Three-time OVC champion Jacksonville State was a near unanimous choice to repeat as league champion at Media Day Monday in Nashville. UT Martin and Tennessee State finished second in the voting done by league coaches and sports information directors.
The Gamecocks received 16 of 18 first place votes as they were the preseason pick for the fourth straight year and sixth time in the past eight seasons. They have won 24 consecutive conference games.
Tennessee State bounced back from a four-win season in 2015 to go 7-4 in 2016 and narrowly missed the playoffs. The Tigers have their sights set on even more this season.
"We don't look at the preseason rankings," TSU all-conference linebacker Chris Collins said. "We don't set boundaries, we don't set limitations. We're shooting for the stars, we want to reach the national championship and win that as well.
The Tigers will be led by an explosive offense that will presumably be led by Florida transfer Treon Harris at quarterback. Harris has not been named the starter yet and will have to beat out veteran Michael Hughes in fall camp. Whoever wins the job will have the luxury of throwing to receiver Patrick Smith. The preseason OVC offensive player of the year caught 61 balls last season, including 13 touchdowns. Tigers' coach Rod Reed expects him to be one of the best players in the country this season.
"It's the expectations he has for himself," Reed said. "This is a kid that never misses a workout, he's at everything and works as hard as anybody, sp we want to see how it pays off."
TENNESSEE TECH LOOKS TO TURN PAGE
After improving to 5-6 last season, Tennessee Tech was tabbed to finish sixth in the league's preseason poll. The Golden Eagles finished the season strong, winning their final three conference games to finish 5-3 in league play and hope to carry that momentum over into 2017.
They have a good chance to do so with 46 players returning, led by all-OVC running back Yeedee Thaenrat and prolific senior receiver Dontez Boyd.
Tech will have to turn the page after a tumultuous offseason in which head coach Marcus Satterfield was placed on administrative leave following spring practice while the school investigated claims of misconduct and harassment. The second year coach was eventually reinstated and says the incident was a learning experience for the team and himself.
"We use all those things to our advantage. That makes your team tougher, makes them tighter," Satterfield said Monday. "Anything can be solved if you just communicate and that's a rookie move on my part. I have to be better. The way we do things on a daily basis is not easy, and I have to be able to communicate with our players and our players have to be able to communicate with me. Moving forward that will remedy a lot of issues."
AUSTIN PEAY LOOKS TO BREAK STREAK
You would think a team that has lost 27 consecutive games would have simple goals like winning a single game and snapping the longest losing streak in the NCAA. But Austin Peay has considerably higher aspirations in year two under head coach Will Healy.
There's something different going on in Clarksville and players and coaches around the country are taking notice. That's how Healy and his staff were able to land FBS's no. 1 rated recruiting class led by Brentwood Academy star quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall despite an 0-11 season last year.
"It's exciting. I'm so ready to get what happened last year, that taste out of my mouth, it's not funny," Healy said. "Our guys have paid the price to have a chance to be successful in the fall and been here all summer, so we're looking forward to (players reporting) Friday. We believe we can have the players now that we can win any game. It's no longer selling a false hope that we can win a game. Our guys have put in the work to have the chance to win."
The Governors first chance to snap the losing streak will come at Cincinnati August 31st.