Eastern Kentucky junior defensive end Noah Spence was named to the First team of the STATS All0-American team. Spence was one of seven OVC football players have been named to the 2015 STATS Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) All-American Team.
The selections included two first-team selections, two second-team selections and three third-team selections. Jacksonville State had five All-Americans, the most of any FCS team, while Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky had one selection apiece.
Besides Spence, the first-team selections included Jacksonville State junior quarterback Eli Jenkins. The second-team picks were Jacksonville State junior center Casey Dunn and Eastern Illinois senior defensive lineman Dino Fanti. The third-team selections were Jacksonville State senior running back Troymaine Pope, Jacksonville State defensive lineman Chris Landrum and Jacksonville State senior defensive back Jermaine Hough.
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). 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.
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. He is JSU’s first All-American quarterback since 1998.
Dunn grabbed his first All-America honor after anchoring an offensive line that set the stage for record-breaking production by the Gamecock offense. In his first season as the starter after taking over for two-time All-American Holcombe, Dunn has started every game in the middle this season and was one of four first-team All-OVC linemen from JSU, just the third time in OVC history that four of the five first team offensive linemen have been from the same team. Dunn’s unit up front paved the way for an offense that has run for 4,004 yards, the first 4,000-yard rushing season in school history. The Gamecocks have gained 6,770 yards of total offense, also a new school record. JSU’s 512 points are second all-time to the 528 scored in 2013, while its 46 rushing scores are second in school history behind 48 in 2013.
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.
Pope also made his first appearance on an All-American squad after a record-breaking season as the Gamecocks premier back. 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.
Landrum has made a living in opposing backfields during his JSU career, especially in 2015. The All-OVC selection at defensive end has 52 total tackles this season, including 16.0 for a loss and a team-high 7.0 sacks. His 16.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage is the third-most in a season in school history. Landrum has pinned opposing players for a total loss of 51 yards this season, also in the top 10 in school history. He recently broke the school record for career tackles for a loss with 36.5, while his 14.5 career sacks in tied for second in school history. He has accounted for a total loss of 149 yards in his career, also a school record.
Hough is an All-American for the second-straight season, joining Max Holcombe as JSU’s only back-to-back All-Americans since joining the OVC in 2003. 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.
2015 STATS FCS All-Americans
QB – Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State (1st Team)
DL – Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (1st Team)
OL – Casey Dunn, Jacksonville State (2nd Team)
DL – Dino Fanti, Eastern Illinois (2nd Team)
RB – Troymaine Pope, Jacksonville State (3rd Team)
DL – Chris Landrum, Jacksonville State (3rd Team)
DB – Jermaine Hough, Jacksonville State (3rd Team)