OVC pick Jacksonville State seeks three-peat

(STATS) – How Jacksonville State simply reloads instead of rebuilds reflected on Ohio Valley Conference football media day Monday.

The two-time defending champion Gamecocks lost eight seniors who made the All-OVC first team last season yet they still dominated in the conference's preseason selections.

Jacksonville State, which has gone unbeaten in the OVC for two straight seasons under coach John Grass and reached the FCS championship game for the first time last season, was a runaway choice to win another title, collecting 16 of the 18 first-place votes.

The preseason favorite for the fifth time in seven years, Jacksonville State also gained a conference-high 10 selections among the 28 players on the OVC preseason team. Plus, the Gamecocks swept the two preseason player of the year awards as senior quarterback Eli Jenkins, last year's postseason offensive player of the year, was the preseason choice, and junior defensive end Darius Jackson was the preseason defensive player of the year.

“All you can ask for is a chance,” said Jenkins, whose team lost to North Dakota State 37-10 in the national final. “We've been working hard just like last year. We understand what it takes to get there. So I'm not going to see it's easier, but we do have an understanding of how we need to get there, what it takes to get there.”

Eastern Kentucky finished second in the preseason poll followed by Eastern Illinois, which gained the other two first-place votes, UT Martin, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Murray State and Austin Peay.

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OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL=

Voted on by Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors

1. Jacksonville State (16 first-place votes), 128 points

2. Eastern Kentucky, 100

3. Eastern Illinois (2), 97

4. UT Martin, 96

5. Southeast Missouri, 66

6. Tennessee State, 55

7. Tennessee Tech, 45

8. Murray State, 43

9. Austin Peay, 18

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OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TEAM=

Offensive Player of the Year – Eli Jenkins, QB, Jacksonville State

Defensive Player of the Year – Darius Jackson, DE, Jacksonville State

Offense

QB – Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State, Sr.

RB – Tremaine McCullough, Southeast Missouri, Sr.

RB – Devin Church, Eastern Illinois, Sr.

WR – Josh Barge, Jacksonville State, Sr.

WR – Patrick Smith, Tennessee State, Jr.

WR – Brock McCoin, Tennessee Tech, Jr.

TE – Jesse Blackburn, Murray State, Sr.

C – Casey Dunn, Jacksonville State, Sr.

OG – Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State, Sr.

OG – Garret Baker, Southeast Missouri, Sr.

OT – Justin Lea, Jacksonville State, Jr.

OT – Dylan Cline, Jacksonville State, Jr.

OT – Justin Adekoya, Eastern Kentucky, Sr.

Defense

DL – Ebenezer Ogundeko, Tennessee State, Jr.

DL – Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State, Jr.

DL – Damani Taylor, UT Martin, Sr.

DL – Desmond Owino, Jacksonville State, Sr.

LB – Roper Garrett, Southeast Missouri, Sr.

LB – Joel McCandless, Jacksonville State, Jr.

LB – Seth McDonald, Eastern Illinois, Sr.

DB – Malek Hall, Tennessee Tech, Sr.

DB – Mike Ford, Southeast Missouri, Jr.

DB – Bradley Dewberry, Eastern Illinois, Jr.

DB – Jaylen Hill, Jacksonville State, Sr.

DB – Eriq Moore, Southeast Missouri, Sr.

Special Teams

PK – Lucas Williams, Eastern Kentucky, Jr.

P – Keith Wrzuszczak, Eastern Kentucky, Jr.

RS – Lawon DeBardelaben, Jacksonville State, Sr.