C-USA Coaches Honor Players Of The Year

Conference USA announced its 2007 Coaches Players of the Year today, as selected by the league’s 12 head football coaches. C-USA is completing its 12th football campaign by sending six teams to postseason bowl games.

Tulsa senior QB Paul Smith was named Offensive Player of the Year, the eighth time in the last 10 years that a quarterback has won the award. He has passed for more than 300 yards in every game this season and ranks among the top three in the nation in total offense (4,826 yards), passing yards (4,753), and passing touchdowns (42), breaking all three of those C-USA records. Smith has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes (300-of-499) and is averaging 365.6 yards per game. With Smith at the controls, the Golden Hurricane leads the FBS in total offense at 542.5 yards per game. The efforts of the three-year starter have led Tulsa to its highest regular season win total (9) since 1991 as TU gets ready for its third straight bowl game with Smith as the starting quarterback. On Tuesday, Smith was named the 2007 winner of the The Wuerffel Trophy, which is presented to the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

Defensive honors went to Southern Miss sophomore LB Gerald McRath, marking the fourth time in the last five years that a Golden Eagle has earned the top defensive honor and the eighth time overall. McRath is second in the conference in tackles with 131, including 65 solo stops. He also has 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. McRath registered seven games with double-digit tackles, including a career-high 21 vs. UCF.

The Special Teams Player of the Year award went to East Carolina senior kick returner Chris Johnson. The nation’s active leader in career- all-purpose yardage and kickoff return yardage, Johnson leads C-USA and ranks 15th in the nation in kickoff return average this season at 28.5 per return. He has set or tied eight school and two conference records for kickoff returns and KOR yardage. Johnson owns two of the top three single-game all-purpose yardage performance in the FBS this season.

Redshirt freshman QB Case Keenum of Houston was named the league’s Freshman of the Year. He competed in all 12 games, making seven starts for the Cougars, who rotated quarterbacks throughout much of the season. Keenum completed almost 70 percent of his passes (164-of-235) for 1,924 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also ran 90 times for 414 yards and nine TDs.

Junior WR Brennan Marion of Tulsa garnered the league’s inaugural Newcomer of the Year award. The transfer from DeAnza Junior College surpassed 1,000 yards this year on his 29th reception of the season, in the regular season finale at Rice. Marion became just the 11th player in school history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season and with 1,244 yards on just 39 receptions has moved into eighth place on TU’s single-season receiving list. Marion averages 31.9 yards per reception and is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for highest average gain per reception in a season (27.9 yards by Houston's Elmo Wright in 1968).