The Ohio Valley Conference held its annual Football Media Day on July 22. Commissioner Beth DeBauche announced that the ESPN international television network would begin its 2013 coverage of Ohio Valley Conference football this season in a Game of the Week package that features the 15th annual John Merritt Classic as its first game. The TSU Tigers will open the season by hosting the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University in the game, set for 6 pm on Sunday, September 1. You can view the game live online at ESPN3.com. Go to www.merrittclassic.com for details on the game.
TSU’s Steven Godbolt III was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Tennessee State led the way with seven selections on the preseason team. TSU was picked to finish third this year.
Fourth-year Head Coach Rod Reed has helped his alma mater improve in each of his first three seasons at Tennessee State. Last year the Tigers started the season 7-0 and rose to as high as 17th in the national rankings before losing in overtime at Jacksonville State. The team finished the season 8-3 overall, marking just the third eight-win campaign for the program over the last 13 years. Reed, a linebacker while playing at TSU, will have another strong defensive unit this season after his team led the OVC in total defense (361.64 yards/game) last year. All 11 starters return from last season including Preseason OVC Defensive Player of the Year Steven Godbolt III. The junior cornerback ranked first nationally in interceptions/game (0.60), hauling in six picks to go along with 45 tackles, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 10 games last year. Three other TSU defensive players were named preseason All-OVC, including senior lineman Antonio Harper, junior linebacker Nick Thrasher and junior defensive back Daniel Fitzpatrick. Thrasher led the team in tackles (105) and tackles-for-loss (9.0) last season while Harper was second in sacks (3.5) and Fitzpatrick was first in pass breakups (eight) and second in tackles (61). Among the returning offensive players is All-American tight end A.C. Leonard, who had 51 catches for 733 yards last season, and preseason All-OVC offensive linemen Demetrius Rhaney and Kadeem Edwards.
Eastern Illinois was picked the favorite in the OVC football race. The defending champion Panthers picked up 12 of the 18 first-place votes, totaling 122 points to top the poll, which is a vote of league head coaches and sports information directors. Eastern Kentucky picked up four first-place votes and was second with 114 points while Tennessee State picked up the final two first-place nods and was third with 90 points. Eastern Illinois senior wide receiver Erik Lora was named 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Tennessee State junior cornerback Steven Godbolt III was tabbed OVC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in a vote of by the league’s head football coaches and sports information directors.