Archive | November, 2015

Spence named OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year

Spence named OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year

Posted on 24 November 2015 by admin

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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Eastern Kentucky Univeristy Defensive End Noah Spence was named OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year by a voting conducted by league head coaches and sports information directors. The voting was announced on Tuesday.

Along with Spence, eight other Colonels picked up post-season honors, including four First Team All-OVC selections. Also making the first team along with Spence is tight end Ben Madon, offensive tackle Brett Eychkans, kicker Lucas Williams, and punter Keith Wrzuszczak. Three Colonels were named to the Second Team defensive team. Those include defensive lineman Bryce Krebs, linebackers Chris Kelly and Marquise Piton.

Running back Ethan Thomas was named to the All-Newcomer Team along with Spence

Ohio Valley Conference champion Jacksonville State took home two of the four major 2015 postseason OVC football awards and had 17 All-Conference selections.

Jacksonville State junior quarterback Eli Jenkins was named OVC Offensive Player of the Year while his coach John Grass won his second-straight Roy Kidd OVC Coach of the Year honors. Defensive tackle Dino Fanti of Eastern Illinois shared the OVC Defensive Player of the year award with Spence. Southeast Missouri State quarterback Dante Vandeven was tabbed OVC Freshman of the Year. Eastern Kentucky was second with 10 selections across the three teams while Eastern Illinois had eight. The All-OVC first-team included 16 seniors, five juniors and four sophomores while the second-team included 11 seniors, 13 juniors and four sophomores.

Jenkins led Jacksonville State to its first-ever No. 1 ranking at any level of football and its second-straight OVC Championship in 2015. In the process Jenkins improved to 26-0 in his collegiate career as a starter against non-FBS opponents during the regular season. The junior has directed a Gamecocks offense that ranks fourth nationally in total offense (503.0 yards/game) and ninth in scoring offense (37.5 points/game). With his team winning by an average margin of 21.2 points/game, Jenkins often sat out large stretches of the second half, including eight full quarters during the season. Despite that fact he still passed for 2,185 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 640 yards and eight additional scores. While also handing the ball off to a rushing attack that ranks sixth nationally, Jenkins finished the regular season ranked 23rd nationally in completion percentage (62.2%) and points responsible for (14.2/game), 25th in passing efficiency (143.0), 26th in passing touchdowns (18), 27th in total offense (256.8 yards/game) and 38th in total passing yards (2,185). In his team’s overtime game at Auburn Jenkins threw for 277 yards and a touchdown and later had a season-high 324 yards passing in a 34-0 victory over No. 13 Eastern Kentucky, an effort which earned him National Player of the Week honors. Jenkins was also named OVC Offensive Player of the Week a league-high four times in 2015 including the last week of the regular season when he accounted for five touchdowns (2 passing, 3 rushing) as he passed for 212 yards and rushed for a season-high 130 yards against Murray State; it marked the first time in his career he had passed for more than 200 and rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game. Jenkins is the second JSU player to be named OVC Offensive Player of the Year, joining quarterback Ryan Perrilloux who took home the honor in 2009.

Grass, in his second year as a collegiate head coach, made NCAA history this season in becoming the first FCS coach to begin his career with a perfect 16-0 conference record in leading Jacksonville State to its second-straight OVC Championship. Jax State became just the third program in OVC history to complete back-to-back 8-0 seasons, joining Eastern Kentucky (1993 & 1994) and Murray State (1995 & 1996). Grass’ team started the season with a victory at No. 8 Chattanooga (the eventual Southern Conference champions) and followed that by becoming the first-ever FCS team to take a ranked FBS opponent to overtime in giving No. 6 ranked Auburn all it could handle before falling 27-20. Despite the loss the Gamecocks ascended to No. 1 in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll, the first-ever No. 1 ranking at any level of football in program history. JSU was the first OVC team to be atop the FCS rankings since the 1999 season and has held that No. 1 ranking for 11-straight weeks entering the postseason. This year’s OVC Championship was the fifth in program history and JSU will be making its sixth FCS Playoff appearance, this time as the No. 1 overall national seed. Jacksonville State is currently the only FCS team to rank in the Top 9 nationally in both total offense (4th at 503.0 yards/game) and total defense (5th at 277.1 yards/game allowed). The Gamecocks also rank in the Top 10 nationally in nine other categories including tackles-for-loss (third), fourth down conversion defense (third), fourth down conversion percentage (fourth), rushing defense (sixth), rushing offense (seventh), scoring defense (seventh), sacks (seventh), third down conversion defense (eighth) and scoring offense (ninth). Grass, who is a finalist for the STATS FCS National Coach of the Year, is the eighth OVC coach to win the award in back-to-back seasons and first since EIU’s Dino Babers in 2012 and 2013. The OVC Coach of the Year award is named after Eastern Kentucky legend Roy Kidd, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, who won the award a record 10 times during his career (1964-2002) and retired with 314 victories, the second-most in I-AA/FCS history.

