NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State was picked to finish fifth in the Preseason Poll announced by the Ohio Valley Conference to begin Media Day on Monday. The Tigers finished in a tie with Murray State in the poll voted on by the coaches and the sports information directors from each conference program. TSU is coming off a 4-5 season, 3-4 in conference play.
The Big Blue placed four players on the Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference team. Senior wide receiver and return specialist was honored along with senior center Thomas Burton, senior right guard Raekwon Allen and senior cornerback Dajour Nesbeth.
Rowland finished the season with 963 all purpose yards in eight games played. The senior missed one game due to injury, but was still able to haul in 57 passes for 727 yards and five touchdowns. On special teams, Rowland ranked sixth in the nation by averaging 13.0 yards on 14 punt returns. For his performance, Rowland was named to the All-OVC Second Team as both a receiver and as a punt returner. The Nolensville, Tenn. product also earned HERO Sports All-American honors for his returning abilities.
Burton will return for his final season after suffering a season ending injury in the fourth game of the season. The senior has started 28 games during his time at TSU and is considered one of the top centers in the conference.
Allen started all nine games at right guard and was an All-OVC Second Team selection. The senior was one of only two offensive linemen to start in every game a season ago. Allen helped the offense to a 105 yard per game increase in total yardage from the previous season, averaging 431.3 yards in 2018. The unit ranked 20th in the country in passing and 31st in total offense.
This marks the second consecutive year Nesbeth has been named to the ALL-OVC Preseason Team. The senior backed up the prediction by leading the Tigers with 58 tackles, seven pass breakups and four interceptions. Nesbeth validated the early season honor by earning a spot on the All-OVC First Team.
The Tigers open camp on Thursday, Aug. 1, in preparation for the season opener on Aug. 31 against Mississippi Valley State in the John Merritt Classic.
2019 OVC Preseason Football Predicted Order of Finish
1. Jacksonville State (14 first-place votes) 126
2. Southeast Missouri (4) 115
3. Eastern Kentucky 98
4. Austin Peay 70
5. Tennessee State 61
Murray State 61
6. UT Martin 60
7. Eastern Illinois 35
8. Tennessee Tech 22
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Zerrick Cooper (QB), Jacksonville State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Zach Hall (LB), Southeast Missouri
QB Zerrick Cooper, Jacksonville State, Jr.
QB Daniel Santacaterina, Southeast Missouri, Sr.
RB Kentel Williams, Austin Peay, Sr.
RB Daryl McCleskey Jr., Eastern Kentucky, Sr.
WR Josh Pearson, Jacksonville State, Sr.
WR Kristian Wilkerson, Southeast Missouri, Sr.
WR Chris Rowland, Tennessee State, Sr.
TE Trae Barry, Jacksonville State, Jr.
C Thomas Burton, Tennessee State, Sr.
OG Darius Anderson, Jacksonville State, Sr.
OG Raekwon Allen, Tennessee State, Sr.
OT Hunter Sosebee, Jacksonville State, Sr.
OT Kyle Anderton, Austin Peay, R-Sr.
OT Terry Fultz, UT Martin, R-Sr
DL Aaron Patrick, Eastern Kentucky, Sr.
DL Julian Crutchfield, UT Martin, R-Sr.
DL Clarence Thornton, Southeast Missouri, Sr.
DL Terrell Greer, Eastern Illinois, Sr.
DL Austin Pickett, UT Martin, Sr.
LB Zach Hall, Southeast Missouri, Sr.
LB Jalen Choice, Jacksonville State, Sr.
LB Justin Swift, Southeast Missouri, Sr.
DB Marlon Bridges, Jacksonville State, Sr.
DB Bydarrius Knighten, Southeast Missouri, Jr.
DB Dajour Nesbeth, Tennessee State, Sr.
DB Leodis Moore III, Eastern Kentucky, Sr.
K Gabriel Vicente, Murray State, Sr.
P Steve Dawson, Murray State, Sr.
RS Malik Honeycutt, Murray State, Sr.