HUNTINGTON — Now that it appears there will be a preseason in college football, the preseason accolades are starting to roll in.
Earlier this week, Athlon magazine released its 2020 Preseason All-Conference USA teams, which included eight Marshall players.
Of those eight, four players were named as first-team selections: running back Brenden Knox, offensive lineman Cain Madden, linebacker Tavante Beckett and punt returner Talik Keaton.
Knox is the reigning Conference USA Most Valuable Player after his first full season at running back for Marshall.
In his sophomore campaign, Knox rushed for 1,284 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Knox came onto the scene for the Herd at the end of his freshman year and has delivered impressive numbers since taking over as the starter. In 18 career games, he has rushed for 1,862 yards — an average of 104 yards per game — while adding 15 touchdowns.
Knox runs behind an offensive line that is aided by Madden, a former walk-on from Minford (Ohio) High School who has since become the Herd’s most dominant interior starter.
Madden helped build holes for a Marshall rushing attack that averaged 193.3 yards per game on the ground.
On the defensive side, Beckett’s first full season with the Herd was one that earned him 2019 All-Conference USA first team honors after he racked up 121 tackles with seven tackles for loss. He added two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception as well.
The former Virginia Tech linebacker returns as the centerpiece of Marshall’s second level defensively after the graduation of fellow linebackers Omari Cobb and Tyler Brown.
Keaton’s nomination as the special teams selection at punt returner comes off a 2019 in which he averaged 12.6 yards per punt return, which included a 67-yard touchdown return in the season-opener against VMI.
Marshall added a pair of second-team selections in tight end Xavier Gaines and defensive lineman Darius Hodge.
Gaines was part of a three-headed monster for the Herd at the tight end position, hauling in 27 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns last season.
With Armani Levias now graduated, Gaines’ touches are expected to increase as he continues his presence as a trusted option for quarterback Isaiah Green.
Hodge started 12 of 13 games for the Herd on the defensive line and finished with 41 tackles, which included 8.5 tackles for loss and a team-best 7.0 sacks.
Marshall also had a pair of fourth-team selections in offensive lineman Alex Mollette and safety Nazeeh Johnson — both seniors.
Mollette returned from a 2018 ACL injury to start in all 13 games last season while joining Madden at the guard positions to pave the way for Knox and the Herd offense.
Johnson, who also started all 13 games, finished third on the team in tackles with 88 while registering six pass break-ups and an interception.