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Miles, Nelson headline class named to preseason honors

Despite losing Liam Coen, one of its most decorated players of all-time, to graduation, the 2009 Massachusetts football team does not fall short when it comes to preseason awards.

While the Minutemen’s preseason ranking is lower than in past years (No. 18 instead of No. 5 in 2008) the team still has players grabbing, what seems to be, every preseason award out there. Taking the place of Coen as the most decorated Minuteman this preseason is Jeromy Miles.

Miles was named a preseason Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Second-Team All-American by Sports Network, as well as a preseason All-American by Draft Consensus. The Phil Steele Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) later named the senior safety – along with four other Minutemen – to the First Team.

The latest preseason honor Miles received was being named to the Buck Buchanan Award list, given to the FCS’s top defensive player. Miles is the third Minuteman in the past five years to be named to the Buchanan list, and was added after compiling 104 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles in his junior campaign.

“Being a part of the [Buchanan] list is definitely a great accomplishment,” Miles said to UMassathletics.com at the CAA Football Media Day in Baltimore. “It lets me recognize that people actually recognize me out in the world and people view me as a top-flight player.”

On the offensive side, one Minuteman is also up for one of the FCS’ top awards. After rushing for 1,325 yards in 2008 – third in the CAA – Tony Nelson was placed on the Walter Payton Award list, an award given to the top offensive player in the FCS. In addition, the senior was named to the Phil Steele All-CAA First-Team after being honored as a member of the conference’s First Team.

Another Minuteman that has been continuously honored this preseason is left tackle Vladimir Ducasse. The Haitian native was also named a Second-Team All-American by Sports Network, an All-American by Draft Consensus as well as a member of the Phil Steele All-CAA First-Team. The senior is the leader of an offensive line that allowed a conference-low six sacks in 12 games last season. In Ducasse’s 24 career starts, the Minutemen’s offensive line has allowed 22 sacks.

Wideout Victor Cruz and linebacker Josh Jennings were also named to the All-CAA First-Team after each had breakout seasons in 2008. Cruz had one career reception prior to last season, but became one of the conference’s best wide receivers, as he led the CAA with 71 catches for 1,064 yards and six touchdowns.

Jennings was named to the All-CAA First-Team after a 2008 season in which he had three interceptions and recorded 90 tackles, second most on the team. The senior was also named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week on three separate occasions in 2008.

Kyle Harrington was the last Minuteman named to the All-CAA team. Harrington earned a spot on the preseason second-team after ranking third in the CAA among all defensive linemen with 56 tackles.

But for Miles and the rest of the Minutemen honored this preseason, they know the awards mean nothing if they don’t perform once the season begins.

“It feels good [to be awarded], but at the same time it is a preseason award,” Miles said. “I know I have a lot more work to do and a lot more progress to make as the year goes on.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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