Middle Tennessee
DB Lorenzo Doss, So., Tulane
DB Phillip Gaines, Sr., Rice
DB Marco Nelson, Sr., Tulsa

First Team Special Teams
K Cairo Santos, K, Tulane
P Tyler Williams, P, Marshall
KR Reggie Whatley, Jr., Middle Tennessee
PR Trey Watts, Sr., Tulsa

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
EAST DIVISION
1. East Carolina (11), 95
2. Marshall (2), 82
3. Middle Tennessee (1), 70
4. UAB, 54
5. Southern Miss, 40
6. Florida Atlantic, 28
7. FIU, 23

WEST DIVISION
1. Tulsa (14), 98
2. Rice, 76
3. Louisiana Tech, 72
4. UTEP, 46
5. North Texas, 39
6. Tulane, 31
7. UTSA, 30

(First place votes in parenthesis)

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