For just the second time in OVC history there were Co-Defensive Players of the Year. The only other time it occurred was in 1987 when Eastern Kentucky’s Aaron Jones and Youngstown State’s Paul Solis shared the honor.

Fanti keyed an Eastern Illinois defense that ranked third nationally in turnovers gained (29), fourth in pass efficiency defense (97.67) and eighth in red zone defense (63.8%). The senior set the Eastern Illinois record for tackles-for-loss both for a career (54.0) and season (21.0) in 2015. Overall in 11 games he recorded 60 tackles (26 solo), 7.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. Nationally he ranked second in forced fumbles (0.45/game), seventh in tackles-for-loss (1.9/game) and 26th in sacks (0.68/game). He played his best down the stretch in helping Eastern Illinois win seven of its last eight games to earn an at-large playoff berth (the team’s 10th playoff appearance since 2000). In the next to last week of the season he made two fourth quarter plays that led directly to the Panthers 23-21 victory at UT Martin. With EIU leading by one point, the senior hit the Skyhawks quarterback forcing him to float a pass that was picked off by a teammate and returned 45 yards for a touchdown to give EIU an eight-point advantage. After UTM closed the margin to 23-21 with 4:51 to play, Fanti tackled the quarterback on a two-point conversion attempt to preserve the victory, finishing the game with seven tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack and a forced fumble in earning National Defensive Player of the Week honors. In the season finale, a victory over nationally-ranked Eastern Kentucky, he had five tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and two quarterback hurries and set up a defensive touchdown in his team’s 21-7 win. Fanti is the fourth different Eastern Illinois player to be named OVC Defensive Player of the Year and first since Clint Sellers and Donald Thomas won back-to-back awards in 2005 and 2006.

Spence, the transfer from Ohio State, made an immediate impact in his first season in an Eastern Kentucky uniform. The junior defensive end finished the regular season ranked fourth nationally in tackles-for-loss (2.0/game), fifth in sacks (1.05/game) and 22nd in forced fumbles/game (0.27). Overall Spence had 22.5 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks (the fourth-most in EKU single-season history) while also adding 63 tackles (31 solo), 15 quarterback hurries, forcing three fumbles and recovering two fumbles. He had at least one sack in nine of 11 games including 2.5 combined in two games against FBS opponents. His play up front, which included seeing numerous double teams, helped the EKU team rank No. 15 nationally in rush defense (111.8 yards/game allowed). Spence was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 18 after registering seven tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks in a road victory over Southeast Missouri. He also added 3.5 tackles-for-loss in a double overtime road win over Murray State and had a season-high eight tackles against Austin Peay. Spence is the 14th EKU player to be named OVC Defensive Player of the Year (a group that includes former NFL players Aaron Jones, Chad Bratzke and Yeremiah Bell) and first since the 2010 season (defensive lineman Andrew Soucy).

The true freshman Vandeven started the season No. 3 on the Southeast Missouri depth chart but after being inserted into the second half of a game at nationally-ranked Indiana State and earning STATS National Freshman of the Week honors became the team’s No. 1 signal caller and started the final eight games of the season. Vandeven entered the ISU game late in the third quarter and led Southeast Missouri to 21 fourth quarter points and a near road upset of the Sycamores. Included in the comeback was a touchdown pass with no time on the clock that brought the Redhawks to within a point. Vandeven finished that game 12-of-17 for 115 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 28 yards. He threw for a season-high 239 yards at No. 1 Jacksonville State and rushed for a season-high 91 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee Tech. Overall on the year he completed 155-of-250 passes for 1,568 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 292 yards and six additional touchdowns. In the process he became the first true freshman Southeast Missouri quarterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a season since 1998 (Bobby Brune). Nationally Vandeven ranks 26th in completion percentage (62.0%), 41st in completions (17.22/game) and 46th in points responsible for (12.0/game). He is the second Southeast Missouri player to be named Freshman of the Year since the award was first given out in 2004; he joins former quarterback Scott Lathrop who took home the honor in 2012.

