NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State placed eight players on the All-Ohio Valley Conference team, as announced on Tuesday. Chid Okeke and Dajour Nesbeth were named to the first team, while Chris Rowland, DeVon Johnson and Raekwon Allen were selected to the second team. Mekhi Brown, Te’kendrick Roberson and Antonio Zita all earned a spot on the All-Newcomer team.
Nesbeth led the Tigers with 58 tackles and 42 solos. The preseason All-OVC selection picked off four passes on the season, averaging 0.4 interceptions per game which ranked 14th in the nation. Nesbeth topped the OVC and was 19th in the country with 1.2 passes defended per game.
Okeke and Allen were the only Tiger linemen to start and play in all nine contests. The duo anchored an offensive unit which ranked 20th in the country in passing and ranked 31st in total offense. Okeke and Allen led a unit to a 105 yard per game increase in total yardage from a year ago, averaging 431.3 yards in 2018.
Rowland earned a spot on the second team as a wide receiver, as well as a return specialist. The junior caught 57 passes for 727 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. Rowland ranked amongst the top receivers in the nation with 7.1 receptions per game (11th) and 90.9 receiving yards per game (21st). The Nolensville, Tenn. product provided the Big Blue a threat on special teams averaging 13.0 yards per punt return, totaling 182 yards on 14 attempts. Rowland was number one in the OVC, eighth in FCS play in punt returns and was 36th in all purpose yards, with 120.4 yards per game.
Johnson capped off a strong season with a three touchdown reception game against UT Martin on senior day, but was honored for his abilities on special teams. Johnson returned 16 kicks for 423 yards (26.4 yards/return) which topped the OVC and was 15th in the country. The redshirt senior finished the year averaging 107.7 yards per game.
Brown, Roberson and Zita made a large impact in their initial year at TSU. Brown finished with 26 stops, 16 solo, 6.5 for loss and shared the team lead with 4.0 sacks. The redshirt junior sparked the comeback at Eastern Illinois with a strip sack in the final minute of the first half, leading to a score to cut into an early 21 point deficit.
Roberson led the Tigers in rushing with 527 yards on 100 carries. The redshirt junior busted runs for over 50 yards in back-to-back games this season. Roberson teamed with Earl Harrison at Southeast Missouri to give TSU a pair of runners over 50-plus yards in a game and with Shawn McColley against Jacksonville State. In marked the first time in the programs recent history of back-to-back games with multiple runners to cross 50 yards on a single run.
Zita finished 28-of-29 on extra points and 12-of-14 on field goals, including a perfect 12-of-12 inside of 40 yards. Zita started the season a perfect 5-for-5 on field goal attempts and 6-for-6 on extra points, before missing one of each at Vanderbilt. The freshman kicker scored double digits in five games, scoring 10 points against Bethune-Cookman and at Austin Peay, while finishing with 11 at Eastern Illinois, against Tennessee Tech and in the season finale against UT Martin. The 11 point games tied Zita for seventh best in a single game for a kicker at Tennessee State. Zita is ranks ninth in the nation with an .857 field goal percentage and 19th at 1.33 field goals per game.