BRENTWOOD, Tenn. --- Tennessee State placed nine players on the 2016 All-Ohio Valley Conference Football Team as announced by the OVC office on Tuesday. Six Tigers were named first team, two on the second team and two were selected to the All-Newcomer Team.
Offensive Tackle Jessamen Dunker, wide receiver Patrick Smith, defensive end Ebo Ogundeko, cornerback Ezra Robinson, kicker Lane Clark and return specialist Chris Rowland earned first team honors, while offensive guard Kevin Kenton and linebacker Chris Collins were named second team. Wide receiver Steven Newbold joined Rowland on the All-Newcomer squad.
Dunker and Kenton anchored the offensive line for the top scoring team in the OVC, which averaged 32.3 points per game. The two seniors powered an offense that generated 415.1 yards per game and topped the OVC at 6.6 yards per play. The front five allowed the least amount of sacks in the OVC (14). Dunker, a second team All-OVC selection a year ago, played in 11 games, starting 10, while Kenton started all 11 contests. Dunker has accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Smith led all OVC receivers with 13 Touchdowns, 78 Points and in points per game (7.1). His total touchdowns were fifth best in the FCS and tied for the seventh most in the OVC in a single season. The junior finished with, 61 catches for 966 yards (15.8 ypc) and averaged 87.8 yards per game. Smith amassed 16 plays over 20 yards and four over 40, including a 93-yard scoring play from Ronald Butler versus Vanderbilt (the second longest in TSU history). Smith was a second team selection in 2015 and earned OVC Player of the Week honors for his play at Vanderbilt (10/22).
Ogundeko snared his second straight first team selection, despite missing three games and playing sparingly in three others due to injury. The junior led all conference defensive linemen with 25 solo tackles despite playing in just eight games. Ogundeko also finished in the top three in tackles (48), tackles for loss (11.0) and sacks (5.5). The defensive end added a pass breakup, five quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick to his resume for the season. Ogundeko was an OVC Defensive Player of the Week winner after the first week of the season (9/11).
Robinson started all 11 games for the Tigers in 2016 and compiled 42 tackles, 31 solo, five interceptions and eight pass breakups. Robinson also recovered a fumble and was the only player in the OVC to return two interceptions for touchdowns, tying for second in the FCS. The senior earned adidas OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his play versus Eastern Kentucky (10/16). Along with Dunker, Robinson has accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Clark became the first kicker at TSU to be named to the All-OVC First Team. Clark led the OVC in scoring with 89 points and 8.1 points per game. He was one of three players in the four levels of NCAA to kick at least four field goals of over 50 yards. Clark also had five field goals ranging in the 40’s. No other kicker in the OVC attempted more than eight kicks this season from 40-Plus, one less than the nine Clark made from that distance. The junior made kicks from 44, 46, two from 47, 49, 52, 54, 55 and a school record 57 (also the longest in the OVC over the past 15 years). Clark accounted for four of the five longest distances in the FCS this season. Clark finished the season making 17-of-25 FG’s (68.0%) and 38-of-42 PAT’s. Clark was named OVC Specialist of the Week on two separate occasions this season (10/2, 11/19).
Rowland was one of only two freshmen to make the first team this season, along with OVC Freshman of the Year Marlon Bridges from Jacksonville State. Rowland led the nation in Combined Return Yards with 1,103 yards and finished third in the OVC in All-Purpose yards. The first-year returned 42 returns kickoffs for 993 yards (23.6 ypr) with a long of 66 to go along with 13 punt returns for 111 yards (8.5 ypr) and a long of 20. Offensively, Rowland caught 16 passes for 236 yards and rushed 14 times for 57 yards.
Collins started all 11 games for the Tigers and collected 87 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, four pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and forced a fumble. Collins also registered 59 solo tackles which led the OVC and is 22nd in FCS averaging 5.3 solo tackles per game. The junior captained the defense and helped TSU to a 7-4 record.
Newbold concluded an explosive rookie campaign, which included an OVC Newcomer of the Week honor for his play at Eastern Illinois (10/9). The true freshman totaled 16 plays over 20 yards and added three more of 40 yards or more, highlighted by a 71 yard touchdown reception at Bethune-Cookman. Newbold finished 14th in the nation with 19.1 yards per reception and was the top freshman receiver in the conference in receptions (41), yards (784) and touchdowns (6).
The nine selections were the most since 2013 when TSU put 12 members on the team.