2016 Ohio Valley Conference Preview

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - With all due respect to the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference, Jacksonville State has surged past the other eight teams to a place all by itself.

Enough so that the Gamecocks can lose more than half of their starting lineup after last season and be focused on - rightfully - getting back to "that last game," as third-year coach John Grass calls the FCS national championship.

Their first trip to Frisco, Texas, in January didn't go as planned as North Dakota State routed the Gamecocks 37-10 to claim a record fifth straight title.

To get back there, JSU will first try to win a third consecutive OVC title. Grass hasn't lost a conference game in his first two seasons and the Gamecocks have only lost to FBS opponents during the regular season.

This is viewed as a potentially down season for the rest of the OVC, although somebody - probably usual powers Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois - will mount a threat to the Gamecocks.

But the Gamecocks have the biggest dreams in mind. They've bulked up their non-conference schedule to prepare for another playoff run. Senior quarterback Eli Jenkins is one of nine returning starters and Grass looked to the transfer market to fill some needs.

"We have the talent to replace those (graduated) guys," he said, "but my question to my guys is, hey, do we have that leadership on and off the field because it's gonna get you to where you are. Because every team is different, the chemistry of every team. This is a new year, we can't live off what's happened the last couple years. This team will have its own identity, it will have its own chemistry."

Three OVC teams have new coaches - Eastern Kentucky (Mark Elder), Tennessee Tech (Marcus Satterfield) and Austin Peay (Will Healy). While there's no sure thing in the OVC, JSU has put some distance between itself and the rest of the conference.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2016 Ohio Valley Conference race and STATS' predicted order of finish:

1. Jacksonville State

2. Eastern Kentucky

3. Eastern Illinois

4. UT Martin

5. Southeast Missouri State

6. Tennessee State

7. Murray State

8. Tennessee Tech

9. Austin Peay

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TEAM CAPSULES

1. JACKSONVILLE STATE GAMECOCKS

LOCATION: Jacksonville, Alabama

STADIUM: JSU Stadium

COACH: John Grass (23-4 in two seasons at Jacksonville State)

LAST SEASON: 13-2 overall, 8-0 OVC (1st); FCS runner-up

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (6 offense/3 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Troymaine Pope, RB; Chris Landrum, DE; Jermaine Hough, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Eli Jenkins, QB, Sr. (227-for-374, 2,788 yards, 21 TDs, 8 INTs; 192 carries, 1,161 yards, 15 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Darius Jackson, DE, Jr. (56 TT, 19 TFL, 7 sacks, 5 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Josh Clemons, RB, Sr.; Roc Thomas, RB, Jr. (Auburn transfer); Josh Barge, WR, Sr.; Anthony Johnson, WR, Sr.; Casey Dunn, C, Sr.; Justin Lea, LG, Jr.; Nick Johnson, LT, Sr.; Desmond Owino, DL, Sr.; Randy Robinson, DL, So.; Joel McCandless, LB, Jr.; Quan Stoudemire, LB, So.; Jaylen Hill, CB, Sr.; Al Harris, Jr., CB, Jr. (South Carolina transfer)

OUTLOOK: The Gamecocks are an overwhelming favorite to win a third straight OVC title, but they have a lot to prove considering their many senior losses, especially on a conference-best defense. While reaching the FCS championship game for the first time, they spent much of last season ranked No. 1 in the FCS - the first OVC team to be top-ranked since 1999. Jenkins, the STATS FCS All-America quarterback, had offseason surgery on a torn labrum, but he is expected to remain on an elite level. His favorite target, Barge, figures to hold many JSU receiving records by the end of his senior season. RB Thomas, a transfer from Auburn, hopes to replace Pope and his 1,788 rushing yards. The defensive losses are particularly big on the line and in the secondary. Jackson was named the OVC's preseason defensive player of the year, and the secondary added some transfers. The non-conference schedule should pay dividends over time.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, North Alabama

Sept. 10, at LSU

Sept. 17, Coastal Carolina

Sept. 24, at Liberty

Oct. 8, Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 15, Austin Peay*

Oct. 22, at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 29, Eastern Illinois*

Nov. 5, at Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 12, at Murray State*

Nov. 19, UT Martin*

* - OVC game

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2. EASTERN KENTUCKY COLONELS

