FB: 2019 Coaches Preseason Awards

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.


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
Special Teams
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