NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Seniors Tim Benford and Scott Schweitzer have been named to the preseason all-OVC team and Tennessee Tech has bee picked for fifth place in the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference football race, according to the annual preseason poll of league coaches and sports information directors.
For the third time in the past four seasons Jacksonville State University has been picked the favorite to win the OVC title. The Gamecocks picked up 13 of the 18 first-place votes in the 2011 poll.
Jacksonville State was one of three schools to receive at least one first-place vote in the poll and the Gamecocks received 123 total points, which was 17 points ahead of second-place Murray State. The Racers received four first-place votes and were tabbed second in the poll (106). Eastern Kentucky (93) was picked third and defending champion Southeast Missouri (81) was picked fourth and received the remaining first-place vote. The poll is rounded out by Tennessee Tech (73), UT Martin (64), Eastern Illinois (57), Tennessee State (33) and Austin Peay (18).
This season Jax State returns 51 letterwinners including six offensive and seven defensive starters. Five JSU players were named to the Preseason All-OVC team including senior offensive tackle Odie Rush, senior defensive linemen Monte Lewis and Jamison Wadley, senior linebacker Rodney Garrott and junior defensive back Keginald Harris. Lewis was tabbed the OVC Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Offensively the team returns starting quarterback Marques Ivory and backup quarterback/starting punter Coty Blanchard who was named OVC Freshman of the Year honors.
Tech finished last season with a 5-6 overall record including 4-4 in the OVC and ended the year on a high note, coming from 17 points behind in the fourth quarter to top No. 4 ranked Jacksonville State. Building off that momentum head coach Watson Brown has 21 starters and 52 total
letterwinners returning, marking the most experienced and deepest team he has had in his now five seasons with the Golden Eagles program. The team's top returning player is senior wide receiver Tim Benford who enters the year with 151 career receptions, which is just six away from joining the OVC career top 10 list. Benford was a first-team All-OVC selection last year after pulling down 47 passes for 779 yards and nine scores. Senior teammate Scott Schweitzer was also a preseason All-OVC selection this season, earning the nod at offensive guard. Defensively linebacker Marcus Edwards returns after registering an OVC-best 7.5 sacks last season.
All-OVC Preseason Football Team
Murray State junior quarterback Casey Brockman was named 2011 Ohio Valley Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Jacksonville State senior defensive lineman Monte Lewis and Tennessee State senior linebacker Rico Council have been tabbed OVC Preseason Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
Eastern Kentucky led the way with seven selections on the preseason team while Jacksonville State and Murray State had five players apiece on the squad. Each of the league's nine teams had at least one player on the preseason squad.
Returning players who were first-team All-OVC selections last season (nine in total) were automatic selections to the preseason team this year. The squad also included 10 players who were second-team selections in 2010. Of the 31 total selections, 21 were seniors, seven were juniors and threewere sophomores.
The offensive unit is led by Brockman, the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Despite starting just the final six games of last season Brockman ranked fifth nationally in completions, fifth in total offense, seventh in passing yards and 10th in points responsible for last season. He also earned a pair of National Player of Week honors during the season. He is joined on the team by Southeast Missouri State senior quarterback Matt Scheible who passed for 1,246 yards and rushed for 884 yards in leading the Redhawks to the OVC Championship last season. Three running backs made the team including Murray State senior Mike Harris, Austin Peay senior Ryan White and Tennessee State senior Dante' Thomas. The wide receiver selections were Tennessee Tech senior Tim Benford and Eastern Kentucky junior Orlandus Harris while UT Martin senior Kenny Jones was the tight end pick. The offensive line included Austin Peay junior center Tim Schmid, Eastern Illinois senior guard Eric Zink, Tennessee State sophomore guard Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee Tech senior guard Scott Schweitzer, Southeast Missouri State junior tackle Evan Conrad and Jacksonville State senior tackle Odie Rush.
Defensively Lewis recorded 37 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss and three sacks on the defensive line for Jacksonville State last year while Council had 79 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss and four sacks at the linebacker position for Tennessee State. Joining Lewis on the defensive line is senior teammate Jamison Wadley, Eastern Kentucky senior Emory Attig, Eastern Illinois junior Artavious Dowdell and Eastern Kentucky sophomore Anthony Brown. Joining Council at linebacker is Eastern Kentucky senior Tyson Patrick and Jacksonville State senior Rodney Garrott. The defensive back position had six selections including Eastern Kentucky seniors Jeremy Caldwell and Patrick McClellan, Jacksonville State junior Keginald Harris, Southeast Missouri junior Tylor Brock, Murray State senior Dontrell Johnson and UT Martin senior Kendal Harper.
Specialists selected to the preseason team include Murray State senior kicker Kienan Cullen, Eastern Kentucky sophomore punter Jordan Berry and Murray State senior return specialist Dontrell Johnson, who was also a pick at defensive back.
OVCPredicted Order of Finish 1. Jacksonville State (13) – 123
2. Murray State (4) – 106
3. Eastern Kentucky – 93
4. Southeast Missouri (1) – 81 5. Tennessee Tech – 73
6. UT Martin – 64
7. Eastern Illinois – 57
8. Tennessee State – 33
9. Austin Peay – 18
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Casey Brockman, Murray State Co-Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Monte Lewis, Jacksonville State Co-Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Rico Council, Tennessee State
2011 Preseason All-OVC Football Team QB – Matt Scheible, Southeast Missouri
QB – Casey Brockman, Murray State
RB – Mike Harris, Murray State
RB – Ryan White, Austin Peay
RB – Dante' Thomas, Tennessee State WR – Tim Benford, Tennessee Tech
WR – Orlandus Harris, Eastern Kentucky
TE – Kenny Jones, UT Martin
C – Tim Schmid, Austin Peay
OG – Eric Zink, Eastern Illinois
OG – Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State OG – Scott Schweitzer, Tennessee Tech
OT – Evan Conrad, Southeast Missouri
OT – Odie Rush, Jacksonville State
DL – Monte Lewis, Jacksonville State
DL – Emory Attig, Eastern Kentucky
DL – Jamison Wadley, Jacksonville State
DL – Artavious Dowdell, Eastern Illinois
DL – Anthony Brown, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Rico Council, Tennessee State
LB – Tyson Patrick, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Rodney Garrott, Jacksonville State
DB – Jeremy Caldwell, Eastern Kentucky
DB – Keginald Harris, Jacksonville State
DB – Tylor Brock, Southeast Missouri
DB – Patrick McClellan, Eastern Kentucky
DB – Dontrell Johnson, Murray State
DB – Kendal Harper, UT Martin
K – Kienan Cullen, Murray State
P – Jordan Berry, Eastern Kentucky
RS – Dontrell Johnson, Murray State