Jacksonville State was picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference in the Preseason Football Media Poll, which was released on Friday. A total 14 voters from around the league cast a ballot on who they thought would be the 2014 football favorites and preseason players of the year.
The OVC will release its preseason poll and All-OVC team, as voted on by league head coaches and sports information directors, on Monday during the league's annual Media Day in Nashville.
The media panel selected the Gamecocks as the preseason favorite, earning 9 of 13 first-place votes and 118 total points. Tennessee State picked up four first-place votes and 113 total points in being picked second. Two-time defending champion Eastern Illinois received the other first-place vote and was picked third (98 points). The poll was rounded out by Eastern Kentucky (79), UT Martin (77), Murray State (56), Tennessee Tech (44), Southeast Missouri State (29) and Austin Peay (16).
In addition the pollsters tabbed Jacksonville State senior running back DaMarcus James as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Tennessee State senior defensive end Anthony Bass as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
James, who is a preseason All-American by several news organizations and publications and is also on the Walter Payton Award Preseason Watch List, had a record-breaking junior season in 2013, where he rushed for 1,477 yards on 292 carries to set the school's single-season rushing record.
The first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection also set the OVC record with 29 rushing touchdowns to finish second in the nation, and he scored a rushing touchdown in the final 12 games of the season to extend his school record.
The Demopolis, Ala., native now has 35 career rushing touchdowns, which is the third most in school history, and his 13 career 100-yard rushing games is also the second most in school history.
He helped the Gamecocks advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals and post an 11-4 overall record and a No. 10 final ranking in The Sports Network football poll. JSU also set 49 school records, 13 OVC records and three NCAA records during the 2013 season.
The pollsters for the 2014 OVC Media Poll were: Bob Belvin, ESPN Clarksville; Catlin Bogard, OVC Ball; Mike Bradd, Eastern Illinois Radio; Neal Bradley, Murray State Radio; Chris Brinkley, UT Martin Radio; Craig Haley, The Sports Network; Brian Nielsen, Journal Gazette/Times-Courier; Mike Organ, The Tennessean; Mike Parris, Jacksonville State Radio; Erik Sean, Southeast Missouri Radio; Greg Stotelmyer, Eastern Kentucky Radio; Craig Thomas, Jackson Sun; Donal Ware, Boxtorow.com.
2014 Media OVC Preseason Football Predicted Order of Finish 1. Jacksonville State (9 first-place votes) - 118 points 2. Tennessee State (4) - 113 3. Eastern Illinois (1) - 98 4. Eastern Kentucky - 79 5. UT Martin - 77 6. Murray State - 56 7. Tennessee Tech - 44 8. Southeast Missouri - 29 9. Austin Peay - 16
2014 Media OVC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: DaMarcus James (RB), Jacksonville State 2014 Media OVC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Bass (DL), Tennessee State