DALLAS – A trio of standouts headline the list of 2019 preseason Conference USA Football award winners, as chosen by the league’s 14 head coaches. North Texas senior QB Mason Fine
was selected as the favorite to win his third straight C-USA Offensive Player of the Year award, FIU senior LB Sage Lewis
was tabbed the preseason Defensive Player of the Year, while Charlotte sophomore K Jonathan Cruz
earned Special Teams Player of the Year accolades.
Fine enters his fourth season as a starter as the FBS' active national leader in career passing yards (9,417) and is the two-time reigning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year. He leads a Mean Green offense that has averaged 35.1 points per game over the last two seasons. Fine threw for 3,793 yards, 27 touchdowns to just five interceptions, completed 64.6% of his passes and added two more scores on the ground in 2018. Fine already owns North Texas program records for career passing yards, completions, attempts, and most 200- and 300-yard games. By the time his collegiate career comes to a close, Fine will likely own every major passing record in program history.
After making the move to middle linebacker in 2018, Lewis broke the FIU school record in total tackles (132) and solo stops (83), while ranking first in the league for both of those categories. His 83 solos ranked 10th in the nation last season, with that same number ranking third in the nation among 2019 returnees. Lewis was awarded C-USA First Team All-Conference honors following his stellar junior campaign in 2018.
Cruz was a Second Team All-Conference USA selection and a C-USA All-Freshman team honoree as a rookie last year. Cruz set Charlotte school records for field goals made of 40 or more yards (8) and 50 or more yards (3), hitting 17 total field goals. His game-winning 56-yard field goal in the final 25 seconds at Florida Atlantic was the longest in C-USA and the second-longest in the FBS, last year. Cruz was the only C-USA kicker to be perfect on PAT’s, connecting on all 27 of his attempts.
North Texas and Southern Miss had the most overall preseason selections with five, while Marshall placed four and Charlotte produced players comprising four spots. Nine schools had multiple players named to the squad.
The league’s 24th football season begins on Thursday, August 29. The 15th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.
The C-USA Media Poll (Predicted Order of Finish) will be released on Tuesday.
2019 C-USA FOOTBALL COACHES PRESEASON AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Year
Mason Fine, Sr., QB, North Texas
Defensive Player of the Year
Sage Lewis, Sr., LB, FIU
Special Teams Player of the Year
Jonathan Cruz, So., K, Charlotte
QB Mason Fine, Sr., North Texas
RB Spencer Brown, Jr., UAB
RB Benny LeMay, Sr., Charlotte
OL Levi Brown, Sr., Marshall
OL Josh Dunlop, Sr., UTSA
OL Derron Gatewood, Sr., UTEP
OL Sosaia Mose, Sr., North Texas
OL Miles Pate, Sr., WKU
TE Harrison Bryant, Sr., Florida Atlantic
WR Rico Bussey, Jr., Sr., North Texas
WR Adrian Hardy, Jr., Louisiana Tech
WR Quez Watkins, Jr., Southern Miss
DL Channing Hames, Sr., Marshall
DL LaDarius Hamilton, Sr., North Texas
DL Alex Highsmith, Sr., Charlotte
DL Garrett Marino, Sr., UAB
DL DeMarrio Smith, Sr., Southern Miss
DL Jacques Turner, Jr., Southern Miss
LB Khalil Brooks, Sr., Middle Tennessee
LB Sage Lewis, Sr., FIU
LB Racheem Boothe, Jr., Southern Miss
DB Reed Blankenship, Jr., Middle Tennessee
DB Ky’el Hemby, Jr., Southern Miss
DB Amik Robertson, Jr., Louisiana Tech
DB Chris Jackson, Sr., Marshall
K Jonathan Cruz, So., Charlotte
P Alvin Kenworthy, Sr., North Texas
KR Brett Winnegan, Sr., UTSA
PR Maurice Alexander, Sr., FIU
LS Matt Beardall, Sr., Marshall