Preseason All-OVC Teams/Predicted Order of Finish
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six University of Tennessee at Martin standouts were recognized as preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference performers while the Skyhawks were picked up finish second in the quest for a league championship in conjunction with OVC Football Media Day festivities held at Holiday Inn Nashville – Vanderbilt on Monday afternoon.
The Skyhawks saw Troy Cook, Jaimiee Bowe, Robert Burleigh, Kadarren Bond, Kahlid Hagens and Tae Martin each earned preseason All-OVC honors. UT Martin was tabbed second in the preseason poll, ranking as the highest poll position since 2009. The poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors, saw the Skyhawks garner 107 votes – including two first place votes - marking the most votes since 2007.
Cook, a senior quarterback from Miami, Fla., returns for his final campaign after a strong 2016 season under center. After being selected to the College Football Performance Awards FCS National Performer of the Year Trophy Watch List, Cook completed 166 of 298 passes for 2,321 yards while tossing 22 touchdowns. The gunslinger ranked 12th nationally in passing yards per completion (13.98), 22nd in passing touchdowns (22), 26th in yards per pass attempt (7.79) and 29th in passing efficiency (137.4). His best game came against Tennessee State where he completed 27-of-39 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
Bowe, a junior tailback from Spartanburg, SC., will redshirt the 2017 campaign after suffering an offseason injury earlier this month. After playing in all 12 games while tallying 10 starts, Bowe tallied 181 carries for 747 yards and seven touchdowns. He also tallied 10 receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. His best game of the season came against Hawai’i where he tallied 18 carries for 113 yards and touchdown.
Burleigh, a senior offensive guard from Jackson, Tenn., continues to add to his preseason accolades after recently being named a preseason All-American selection by Lindy’s Sports. After starting for two consecutive seasons, Burleigh was an All-OVC first team selection in 2016 after anchoring an offensive line which ranked amongst the nation’s best. Manning right guard, he was responsible for just one sack on the season while pacing an offensive which ranked 24th nationally and first in the OVC in sacks allowed per game (1.25). He graded out at 84 percent or better all season while tallying 42 knockdowns.
Bond, a senior offensive tackle from Brownsville, Tenn., returns for his senior campaign after serving as a starter for the past two seasons. Primarily working at left tackle in the past, Bond helped an offensive line squad which led the OVC with a 4.79 sack per dropback percentage in 2016. The Skyhawks would rank 24th nationally and first in the OVC in sacks allowed per game at 1.25.
Hagens, a senior safety from Maplewood, Mo., is coming off a strong campaign where he earned All-OVC first team honors while being named National Defensive Player of the Week once and OVC Defensive Player of the Week three times. He led the defense with 93 tackles – including 45 solos – while pacing the squad with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He tallied five pass breakups two quarterback hurries and a pair of forced fumbles. His best game came against Cincinnati when posted a season-high 15 tackles while posting four games with double-figure tackles.
Martin, a senior safety from Murfreesboro, Tenn., proved to be explosive in several facets of the game en route to earning All-OVC second team honors a year ago. He started in all 12 games while tallying 53 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. He also tallied six pass breakups, three defensive touchdowns, one blocked kick and a forced fumble. On special teams he tallied a kickoff return for a touchdown against Tennessee Tech while returning an interception for a touchdown against both Bacone College and Murray State.
Defending OVC champion Jacksonville State was picked as the preseason favorite for the fourth consecutive year after picking up 16 of 18 first place votes, including 128 points overall. Tennessee State picked up 96 votes to finish third while Eastern Illinois (81), Eastern Kentucky (68), Tennessee Tech (64), Southeast Missouri (42), Murray State (41) and Austin Peay (21) followed.
The Skyhawks begin their 12th season under the direction of head coach Jason Simpson who has won a total of 72 games in his tenure, ranking as the eighth most victories in OVC history. Simpson leads a Skyhawk squad which finished last season in second place at 6-2 in the OVC. Included in the team’s strong season was the program’s retention of the coveted Sgt. York Trophy.
UT Martin will open the season on Thursday, Aug. 31 against Clarion University. The schedule features a 11-game slate which includes five home games against Clarion University, Tennessee State (Sept. 23), Murray State (Oct. 7), Eastern Illinois (Oct. 28) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 11). The Skyhawks will also take on non-conference foes Ole Miss (Sept. 9) and Chattanooga (Sept. 16).
Season ticket packages and single-game ticket sales for Skyhawk football are now available. For more information or to purchase your tickets today, visit ticket manager Fran Spears at the Skyhawk Ticket Office, located in Room 1091 in the Skyhawk Fieldhouse or call (731) 881-7207.