The Tennessee State University football team shined brightly at the annual Ohio Valley Conference Media Day on Monday, July 24. Tennessee State was picked to finish third in the Preseason Poll announced by the Conference to begin Media Day. Attending the Media Day with head coach Rod Reed were TSU’s all-American kicker Lane Clark and senior linebacker Chris Collins.
Senior wide receiver Patrick Smith was named as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and was a part of the Preseason First team selected by coaches and sports information directors. Junior center Thomas Burton joined Smith on the offensive team, while senior defensive end Ebenezer (Ebo) Ogundeko was selected on the defensive side. The Tigers placed five players in all on the preseason team as senior kicker Lane Clark and sophomore returner Chris Rowland were also named to the squad.
Clark made 17-of-25 field goals (68.0%) and 38-of-42 extra points to lead the OVC in scoring with 89 points and 8.1 points per game in 2016. Clark was one of three players in the four levels of NCAA to kick at least four field goals of over 50 yards and had four of the five longest distances in the FCS.
After finishing 4-6, 1-6 in the OVC, in 2015 the Tigers bounced back with a 7-4 finish, 4-3 in conference, play a season ago. TSU looks to continue its rise in 2017 as they return eight starters on defense while the offense returns seven and hopes to get a boost from University of Florida transfer Treon Harris at quarterback.
Smith is coming off a season where he caught 61 passes for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns. His touchdown mark ranked seventh nationally and was the seventh-most in OVC single-season history. Smith and Burton were members of the top scoring offense in the OVC in 2016 averaging 32.6 points per game. Burton anchored the line which allowed the least amount of sacks in the OVC (14) and averaged 415.1 yards per game.
Ogundeko leads a group of eight returners on the defensive front and will pose a huge threat to opposing quarterbacks after recording 5.5 sacks, five quarterback hurries and 11 tackles for loss in just eight games. The senior finished fifth on the team with 48 tackles and forced a fumble, recovered two and blocked a kick.
Rowland looks to improve on his 1,103 combined return yards, which led the nation. Rowland set the TSU single season record in kickoff returns (42) and kickoff return yards (965).
The Tigers opened camp on Wednesday, July 26 in preparation for their 2017 season opener at Georgia State University in Atlanta on August 31.
2017 OVC Preseason Football Predicted Order of Finish
1. Jacksonville State (16 first-place votes) 128
2. UT Martin (2 first-place votes) 107
3. Tennessee State 96
4. Eastern Illinois 81
5. Eastern Kentucky 68
6. Tennessee Tech 64
7. Southeast Missouri 42
8. Murray State 41
9. Austin Peay 21