July 21, 2014

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Ohio Valley Conference announced its preseason polls and all-conference performers this morning in conjunction with the league’s Football Media Day festivities.

UT Martin was selected fifth in the preseason poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. The Skyhawks garnered 79 points, three points behind Eastern Kentucky for fourth place. Jacksonville State was chosen as the league’s preseason favorite with 118 points and 10 out of 18 first-place votes.

In addition, UT Martin landed a pair of players on the Preseason All-OVC list. Senior Tony Bell was spotlighted as one of four linebackers while redshirt senior Charles Sweeton was recognized as one of two offensive tackles on the Preseason All-OVC squad.

Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson enters his ninth season at the helm of the UT Martin football program, which makes him the longest tenured coach in the league. The Skyhawks have posted five winning seasons under Simpson, including three of the last four campaigns.

Last season, UT Martin once again established itself as one of the best programs in the OVC, finishing with a 7-5 overall record with a 5-3 mark against league competition. The Skyhawks spent three weeks in the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision polls and reached as high as No. 22 in the national rankings on Sept. 30.

Today’s Preseason All-OVC announcement continues a long list of preseason accolades for Bell, who has been named a Preseason All-American by the Sports Network, Sporting News, Beyond Sports Network and Athlon Sports. The 6-1, 200-pound Memphis native also earned a spot on the prestigious Sports Network Buck Buchanan Award Watch List, which recognized the top 20 defensive players in the FCS ranks. Bell led the OVC with 15 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks while earning all-conference first team honors in 2013.

A 6-5, 291-pound left tackle out of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., Sweeton has been an integral core of the Skyhawk offensive line for the past three seasons. He has earned the starting nod in 33 consecutive games, aiding UT Martin in allowing just 36 sacks over a stretch of three seasons. He helped UT Martin tie for first in the OVC with 19 sacks allowed in 2013, nabbing all-conference second team accolades.

The Skyhawks’ 2014 season opener is set for Saturday, Aug. 30 at Southeastern Conference member Kentucky. Kickoff from Commonwealth Stadium is set for 11 a.m. CST. The game is set to broadcast live on the new SEC Network, which is scheduled to launch on Aug. 14.

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