NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State football team was picked to finish third and six Tigers were named to the All-Preseason Team announced at the Ohio Valley Conference Media Day, Monday.
Big Blue garnered four first-place votes and 107 total points, which trailed only Jacksonville State (118), who TSU beat 31-15 on the road in 2012, and Eastern Illinois (108). All three teams made it past the First Round of the FCS Playoff a season ago.
Tennessee State has improved its win total in each of Rod Reed's first four seasons, reaching 10 overall wins and a second-place finish in the conference. The team was 6-2 in OVC play and earned an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs, shutting out Butler 31-0 in the first round to snap the OVC's 19-game postseason losing streak.
Now in his fifth season as head coach Reed returns 58 players from last year's team including six offensive and six defensive starters. The defense should once again be solid after ranking sixth nationally in total defense (296.9 yards/game) and scoring defense (18.1 points/game) and ninth nationally in turnovers gained (31) last season.
That defensive unit is led by reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Bass who was also tabbed this year's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year; in 2013 Bass had 34 tackles, 14.5 tackles-for-loss, 10.0 sacks, four pass breakups, six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a blocked kick and a safety.
Also back is senior defensive back Daniel Fitzpatrick who was named the National Defensive Back of the Year by the FCS ADA a season ago. Fitzpatrick led all Division I players (FBS or FCS) with eight interceptions as a junior and is on the Preseason Buck Buchanan Award Watch List.
Middle linebacker Nick Thrasher returns for his senior season after amassing 110 tackles, the most for TSU since 2002. Thrasher now has 230 career tackles which puts him sixth in the school record books, and just 16 away from cracking the top-five.
The other defensive player to be named to the All-Preseason Team was cornerback De’Ante Saunders. Saunders was named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team following a year in which he intercepted four passes and even ran one back for a touchdown at UT Martin. The junior also made 39 tackles and broke-up a team-high nine passes.
The offense will be led by senior quarterback Michael German who missed the beginning of last season but worked his way back in the lineup before the end of the season. In seven games German completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,168 yards and 13 touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Blocking for German will be fellow All-Preseason Team nominee, Robert Myers. Last season, Myers helped block for Tim Broughton who rushed for 1,146 yards (25th-most nationally) and six touchdowns. He also protected a quarterback duo that combined for 26 passes touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The Tigers will report for fall camp on Aug. 3 in preparation of the John Merritt Classic on Aug. 30.
2014 OVC Preseason Football Predicted Order of Finish
1. Jacksonville State (10 first-place votes) - 118 points
2. Eastern Illinois (4) - 110
3. Tennessee State (4) - 107
4. Eastern Kentucky - 82
5. UT Martin - 79
6. Murray State - 54
7. Tennessee Tech - 48
8. Southeast Missouri - 34
9. Austin Peay - 16
Note: 8 points awarded for a first-place vote, 7 for second, etc. - Coaches and SID's could not vote for their own teams
2014 Preseason All-OVC Football Team
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: DaMarcus James (RB), Jacksonville State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Bass (DL), Tennessee State
QB - Michael German, Tennessee State
QB - Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State
RB - DaMarcus James, Jacksonville State
RB - Shepard Little, Eastern Illinois
WR - Adam Drake, Eastern Illinois
WR - Josh Barge, Jacksonville State
WR - Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri
TE - Jeff LePak, Eastern Illinois
C - Max Holcombe, Jacksonville State
OG - Collin Seibert, Eastern Illinois
OG - Blake Burks, Jacksonville State
OT - Charles Sweeton, UT Martin
OT - Robert Myers, Tennessee State
DL - Anthony Bass, Tennessee State
DL - Dino Fanti, Eastern Illinois
DL - Caleb Lawrence, Jacksonville State
DL - Chris Landrum, Jacksonville State
LB - Nick Thrasher, Tennessee State
LB - Tony Bell, UT Martin
LB - Robert Haynes, Eastern Illinois
LB - Tra'Darius Goff, Tennessee Tech
DB - Daniel Fitzpatrick, Tennessee State
DB - Jourdan Wickliffe, Eastern Illinois
DB - Marty Jones, Tennessee Tech
DB - De'Ante Saunders, Tennessee State
K - Andrew Lloyd, Eastern Kentucky
P - Hamish MacInnes, Jacksonville State
RS - Shepard Little, Eastern Illinois