LOCATION: Richmond, Kentucky

STADIUM: Roy Kidd Stadium

COACH: Mark Elder (first season at Eastern Kentucky)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 OVC (4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (6 offense/3 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Brett Eyckmans, RT; Noah Spence, DE; Stanley Absanon, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Bennie Coney, QB, R-Sr. (225-for-367, 2,471 yards, 23 TDs, 8 INTs; 72 carries, 193 yards, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Avery Pitt, DT, R-Sr. (26 TT, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 2 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Maty Mauk, QB, R-Sr. (Missouri transfer); Ethan Thomas, RB, So.; Kentayvus Hopkins, RB, R-Jr.; Devin Borders, WR, R-Sr.; Arien Beasley, WR, So.; Dan Crimmins, TE, R-Sr. (Boston College transfer); Z Stephenson, C, So.; Justin Adekoya, LT, R-Sr.; Nathan Murray, OL, Fr.; Taquan Evans, DE, R-Fr.; Thomas Owens, LB, R-Sr.; Jeffrey Canady, LB, R-Jr.; Kiante Northington, S, R-Sr.; Jay Boyd, S, Fr.; Lucas Williams, PK, Jr.; Keith Wrzuszczak, P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: EKU's 21 playoff appearances are second only to Montana and the Colonels have only one losing season in the last 43 years. But the university raised the stakes by firing popular coach Dean Hood, who went 55-38 in eight seasons without winning a playoff game in three appearances. Elder has been on the FBS level the last 11 years, most recently as tight ends and special teams coach at Tennessee. He will run the spread offense at EKU. While QB Coney enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, his starting job is threatened by Mauk, who went 17-5 as a starter at Missouri. Thomas was excellent as a freshman - averaging over six yards per carry - until he was injured. The Colonels have to rebuild their defense after losing eight starters. Defensive end Aaron Patrick hopes to emerge after playing behind All-America defensive end Noah Spence last season. The Colonels have the best special teams in the OVC with PK Williams, P Wrzuszczak and Borders (12 career blocks).

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Purdue

Sept. 8, Pikeville College

Sept. 17, at Ball State

Oct. 1, at Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 8, Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 15, at Tennessee State*

Oct. 22, Jacksonville State*

Oct. 29, at UT Martin*

Nov. 5, Murray State*

Nov. 12, at Austin Peay*

Nov. 19, Eastern Illinois*

* - OVC game

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3. EASTERN ILLINOIS PANTHERS

LOCATION: Charleston, Illinois

STADIUM: O'Brien Stadium

COACH: Kim Dameron (12-12 in two seasons at Eastern Illinois)

LAST SEASON: 7-5 overall, 7-1 OVC (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jalen Whitlow, QB; Dino Fanti, DT; Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Devin Church, RB/KR, Sr. (167 carries, 743 yards, 9 TDs; 36 receptions, 254 yards, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Seth McDonald, LB, Sr. (109 TT, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Austin Green, QB, Jr.; Bud Martin, QB, R-So. (FIU transfer); Mitch Kimble, QB, R-Jr. (Syracuse transfer); Korliss Marshall, RB, R-Jr. (Arkansas transfer); James Brooks, WR, Sr.; Isaiah Nelson, WR, Sr.; Evan Kanz, OT, Sr.; Louis Vailopa, C, Jr.; Austin Askin, OG, Jr.; David Johnson, DE, Jr. (South Carolina transfer); Jarvis Williams, DT, Sr.; Nick Horne, LB, Jr.; Bradley Dewberry, S, Jr.; Vince Speller, S, Jr.; Tyree Stone-Davis, DB, Grad (Western Michigan transfer)

OUTLOOK: EIU is seeking a return to the FCS playoffs, but the Panthers have struggled in non-conference games under Dameron, with last year's blowout loss to Northern Iowa in the first round making him 0-8 (versus 12-4 in OVC games). Green emerged as the No. 1 QB coming out of spring practices and the spread offense has plenty of weapons at the skills position, led by All-OVC preseason running back Church and joined by Marshall, who redshirted last season. The defensive losses were more substantial, including three first-team All-OVC selections in Fanti, Hill and safety Jourdan Wickliffe. But McDonald and Dewberry return after ranking 1-2 on the team in tackles last season. After committing 98 penalties, the Panthers seek to play with more discipline. The road portion of their schedule is particularly difficult.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, Western Illinois

Sept. 10, at Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 17, at Illinois State

Sept. 24, Austin Peay*

Oct. 1, at Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 8, Tennessee State*

Oct. 15, at Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 22, Murray State*

Oct. 29, at Jacksonville State*

Nov. 5, UT Martin*

Nov. 19, at Eastern Kentucky*

* - OVC game

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4. UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS

LOCATION: Martin, Tennessee

STADIUM: Graham Stadium

COACH: Jason Simpson (65-49 in 10 seasons at UT Martin)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 6-2 OVC (3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (4 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jarod Neal, QB; Rod Wright, WR; Jackson Redditt, PK/P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Caylon Weathers, WR, R-Jr. (62 receptions, 726 yards, 8 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Damani Taylor, DE, R-Sr. (54 TT, 9.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Gunnar Holcombe, QB, R-Sr. (Marshall transfer); Troy Cook, QB, Jr.; Jaimiee Bowe, RB, So.; Ladevin Fair, RB, R-Sr.; Marquez Grayson, RB, R-Sr. (East Carolina transfer); Ben Axline, WR, R-Sr.; Greg McKillion, WR, R-Sr. (Memphis transfer); Kadarren Bond, OT, R-Jr.; Robert Burleigh, OG, R-Jr.; Kenneth Crenshaw, C, R-Sr.; James Gilleylen, LB, R-So.; Kevin Prather Jr., LB, So; Keith Jones, DT, R-Sr.; Joseph Este, DB, Jr. (Copiah-Lincoln CC transfer); Kahlid Hagens, S, R-Jr.

OUTLOOK: This is the year in the OVC not to have a lot of returning starters. Like OVC powers Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky, UT Martin only has nine of them. But the Skyhawks have brought in some transfers to fill holes. One of them, Marshall transfer QB Holcombe, is battling Cook, last year's backup, to replace 2 1/2-year starter Neal. The new starter's go-to target will be big wideout Weathers (6-foot-4, 207 pounds). Fair is the top returning running back, but he suffered a torn ACL in the final game last season. The defense uses a 3-3-5 base alignment and the Skyhawks have to replace all of last year's starting defensive backs. DE Taylor and LB Prather fortify the front units. While Simpson is an impressive 51-28 in OVC games, the Skyhawks haven't won the OVC title since his first season in 2006. With a visit to Hawaii this season - as one of three FBS games - the Skyhawks are allowed to play 12 games in this traditional 11-game season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, at Cincinnati

Sept. 10, at Hawaii

Sept. 17, Bacone

Sept. 24, Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 1, at Tennessee State*

Oct. 8, Austin Peay*

Oct. 15, at Murray State*

Oct. 22, at Georgia State

Oct. 29, Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 5, at Eastern Illinois*

Nov. 12, Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 19, at Jacksonville State*

* - OVC game

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5. SOUTHEAST MISSOURI REDHAWKS

LOCATION: Cape Girardeau, Missouri

STADIUM: Houck Stadium

COACH: Tom Matukewicz (9-14 in two seasons at Southeast Missouri State; 10-14 overall)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-4 OVC (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Paul McRoberts, WR; DeMichael Jackson, RB; Jon Slania, DT

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Tremane McCullough, RB/RS, Sr. (170 carries, 1,028 yards, 5 TDs; 33 receptions, 279 yards)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Roper Garrett, ILB, Sr. (106 TT, 10 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Dante Vandeven, QB, So.; Chase Abbington, RB, Jr. (Missouri transfer); Garret Baker, OG, Sr.; Jake McCandless, C, Sr.; John Popovich, DE, Sr.; Travis Sanders, DE, Sr.; Joshua Wilson, NT, Jr.; Terrance Hill, ILB, Sr.; Chad Meredith, OLB, Jr.; Eriq Moore, SS, Sr.; Mike Ford, CB, Jr.; Ryan McCrum, PK, Sr.; Alex Knight, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: The Redhawks are dangerous - four of their losses were by a combined 14 points last season - but they're still seeking a breakthrough campaign under Matukewicz. Their 25 seniors are the most since 2012, so they have a veteran lineup to propel improvement. The offense is ahead of the defense. Up front, the Redhawks have four returning starters. QB Vandeven is coming off OVC Freshman of the Year honors and McCullough is perhaps the conference's most dangerous running back. Jackson could have made it an awesome 1-2 combination at running back, but he transferred out after an injury-plagued season. The defense has to toughen up in the red zone. Garrett has led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons and is one of the top defensive players in the OVC. The Redhawks would love to be plus-10 in turnovers again this season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Memphis

Sept. 10, at Southern Illinois

Sept. 17, Indiana State

Sept. 24, at Murray State*

Oct. 1, Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 8, at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 22, at Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 29, Austin Peay*

Nov. 5, Jacksonville State*

Nov. 12, at UT Martin*

Nov. 19, Tennessee State*

* - OVC game

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6. TENNESSEE STATE TIGERS

LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee

STADIUM: LP Field and Hale Stadium

COACH: Rod Reed (36-33 in six seasons at Tennessee State)

