NASHVILLE – Jacksonville State has been picked to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference 2013 preseason football poll by the league head coaches and sports information directors, the conference office announced on Monday at its annual Football Media Day.
Eastern Illinois was picked to win the 2013 title after receiving 12 of the 18 first place votes for 122 points, while Eastern Kentucky picked up four first place votes and was second with 114 points. Tennessee State picked up the final two first-place votes and was third with 90 points, just ahead of JSU's total of 87 points. UT Martin (87) was picked fifth, followed by Murray State and Tennessee Tech, who each received 53 points to tie for sixth. Southeast Missouri (35) and Austin Peay (16) rounded out the poll.
For the First time since 2000, Jacksonville State welcomes a new head coach in JSU Alum Bill Clark. The 13th head coach in Jax State's modern football history spent the last five years on the staff at South Alabama, where he helped build the football program from scratch. At USA, he was the defensive coordinator that helped the Jaguars lead the Sun Belt in total defense in its first full year in the league in 2012.
Clark takes over a program that has had 10-straight winning seasons and returns 53 total letterwinners and 14 starters from a year ago. Although the Gamecocks will have to break in a new quarterback, the team does return preseason All-OVC selection DaMarcus James at running back.
Despite playing in just nine games last season, the now junior led JSU with 867 rushing yards (96.3 yards/game) and also scored six touchdowns. The team also returns junior offensive guard Tarik Milner, also a preseason All-OVC pick, while also returning junior center Max Holcombe and lineman Blake Burks. Jax State averaged 413.7 yards of total offense in 2012, including 191.4 on the ground and 222.3 through the air.
Among the team's returning defensive starters are the two leading tacklers from 2012 in senior linebacker Rashad Smith (89 stops) and junior linebacker Ben Endress (85 tackles). Also back is OVC All-Newcomer pick Jermaine Hough who had three interceptions and eight pass breakups as a freshman a year ago.
The Gamecocks open the 2013 slate at Alabama State on Aug. 31, but will play six home games this season, the most in a regular season since 2002. JSU's first game at Burgess-Snow Field will be against Jacksonville University on Sept. 7, and season tickets are available by calling the JSU Athletic Ticket Office at 256-782-8499.
2013 OVC PRESEASON POLL
Order of Finish Points
1. Eastern Illinois (12 ?rst-place votes) 122
2. Eastern Kentucky (4) 114
3. Tennessee State (2) 90
4. Jacksonville State 87
5. UT Martin 78
6. Murray State 53
Tennessee Tech 53
8. Southeast Missouri 35
9. Austin Peay 16