The All-OVC first-team was highlighted by Jenkins at the quarterback position. In the backfield he was joined by senior teammate Troymaine Pope and Southeast Missouri junior Tremane McCullough. The duo ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the OVC in rushing with Pope tallying 1,092 yards and 11 touchdowns and McCullough reaching 1,028 yards and five rushing scores after taking over as the starter in the third game of the season. JSU and Southeast also had the two first-team wide receiver selections in Redhawk senior Paul McRoberts and Gamecock junior Josh Barge. McRoberts hauled in 76 catches for 940 yards and nine touchdowns this season and finished his career ranked fifth in OVC history for career receiving touchdowns (29). Barge established nearly ever Jacksonville State receiving record in catching 75 passes for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named National Player of the Week after catching a school record 14 passes for 132 yards in the team’s near upset of Auburn. Eastern Kentucky senior Ben Madon was named the first-team tight end selection after catching 34 passes for 456 yards and three touchdowns. For just the third time in OVC history one team placed four offensive linemen on the first-team as Jacksonville State senior guards Adam Wright and Blake Burks, junior center Casey Dunn and sophomore tackle Justin Lea (last year’s OVC Freshman of the Year) each earned the honor. The only other OVC programs to place four offensive linemen on the first-team in the same season were Middle Tennessee (1956) and Southeast Missouri (2010). The offensive line was rounded out by Eastern Kentucky senior tackle Brett Eyckmans, a repeat selection.

The first-team defense was headlined by the defensive line duo of Spence and Fanti who comprised two of the four defensive line selections. The duo was joined by Jacksonville State senior Chris Landrum and Tennessee State sophomore Ebenezer Ogundeko. Despite missing two games due to injury, Landrum still tallied 13.0 tackles-for-loss and 6.0 sacks for the highly-ranked JSU defense. The newcomer Ogundeko tallied 58 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks in his debut season with the Tigers. The linebacker selections included three seniors in Jacksonville State’s Dawson Wells, Eastern Illinois’ Kamu Grugier-Hill and Tennessee Tech’s Tra’Darius Goff. Wells was a key in the middle of the Gamecocks defense and finished the regular season with 71 tackles and three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Grugier-Hill was solid in earning first-team honors for the second-straight season; he finished the year with 62 tackles, 14.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, one interception, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery for the playoff bound Panthers. Goff returned to the gridiron after missing last year with an injury and led the OVC with 132 tackles, a mark that ranked fifth nationally (12.0/game). The defensive backs included Eastern Illinois senior Jourdan Wickliffe, who earned his third consecutive All-OVC first-team honor, and a trio of JSU seniors in Brandon Bender, Jermaine Hough and Folo Johnson. Wickliffe had 58 tackles and five interceptions despite missing three games due to injury. The Gamecocks players helped anchor the No. 5 ranked defense nationally as Bender had 68 tackles and three forced fumbles, Hough (a finalist for the STATS National Defensive Player of the Year) added 27 tackles and an interception as opposing offensives routinely kept the ball away from his side of the field and Johnson added 52 tackles and five pass breakups.

The first-team All-OVC specialists were headlined by Tennessee Tech senior return specialist Ladarius Vanlier who earned the second overall All-OVC honors of his career. The senior ranked 22nd nationally in kick returns (25.8 yards/return) while also leading the OVC in all-purpose yards (147.55/game). A pair of Eastern Kentucky sophomores earned the first-team nods at kicker and punter in Lucas Williams and Keith Wrzuszczak. Williams ranked 20th nationally in field goals made/game (1.22) and 21st in scoring (8.2 points/game) in converting 11-of-14 field goals and 41-of-42 PATs during the season. Wrzuszczak ranked 10th nationally in punting average (43.7 yards/punt) with an incredible 20 punts over 50 yards in length including a career-best 75 yarder. His punting average established a new single-season school record, breaking the mark of current Pittsburgh Steelers punter Jordan Berry.

The All-OVC second-team offensive unit included a pair of quarterbacks in Murray State junior KD Humphries (FCS-best 3,778 passing yards, 22 passing and four rushing TDs) and UT Martin senior Jarod Neal (3,117 passing yards and OVC-best 30 TDs) due to a tie in voting. The running backs included Eastern Illinois junior Devin Church (708 yards, 8 rushing and 2 receiving TDs) and Murray State junior Roman Clay (935 yards, 11 TDs), the wide receivers were Tennessee Tech sophomore Brock McCoin (61 catches, 747 yards, 4 TDs), UT Martin senior Rod Wright (62 catches, 963 yards, OVC-best 14 TDs) and Tennessee State sophomore Patrick Smith (54 catches, an OVC high 996 yards, 10 TDs) while the tight end selection was Murray State junior Jesse Blackburn (48 catches, 612 yards, 5 TDs). The second-team offensive line included Tennessee Tech junior Charles Mouton, Tennessee State junior Jessamen Dunker, Southeast Missouri junior Garret Baker, UT Martin senior Jackson Roberts and Eastern Illinois junior Jimmy Lowery.

The second-team defensive line included a pair of Jacksonville State players in senior Devaunte Sigler (last year’s Defensive Player of the Year who battled injuries this season but still managed 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks) and sophomore Darius Jackson (33 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) as well as Eastern Kentucky senior Bryce Krebs (26 tackles, 3.5 TFL) and UT Martin junior Damani Taylor (54 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks). The linebacker unit included a pair of Eastern Kentucky seniors in Chris Kelly (56 tackles, 5.0 TFL) and Marquise Piton (44 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks) as well as Southeast Missouri junior Roper Garrett (106 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks). The defensive backs included UT Martin senior Marquis Clemons (79 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBU), Tennessee Tech junior Maleek Hall (FCS-best 1.6 passes defended/game), Eastern Illinois senior Dylan Chatman (29 tackles, 4 INT, 7 PBU), Murray State senior DeQuinten Spraggins (90 tackles, 2 INT, 8 PBU) and Southeast Missouri sophomore Mike Ford (ninth nationally with 0.5 interceptions/game).

The second-team specialists were UT Martin senior kicker Jackson Redditt (12-of-17 FGs, 46-of-47 PATs), Southeast Missouri junior punter Alex Knight (ranked fifth nationally with a 44.8 yards/punt average) and Jacksonville State junior return specialist Lawon DeBardelaben (23.1 yards per kickoff return).

Thirteen (13) players were selected to the All-OVC Newcomer squad (two more than normal due to ties in voting); to be selected to the team an individual had to be a first-year player (freshman or transfer) in the OVC. One of the selections was Southeast’s Vandeven, the OVC Freshman of the Year. The squad also included seven other players who were either first or second-team All-OVC selections including EKU’s Spence (Co-Defensive Player of the Year), EIU’s Church (second-team running back) and Chatman (second-team defensive back), Southeast’s McCullough (first-team running back), TSU’s Ogundeko (first-team defensive line) and Smith (second-team wide receiver) and UTM’s Taylor (second-team defensive line). The remaining All-Newcomer selections included Austin Peay freshman running back Kendall Morris (690 rushing yards, 5 TDs), Eastern Kentucky freshman running back Ethan Thomas (498 rushing yards, 4 TDs), Tennessee State redshirt freshman quarterback O’Shay Ackerman-Carter (1,279 passing yards, 11 TDs) and a pair of Jacksonville State players in junior defensive lineman Desmond Owino (28 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and sophomore linebacker Joel McCandless (56 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks).

2015 All-OVC Football Team and Award Winners
OVC Offensive Player of the Year: Eli Jenkins (QB), Jacksonville State
OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Dino Fanti (DT), Eastern Illinois
OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Noah Spence (DE), Eastern Kentucky
OVC Freshman of the Year: Dante Vandeven (QB), Southeast Missouri
Roy Kidd OVC Coach of the Year: John Grass, Jacksonville State

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State
RB – Troymaine Pope, Jacksonville State
RB – Tremane McCullough, Southeast Missouri
WR – Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri
WR – Josh Barge, Jacksonville State
TE – Ben Madon, Eastern Kentucky
C – Casey Dunn, Jacksonville State
OG – Adam Wright, Jacksonville State
OG – Blake Burks, Jacksonville State
OT – Justin Lea, Jacksonville State
OT – Brett Eyckmans, Eastern Kentucky

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
DL – Dino Fanti, Eastern Illinois
DL – Chris Landrum, Jacksonville State
DL – Ebenezer Ogundeko, Tennessee State
LB – Kamu Grugier-Hill, Eastern Illinois
LB – Dawson Wells, Jacksonville State
LB – Tra’Darius Goff, Tennessee Tech
DB – Jourdan Wickliffe, Eastern Illinois
DB – Brandon Bender, Jacksonville State
DB – Jermaine Hough, Jacksonville State
DB – Folo Johnson, Jacksonville State

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS
K – Lucas Williams, Eastern Kentucky
P – Keith Wrzuszczak, Eastern Kentucky
RS – Ladarius Vanlier, Tennessee Tech

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE
QB – KD Humphries, Murray State
QB – Jarod Neal, UT Martin
RB – Devin Church, Eastern Illinois
RB – Roman Clay, Murray State
WR – Brock McCoin, Tennessee Tech
WR – Rod Wright, UT Martin
WR – Patrick Smith, Tennessee State
TE – Jesse Blackburn, Murray State
C – Charles Mouton, Tennessee Tech
OG – Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State
OG – Garret Baker, Southeast Missouri
OT – Jackson Roberts, UT Martin
OT – Jimmy Lowery, Eastern Illinois

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Devaunte Sigler, Jacksonville State
DL – Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State
DL – Bryce Krebs, Eastern Kentucky
DL – Damani Taylor, UT Martin
LB – Chris Kelly, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Marquise Piton, Eastern Kentucky
LB – Roper Garrett, Southeast Missouri
DB – Marquis Clemons, UT Martin
DB – Maleek Hall, Tennessee Tech
DB – Dylan Chatman, Eastern Illinois
DB – DeQuinten Spraggins, Murray State
DB – Mike Ford, Southeast Missouri

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS
K – Jackson Redditt, UT Martin
P – Alex Knight, Southeast Missouri
RS – Lawon DeBardelaben, Jacksonville State

ALL-NEWCOMER TEAM
RB – Kendall Morris, Austin Peay
RB – Devin Church, Eastern Illinois
DB – Dylan Chatman, Eastern Illinois
RB – Ethan Thomas, Eastern Kentucky
DE – Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
DL – Desmond Owino, Jacksonville State
LB – Joel McCandless, Jacksonville State
RB – Tremane McCullough, Southeast Missouri
QB – Dante Vandeven, Southeast Missouri
DE – Ebenezer Ogundeko, Tennessee State
QB – O’Shay Ackerman-Carter, Tennessee State
WR – Patrick Smith, Tennessee State
DE – Damani Taylor, UT Martin

Note: The All-Newcomer team is comprised of first-year players in the OVC – that can be either true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or first-year transfers. The team consists of 13 total players (2 extra this year due to ties in voting) and is not voted on by position.

There were 13 players on the All-OVC second-team offense (2 QB’s, 3 WR’s) and 12 players on the All-OVC second-team defense (5 DB’s) due to ties in voting.

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EKU Relieves Dean Hood As Head Football Coach

EKU Relieves Dean Hood As Head Football Coach

Posted on 23 November 2015 by admin

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RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University has relieved Dean Hood of his duties as head football coach, Director of Athletics Steve Lochmueller announced today.

“I want to thank Dean for his service to Eastern Kentucky University,” Lochmueller said. “These decisions are never taken lightly. After a careful review of our football program, I feel a change in leadership is needed.”

Hood compiled a record of 55-38 in eight seasons as head coach. The 2015 squad finished 6-5 and in fourth place in the OVC with a 5-3 mark.

A national search for Eastern Kentucky’s next head football coach will begin immediately.

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Coney Picks Up Two Player Of The Week Awards

Coney Picks Up Two Player Of The Week Awards

Posted on 16 November 2015 by admin

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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – After setting a pair of new program records, quarterback Bennie Coney was chosen as the Ohio Valley Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Sunday. Coney was also chosen as the OVC Madness Offensive Player of the Week by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

The redshirt junior became the first quarterback in program history to throw for 400 yards as Eastern beat Murray State 41-34 in double overtime on Saturday. He finished 44-of-68 for 417 yards and threw three touchdown passes. He also led EKU with 59 yards on the ground.

The Plant City, Florida native broke Josh Greco’s school record of 398 passing yards set at Eastern Illinois in 2005. Coney also broke Greco’s record of 39 completions, which was also set at Eastern Illinois in 2005.

Trailing 27-20, Coney drove the Colonels to the game-tying score with 44 seconds left in regulation. Eastern took possession at its own 23 yard line with 1:56 to go. He completed a 21-yard pass to Devin Borders on the first play and then gained 11 on the ground. A 15-yard penalty moved EKU to the Murray State 30 yard line. After a run, Coney found Dy’Shawn Mobley for 16 yards. Three plays later Mobley polished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Murray State scored a touchdown to start overtime. On Eastern’s third play in OT, Coney connected with Mobley for a 20-yard game-tying score.

Coney and Mobley covered 10 yards each on a pair of runs during the Colonels’ second overtime possession. Three plays later, Kentayvus Hopkins scored what proved to be the game-winner from a yard out.

The Colonels close out the regular season Saturday at Eastern Illinois. The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

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