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Louisville the pick in C-USA

C-USA coaches have picked Louisville to be the top team in the league for the second year in a row.

Louisville, the league's two-time defending champion, got seven first-place votes, and Southern Mississippi came in second with three votes.

Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone was picked as the favorite to win a third consecutive C-USA offensive player of the year award.

The coaches, holding their annual preseason media day Tuesday, predicted East Carolina will come in at third, with TCU at fourth.

Expected to follow, in order, are Cincinnati, Memphis, UAB, Tulane, Houston and Army.

South Florida plays four C-USA opponents this season (Southern Miss, East Carolina, Memphis and Houston), and joins the league officially in 2003.

Defensive end Dewayne White of Louisville likely will be the defensive player of the year, the coaches said, while Tulane kicker Seth Marler is expected to repeat as the top special teams player.

CENTRAL FLORIDA: After hosting Media Days for its first season in the MAC, the Knights are excited about the prospect of playing for a league championship and an increased chance at postseason play.

"Now you have a tangible goal. It does heighten motivation for our guys," said coach Mike Kruczek, who led the Knights to a 6-5 mark last year. "We've never had that capability."

Added wide receiver Jimmy Fryzel: "This spring, we all got cards in our lockers with a picture of a championship ring _ it's got your name, it's got your position. It's something you can see."

OBITUARY: Tommy Groom, a member of Frank Beamer's first coaching staff at Virginia Tech and a captain on the 1966 Liberty Bowl team died at 57.

Groom, who died Friday of a heart attack, was a fullback and wingback at Tech from 1963-66 for Jerry Claiborne. He was one of three captains on Tech's 1966 squad that went 7-4 and lost 14-7 to Miami in the Liberty Bowl.

Groom was hired by Beamer as a Tech assistant coach in 1987. He spent four years on the Hokies' staff coaching tight ends.

"Tommy Groom never had a bad day," Beamer said. "He always looked at the positive. Although it seems like his life has been cut somewhat short, he enjoyed every day. I considered him a good friend and a wonderful person."