Charlotte 49ers sophomore kicker Jonathan Cruz has been named Conference USA’s preseason special teams player of the year by the league’s coaches.
Cruz is joined on the league’s all-conference first team by senior running back Benny LeMay and senior defensive end Alex Highsmith.
Cruz had C-USA’s two longest field goals of last season: a 54-yarder against Appalachian State and a 56-yarder that provided the winning points with 25 seconds left in a 27-24 victory against Florida Atlantic. Cruz made 17-of-22 field goal attempts and made all 27 of his point-after kicks. His 56-yarder against FAU was the second-longest field goal in the nation last season. He made three of his four attempts from 50-plus yards.
LeMay, who played at Butler High, rushed for 1,228 yards (averaging 102.3 yards per game), which ranked second in the league. His 1,510 all-purpose yards also ranked second in the league.
Highsmith had 37 tackles in run defense, which ranked second nationally. His 17.5 tackles-for-loss was 16th in the country.
Highsmith was also named to the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player.
North Texas quarterback Mason Fine was named C-USA’s preseason offensive player of the year, while FIU linebacker Sage Lewis won defensive honors.
Charlotte opens the season Aug. 29 at home against Gardner-Webb.