DALLAS — Four Marshall University football players were named to the Conference USA preseason all-league team Monday.
Center Levi Brown, defensive tackle Channing Hames, cornerback Chris Jackson and long snapper Matt Beardall were named to the squad, chosen by the head coaches of 14 league members.
North Texas senior quarterback Mason Fine was selected the C-USA offensive player of the year. FIU senior linebacker Sage Lewis was tabbed the preseason defensive player of the year. Charlotte sophomore kicker Jonathan Cruz earned special teams player of the year accolades.
Brown, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior from Franklin, Georgia, is one of the nation's premier centers. A first-team all-conference center as a junior, Brown was named to the Rimington Watch List last season and is expected to be there again.
Hames, a 6-5, 265-pound senior from Baltimore, made 39 tackles and 28 assists last season. He made 10.5 tackles for losses, including 5.5 sacks. Hames caused 10 quarterback hurries and broke up one pass.
Jackson, a 6-foot, 188-pound senior from Tallahassee, Florida, made 36 tackles and assisted on 20 others. He intercepted one pass, broke up 20 and recovered one fumble.
Beardall, a 6-1, 213-pound senior from Merritt Island, Florida, has started 34 consecutive games.
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 percent 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.
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, Aug. 29. The 15th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, will take place Dec. 7.