Nashville, Tenn. - Tennessee State University Football formally addressed the media to preview and discuss the 2011 season at the Ohio Valley Conference Football Media Day held at the Holiday Inn in Nashville this afternoon.
The OVC officially released the preseason predicted order of finish and All OVC Preseason Team. The Tigers were selected to finish eighth with a count of 33 voting while three players were selected to their first OVC preseason squad.
"I thought media day was exciting for me because it lets me know that football is right around the corner," said TSU Football head coach Rod Reed. "We were predicted eighth in the preseason standings based on our finish in OVC play last year. In the past, some our best teams in the program's history were selected in the bottom half of the preseason. However, they went on to have a pretty good year."
Last season, the Tigers were predicted to finish fifth receiving one first-place vote.
TSU was winless in OVC play under Rod Reed's first year last season. The Tigers suffered a tough stretch losing their final six games after the team lost running back Preston Brown (who rushed for 760 yards in the first five games of the season) to a season-ending injury.
Despite not winning in OVC play, the team was competitive losing three of those games by five points or less, including a two-point loss on the road at eventual champion Southeast Missouri State.
The team returns this year's OVC Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year, senior linebacker Rico Council. Council tallied 79 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 sacks last season and is one of six TSU defensive starters returning this year.
Offensively, senior running back Dante' Thomas, a Preseason All-OVC selection this year, returns after rushing for 793 yards and six touchdowns in 2010. Thomas recorded his best season at TSU, most of which came after Brown's injury midway through the season.
Also making his first Conference preseason selection is sophomore offensive lineman Kadeem Edwards who spotlights the Tigers' talented youth.
For the upcoming season, TSU returns 38 letterwinners, including 16 starters, on a roster of 95 that currently lists 12 seniors, 15 juniors, 19 sophomores, 17 redshirt freshmen and 32 incoming freshmen. Five players also return that started all 11 games last season including three on defense and two on the offensive end.
"We have a strong and impressive nucleus of players returning led by a seasoned veteran group," said Reed. "We are extremely excited about the talent we have in our redshirt and incoming freshman class. Last year, we were young on the depth chart and didn't get the production we would hope for based on the inexperience of our younger guy. Now, they have had a year to mature and we expect improvement which in return will help us out tremendously for the 2011 season."
For the other teams in the preseason standings, Jacksonville State was voted the favorite for the third time in the past four seasons in the Ohio Valley Conference football race. JSU received 123 points and picked up 13 of the 18 first-place votes in the poll, which is a vote of league head coaches and sports information directors. Murray State 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) with Austin Peay State (18) rounding out the group.
The Tigers will open the 2011 season when they host Southern in the 13th Annual John Merritt Classic on Sept. 3. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. at LP Field.
2011 OVC Predicted Order of Finish
1. Jacksonville State (13 first-place votes) - 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
Tennessee State University Football OVC Media Day Preview Guide