Southern Miss is picked to finish third in Conference USA’s Eastern Division and two Golden Eagles were named preseason players of the year on the All-CUSA football team in a voting of the league’s 12 coaches.
USM running back Damion Fletcher was named the preseason offensive player of the year, while linebacker Gerald McRath was named preseason defensive player of the year. Additionally, USM offensive lineman Ryan McKee was named to the preseason All-CUSA team.
Fletcher, the 2007 Cellular South Conerly Trophy winner for the top collegiate football player in the state of Mississippi, needs 26 yards in 2008 to become only the fourth USM player to reach 3,000 rushing yards for his career.
McRath, who in 2007 became the eighth USM player to win the league’s defensive player of the year award in the league’s 12-year history, is looking for his third straight 100-plus tackle season in 2008.
League coaches pick Central Florida as the team to beat in the East and Tulsa as the favorite in the West.
New USM coach Larry Fedora is scheduled to speak twice in the Jackson area on Thursday. He’s set to appear at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Ridgeland at noon and then at the Trade Mart at the Fairgrounds in Jackson at 5 p.m.