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USM listed second in C-USA East

The University of Southern Mississippi football team was picked to finish second in the East Division of Conference USA in the preseason league coaches poll released Monday.

Also, five Golden Eagles were named preseason All-Conference USA and senior kicker Darren McCaleb was named the Special Teams Player of the Year.

The predicted order of finish in the East Division: Central Florida, Southern Miss, Memphis, Marshall, UAB and East Carolina.

Southern Miss players named to the preseason All-C-USA team were senior offensive linemen George Batiste and Travis Cooley, senior defensive back Caleb Hendrix, McCaleb and sophomore tight end Shawn Nelson.

Picked to finish at the bottom of the East Division a year ago, UCF surprised many in the college football world as George O’Leary led UCF from an 0-11 mark in 2005, to an 8-5 mark, a C-USA title game appearance and the school’s first-ever bowl game at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last season.

UCF met Tulsa in their first ever C-USA Championship Game last year, and if the coaches are on the mark with their preseason poll then those same two teams will meet again come December as the Golden Hurricane was picked to win the West, posting 61 total points, edging UTEP by one point.

Tulsa closed out the 2005 season winning seven of its last eight contests, including the inaugural C-USA Championship game and the 2005 AutoZone Liberty Bowl over Fresno State. The Miners were one point shy in the coaches’ poll of being picked as the preseason favorite to win the West for the second-consecutive year. In two seasons at UTEP, head coach Mike Price has led the Miners to back-to-back bowl appearances and eight-win seasons.

Houston, Southern Methodist University, Tulane and Rice rounded out the coaches voting for the West Division.

In addition to McCaleb, Houston quarterback Kelvin Kolb and UAB end Larry McSwain, respectively, were chosen as offensive and defensive players of the year.