BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The Ohio Valley Conference announced its postseason football awards this morning, as eight University of Tennessee at Martin players were recognized as the league’s best players in 2013, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
DJ Roberts (defensive lineman), Ben Johnson (linebacker) and Tony Bell (linebacker) picked up All-OVC first team accolades on defense. DJ McNeil (running back), Jeremy Butler (wide receiver) and Charles Sweeton (offensive tackle) earned All-OVC second team offensive honors while J’Vontez Blackmon made the All-OVC second team on defense. Quarterback Dylan Favre also picked up OVC All-Newcomer honors to round out the Skyhawk awards.
A 6-2, 245-pound redshirt senior out of Knoxville, Tenn., Roberts put together his third straight season of at least 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2013. He lived up to his Preseason All-OVC expectations, registering a career-best 53 tackles to go along with 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. He forced a fumble at Southeast Missouri and recovered a fumble at Memphis while tallying a career-best 12 tackles in the season finale over No. 2 Eastern Illinois. His 12.5 career sacks rank ninth all-time in UT Martin history.
Also a Preseason All-OVC selection, Johnson led the league in tackles for the second straight season, piling up 102 tackles (8.5 per game). The 6-2, 235-pound redshirt senior out of Primm Springs, Tenn. racked up double-digit tackles in five games, including a season-high 12 stops in back-to-back wins over Central Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. He added 12.5 tackles for loss – exactly half of his career total – to go along with three sacks, an interception and five passes defended in 2013. His 330 career tackles rank seventh in program history.
Bell enjoyed a breakout season in 2013, capturing National Defensive Player of the Week awards after dominant performances in Week 2 and Week 10. The 6-1, 200-pounder led the OVC in sacks (10.5, seventh nationally) and tackles for loss (15) while also ranking second in the league in forced fumbles (three), fourth in fumble recoveries (three) and 10th in tackles (80, 6.7 per game). The junior out of Memphis set OVC season-highs in tackles (16 against Murray State), sacks (4.5 against Murray State) and tackles for loss (5.0 at Boise State).
A 6-2, 205-pound senior out of Collierville, Tenn., McNeil led the OVC in rushing for the majority of the season before suffering a late-season injury. He still ranked third in the league in rushing (1,092 yards), fifth in rushing touchdowns (seven) and ninth in all-purpose yards (99.08 per game). He became just the fifth different player in program history to run for over 1,000 yards in a season while his 21 career rushing touchdowns (third) and 2,031 career rushing yards (sixth) rank amongst the best careers of any running back to come through UT Martin.
Butler was quite simply the Skyhawks’ most consistent offensive weapon in 2013. He tallied at least 90 receiving yards in nine games, seven of which came against OVC opposition. He was responsible for five 100-plus yard receiving games (including a season-high 171 yard effort in a win at Austin Peay) and had three multi-touchdown performances. Overall, the 6-3, 205-pound senior out of Bradenton, Fla. ranked sixth in the nation in receiving yards (1,203) and seventh in receptions per game (7.5) while ranking fourth in the OVC in touchdown receptions (10) and fifth in all-purpose yards (106.67 per game).
Sweeton has headed one of the league’s best offensive lines for the past three seasons. He earned the starting nod in all 12 games at left tackle while running his consecutive starts streak up to 33 games. The 6-5, 291-pound redshirt junior from Lawrenceburg, Tenn. helped the Skyhawks rank second in the OVC with 19 sacks allowed in 2013. Since Sweeton joined the offensive line in 2011, UT Martin has conceded just 36 sacks over a span of three seasons.
A 6-0, 193-pound native of Bryman, Miss., Blackmon was one of the Skyhawks’ biggest playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in 2013. He made 70 tackles to go along with a 10 passes defended (seventh in the OVC), a pair of interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two blocked kicks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. One of his biggest plays of the season was when he broke through the line to block a potential game-winning, last-second field goal attempt to secure a 24-23 victory over No. 7 Central Arkansas on Sept. 14.
Despite missing three weeks of action because of an injury, Favre played in nine games and made five starts at quarterback after transferring to UT Martin from Pearl River Community College. He led the OVC and ranked second in the nation in completion percentage (.711, 101-for-142) and also ranked in the top-10 in the OVC in passing efficiency (148.9, second), completions per game (11.22, fourth), passing yards (1,081, seventh), touchdown passes (nine, seventh) and total offense (141.3 yards per game).
UT Martin is coming off a 7-5 record in 2013, its second straight winning season and third in the last four years. The Skyhawks’ five losses came against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents Boise State and Memphis, as well as Football Championship Subdivision playoff participants Jacksonville State, Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois.