Eastern Kentucky junior defensive end Noah Spence is one of five OVC football players that have been named to the 2015 Associated Press Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) All-American Team.
The selections included two first-team selections, one second-team selection and two third-team selections. Jacksonville State had three All-Americans while Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky had one selection apiece.
The first-team selections included Spence and Jacksonville State senior defensive back Jermaine Hough. The second-team pick was Jacksonville State junior quarterback Eli Jenkins while the third-team selections were Jacksonville State senior running back Troymaine Pope and Eastern Illinois senior defensive lineman Dino Fanti.
In his first year after transferring from Ohio State Spence finished fourth nationally in the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year balloting. The defensive end finished the season ranked fourth nationally in tackles for a loss (2.0/game), fifth in sacks (1.05/game) and 22nd in forced fumbles per game (0.27) in earning OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. Overall Spence had 22.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, the fourth-most in EKU single-season history. He also contributed 63 tackles (31 solo), 15 quarterback hurries, forced three fumbles and recovered 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 EKU rank 15th nationally in rush defense (111.8 yards per game allowed). Spence, who has declared for the NFL Draft, has been selected to play in the Senior Bowl on January 30 in Mobile.
It is the second All-American selection of the 2015 season for each player as all five were named to the STATS All-American Team which was released on Tuesday.
Hough forced opposing offenses to the other side of the field several times in 2015. He bounced back from a knee injury that shortened his 2014 campaign to earn first-team All-OVC honors this season. Also an Academic All-District selection, Hough recorded 30 tackles for the Gamecocks in 2015, including two stops for a loss and one sack. He intercepted one pass to run his career total to nine. He has broken up 25 passes in his JSU career, while also forcing a fumble.
Jenkins, the 2015 Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year, has had a record-breaking season leading a record-breaking offense. With 2,484 passing yards and 1,030 rushing, the Birmingham native is the only FCS quarterback with 2,400 passing and 1,000 rushing yards this season. He and Houston signal caller Greg Ward, Jr. are the only two quarterbacks in all of Division I to reach those marks. Jenkins has run for 13 touchdowns and thrown for 19 and has climbed several career lists for JSU this season. Just a junior, his school-record 3,514 yards of total offense is 560 more than any other player in school history, while his 7,922 career yards of total offense also broke the school record last week in a win over Charleston Southern. He has run for 195 yards in each of JSU’s two playoff wins over Chattanooga and Charleston Southern and is 26-0 in his career as a starter against FCS foes in the regular season.
In his first season as the starter after backing up All-American DaMarcus James for three years, Pope has been one of the most electric runners in the country, leading the nation with an average of 8.4 yards per carry to earn first-team All-OVC honors. He has erupted in the Playoffs for JSU, running for a combined 484 yards in his first two games. He had 234 in the second round win over Chattanooga before running for 250 in the quarterfinals against Charleston Southern, a team that hadn’t allowed a team to run for 200 yards all season. Pope has run for a school-record 1,576 yards, 99 more than James’ previous record set in 2013, on just 188 carries. He also has 17 rushing touchdowns, third-most in a season in school history. His 3,164 career rushing yards are third-most in school history, while his 32 career rushing touchdowns are fourth all-time.
Fanti was named the OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year as he helped lead EIU to a 16th appearance in the FCS playoffs with a 7-5 overall record, 7-1 in the OVC. Fanti was dominant over the final two weeks of the year earning back-to-back OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors including a National Defensive Player of the Week Award during the win over UT Martin. Fanti finished the year with 63 total tackles including 22 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He had five forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries, one pass break-up and one fumble recovery. During the year he set both the EIU career and single season record for tackles for loss. Fanti ranked eighth in the FCS in tackles for loss and 41st in sacks.
2015 Associated Press FCS All-Americans
DL – Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (1st Team)
DB – Jermaine Hough, Jacksonville State (1st Team)
QB – Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State (2nd Team)
RB – Troymaine Pope, Jacksonville State (3rd Team)
DL – Dino Fanti, Eastern Illinois (3rd Team)