July 24, 2007
HOUSTON - Less than a year after winning the Conference USA championship, the University of Houston football team was picked to represent the West Division again, according to the league's 12 head coaches.
The Cougars collected 63 points in the 2007 Preseason C-USA Poll to finish a point ahead of Tulsa. SMU was a distant third after picking up 48 points.
The head coaches believe it will be a rematch of the 2007 C-USA Championship Game as Southern Miss was picked to win the East Division after tallying 69 points, the most by any school. East Carolina finished second in the voting with 48 points, while UCF was third with 47.
A year ago, the Cougars faced Southern Miss twice. The Golden Eagles enjoyed a 31-27 in Hattiesburg, Miss., during the regular season. But the Cougars won their final five C-USA games to win the West Division and clinch home-field advantage for the C-USA Championship Game, where they enjoyed a 34-20 win over USM.
Individually, the Cougars placed a team-high five members on the Preseason Team with two on offense, two on defense and one on special teams. Senior offensive lineman Jeff Akeroyd was tabbed on the offensive front. A year ago, Akeroyd started at guard but moved to left tackle when SirVincent Rogers was lost for the season with an injury.
Akeroyd made the adjustment and helped lead the Cougars to the league's No. 1 offense with 446.1 yards and 33.0 points per game on the way to being named to the All-Conference USA Second Team. Earlier this summer, he was named to the Outland Trophy Award Watch List.
Senior Donnie Avery also was named to the Preseason Team. Avery was a steady offensive performer for the Cougars throughout the 2006 season, racking up 57 catches for 852 - both second best on the team - and five touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior lineman Phillip Hunt was one of two Cougar honorees. The Fort Worth native, who was named to the 2006 All-Conference USA Second Team, led all Cougar defenders with eight sacks and 12 tackles for a loss of 37 yards.
Junior defensive back Kenneth Fontenette made the transition to cornerback in 2006, starting all 14 games. The Pflugerville native ranked fifth on the team with 72 tackles, including 56 solo stops, and topped all players with 13 pass breakups.
Junior kicker Ben Bell was selected as the Preseason First-Team kicker. In 2006, the Stephenville native won back the kicking job early in the season and never gave it up on the way to All-Conference USA Second-Team honors.
Bell connected on 14-of-18 field goal attempts while nailing all but two of his 51 PAT attempts. He would finish as the team's leading scorer with 93 points.
The Cougars open their 2007 season Sept. 1 when they meet Oregon in Eugene, Ore. The Cougars open their 2007 home schedule at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 22 against Colorado State in a game televised nationally on CSTV.
Rice wide receiver Jarrett Dillard was selected as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Marshall defensive end Albert McClellan was chosen as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. UCF punt returner Joe Burnett was tabbed as the Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.
2007 Football Conference USA Preseason Poll
1. Houston 63 points
2. Tulsa 62
3. SMU 48
1. Southern Miss 69
2. East Carolina 48
3. UCF 47
2007 Football All-Conference USA Preseason Team
Offensive Player of the Year
Jarret Dillard, WR, Rice (91 catches, 1,247 yds., 13.7 avg., 21 TD)
Defensive Player of the Year
Albert McClellan, DE, Marshall (77 tackles, 19.0 TFLs, 11.5 sacks)
Special Teams Player of the Year
Joe Burnett, PR, UCF (11 returns, 132 yds., 12.0 avg.)
First Team Offense
QB Paul Smith, Sr., Tulsa
RB Damion Fletcher, So., Southern Miss
RB Kevin Smith, Jr., UCF
OL Doug Legursky, Sr., Marshall
OL Jeff Akeroyd, Sr., Houston
OL Chris Clark, Sr., Southern Miss
OL Brandon Pearce, Jr., Memphis
OL Robby Heos, Sr., Rice
WR Jarrett Dillard, Jr., Rice
WR Emmanuel Sanders, So., SMU
WR Donnie Avery, Sr., Houston
TE Shawn Nelson, Jr., Southern Miss
First Team Defense
DL Albert McClellan, Jr., Marshall
DL Martavius Prince, Sr., Southern Miss
DL Marcus Hands, Jr., East Carolina
DL Philip Hunt, Jr., Houston
LB Robert Henderson, Sr., Southern Miss
LB Cory Muse, Sr., SMU
LB Brian Raines, Jr., Rice
LB Nelson Coleman, Sr., Tulsa
DB Quintin Demps, Sr., UTEP
DB Brandon Sumrall, Sr., Southern Miss
DB Will Dunbar, Sr., UAB
DB Kenneth Fontenette, Jr., Houston
First Team Special Teams
K Ben Bell, Jr., Houston
P Thomas Morstead, Jr., SMU
KR Chris Johnson, Sr., East Carolina
PR Joe Burnett, Jr., UCF