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Southern Miss puts five on All-Conference USA list

DALLAS — At the unofficial start of the 2019 college football season, Southern Miss is tied for first place in Conference USA in at least one category.

Five Southern Miss players were selected to the preseason All-Conference USA team as the league’s media days began on Monday.

The All-Conference USA team was voted on by the league’s coaches. Southern Miss’ five selections tied North Texas for the most, while Charlotte had four.

Making it from the Golden Eagles were wide receiver Quez Watkins, defensive linemen Demarrio Smith and Jacques Turner, linebacker Racheem Boothe and defensive back Ky’el Hemby.

Watkins led the Golden Eagles last season with 72 catches for 889 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games. He also led Conference USA in receptions per game at 6.5. He earned first-team C-USA honors following last season.

Hemby highlights the defense for the Golden Eagles as the top returning tackler from a season ago. He finished second in 2018 in total tackles, with 51, for a USM defense that was ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense (278.4 yards per game). He added a team-best six interceptions, which tied for the league lead.

Boothe had four sacks and 48 tackles last season, of which 10 were for loss. He added two fumble recoveries, five quarterback hurries and three pass breakups.

Turner, who was a first-team All-C-USA selection in 2018, had 33 tackles. Ten of those were for loss, and he also had five sacks and two forced fumbles.

Smith registered 17 tackles, one sack and blocked a field goal attempt at Auburn last September.

The 2019 preseason Conference USA award winners included North Texas senior quarterback Mason Fine as the favorite to win his third straight C-USA Offensive Player of the Year award. Fine is the FBS’ active national leader with 9,417 career passing yards.

Florida International linebacker Sage Lewis is the preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Charlotte kicker Jonathan Cruz iss the Special Teams Player of the Year.

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