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McClain, Brooks selected to preseason All-Conference USA team

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

Honors keep rolling in for Kishawn McClain as he prepares for his senior season at North Texas.

UNT's starting free safety was selected to the preseason All-Conference USA team on Monday along with junior cornerback Nate Brooks.

Those honors came just days after McClain was put on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back each season.

"It's a big honor, and I appreciate it very much," McClain said after being named to the Thorpe watch list. "It gives me motivation to keep working hard throughout the season."

The season is getting closer and closer by the day. C-USA released its all-conference team that was selected by the league's 14 head coaches on Monday in advance of the league's media days on Wednesday and Thursday at its headquarters in Irving.

The league's preseason poll is set to come out on Tuesday. The Mean Green will open the season on Sept. 2 when they host Lamar.

McClain and Brooks will be a big part of the Mean Green's plans to build on a highly successful 2016 season that saw them finish 5-8. UNT lost to Army in overtime in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Seth Littrell's first season as head coach.

UNT went 1-11 in the season before Littrell's arrival.

McClain played a key role in UNT's turnaround by posting a team-high 91 tackles to go along with three interceptions. He has led the Mean Green in tackles in each of the past two seasons. 

Brooks also played a key role for UNT last season, when he intercepted a team-high four passes and posted 57 tackles as a sophomore.

UNT will look to the pair to anchor its defense again this fall. The Mean Green head into the 2107 campaign on an upward trend on defense under Troy Reffett. 

Reffett shared coordinator duties with Mike Ekeler last year, when UNT allowed 32.6 points per game, down from 41.2 points the previous season. Ekeler since has left and joined the staff at North Carolina. 

Reffett will take over as UNT's sole coordinator this fall and will look to McClain and Brooks to help the team take another step forward in what is expected to be a competitive league.

C-USA teams went 4-3 in bowl games last season, when Western Kentucky won the league title and knocked off Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. 

Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White helped lead the Hilltoppers to the conference title and was picked as the league's  preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Rice linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee is the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

North Texas cornerback Nate Brooks chases Rice receiver Parker Smith at Rice Stadium  in Houston. Brooks joined safety Kishawn McClain on the Preseason All-Conference USA team.File photo
North Texas cornerback Nate Brooks chases Rice receiver Parker Smith at Rice Stadium  in Houston. Brooks joined safety Kishawn McClain on the Preseason All-Conference USA team.
File photo

Preseason All-Conference USA team

Offensive Player of the Year

Mike White, Sr., QB, Western Kentucky

Defensive Player of the Year

Emmanuel Ellerbee, Sr., LB, Rice

Special Teams Players of the Year

Kylen Towner, Sr., KR, Western Kentucky

Offense

QB — Mike White, Sr., Western Kentucky
RB — Ray Lawry, Sr., Old Dominion
RB — Ito Smith, Sr., Southern Miss
OL — O'Shea Dugas, Jr., Louisiana Tech
OL — Will Hernandez, Sr., UTEP
OL — Trey Martin, Sr., Rice
OL — Austin Pratt, Sr., Texas-San Antonio
OL — Brandon Ray, Sr., WKU
TE — Ryan Yurachek, Sr., Marshall
WR — Richie James, Jr., Middle Tennessee
WR — Jonathan Duhart, Sr., Old Dominion
WR — Allenzae Staggers, Sr., Southern Miss

Defense

DL — Marcus Davenport, Sr., Texas-San Antonio 
DL — Jaylon Ferguson, So., Louisiana Tech
DL — Chris Johnson, Sr., Western Kentucky
DL — Oshane Ximines, Jr., Old Dominion
LB — Emmanuel Ellerbee, Sr., Rice
LB — Alvin Jones, Sr., UTEP
LB — Josiah Tauaefa, So., Texas-San Antonio
LB — Anthony Wint, Sr., Florida International
DB — Brandon Addison, Sr., Old Dominion
DB — Nate Brooks, Jr., North Texas
DB — Joe Brown, Sr., Western Kentucky
DB — Kishawn McClain, Sr., North Texas

Special Teams

K — Canon Rooker, Sr., Middle Tennessee
P — Jake Collins, Jr., Western Kentucky
KR — Kylen Towner, Sr., Western Kentucky 
PR — Nacarius Fant, Sr., Western Kentucky
LS — Matt Bayliss, Sr., Texas-San Antonio