LAST SEASON: 4-6 overall, 1-6 OVC (8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Joeshawn Bowens, TE; Shaq Anthony, OT; Van Williams, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Patrick Smith, WR/PR, R-Jr. (54 receptions, 996 yards, 10 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Ebenezer "Ebo" Ogundeko, DE, R-Jr. (58 TT, 10.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: O'Shay Ackerman-Carter, QB, R-So.; Erick Evans, RB, R-Jr.; Ronnie Killings, WR, Fr. (Navy transfer); Steven Newbold, WR, Fr.; Jessaman Dunker, LT, R-Sr.; Thomas Burton, C, R-So.; Latrelle Lee, DE, Jr.; Chris Collins, LB, Jr.; Justin North, LB, R-Jr.; Antonio Justice, Jr., LB, R-Sr.; Laquarius Cook, S, R-So.; Ezra Robinson, CB, R-Sr.; Terrell Bonds, CB, Jr.; Lane Clark, PK, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Last year's youth movement is expected to pay off with an improved season. QB Ackerman-Carter (110-for-190, 1,279 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs) comes back as an experienced sophomore and he has a reliable running back (Evans) and wide receiver (Smith) plus an always good offensive line, this time anchored by Dunker. Ogundeko is the only returning defensive player in the OVC who was a first-team selection last year. But the Tigers defense, which returns 10 of its top 13 tacklers, still seeks a better pass rush. Once again, the Tigers are playing only seven conference games, this time missing Jacksonville State on the schedule. They won 10 games as recently as 2013, so Reed seeks maturation coming out of last year's growing pains.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Sept. 10, Jackson State (at Memphis, Tennessee)

Sept. 17, at Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 1, UT Martin*

Oct. 8, at Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 15, Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 22, at Vanderbilt

Oct. 29, at Murray State*

Nov. 5, at Austin Peay*

Nov. 12, Tennessee Tech*

Nov. 19, at Southeast Missouri State*

* - OVC game

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7. MURRAY STATE RACERS

LOCATION: Murray, Kentucky

STADIUM: Roy Stewart Stadium

COACH: Mitch Stewart (3-8 in one season at Murray State)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 2-6 OVC (6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Janawski Davis, WR; Jeremy Harness, WR; Paul Rice, WR

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: KD Humphries, QB, R-Sr. (330-for-532, 3,778 yards, 22 TDs, 7 INTs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Marquez Sanford, DB, So. (50 TT, 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBU, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Mark Dodson, RB, R-Jr. (Ole Miss transfer); Malik Golson, WR, Grad (Delaware State transfer); Jesse Blackburn, TE, Sr.; Joe Irby, OL, Jr.; Chris White, OL, So.; Kwan Stallworth, OL, So.; Toby Omli, S, Sr.; Bishop Woods, DE, Jr.; Dee Nalls, DL, Fr.; D'Montre Wade, DB, R-Jr.; James Sappington, PK, Fr.; Landon Stratton, P, R-So.; Wes Drewery, LS, R-So.

OUTLOOK: Despite the presence of last year's FCS passing yardage leader, the Racers may not have enough talent surrounding Humphries. They lost four key wide receivers and their leading rusher Roman Clay, who was suspended from the team. The transfers of WR Golson and RB Dodson will fill some of the void, but Humphries is going to need another dynamite season to keep the Racers competitive. Blackburn (48 receptions, 612 yards, 5 TDs) should be one of the more productive tight ends in the FCS. While it was nice the offense averaged 466.1 yards and 30.5 points, the defense surrendered 497.5 yards and 37.2 points per game, so the Racers need to be more physical as a unit. The secondary gets Omli back from injury (he played in seven games) and Sanford is a nice building block.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Illinois

Sept. 10, at Missouri State

Sept. 17, at Southern Illinois

Sept. 24, Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 1, at Austin Peay*

Oct. 15, UT Martin*

Oct. 22, at Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 29, Tennessee State*

Nov. 5, at Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 12, Jacksonville State*

Nov. 19, at Tennessee Tech*

* - OVC game

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8. TENNESSEE TECH GOLDEN EAGLES

LOCATION: Cookeville, Tennessee

STADIUM: Tucker Stadium

COACH: Marcus Satterfield (first season at Tennessee Tech)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 OVC (6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Ladarius Vanlier, WR/RS; Tra'Darius Goff, LB; Jay Rudwall, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Brock McCoin, WR, Jr. (61 receptions, 747 yards, 4 TDs; 69 carries, 271 yards)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Maleek Hall, CB, Sr. (64 TT, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 17 PBU, 2 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Michael Birdsong, QB, Sr., (Marshall transfer); Dorian Carter, RB, So.; Jordan Smith, WR, Sr.; Dontez Byrd, WR, Jr., (Louisville transfer); Austin Hicks, WR, So.; Cory Malone, TE, Sr.; Charles Mouton, RG, Sr.; Kevin Robinson-White, DT, Sr.; Tim Collins, DE, So.; Jake Warwick, LB, So.; Isaiah McKinney, SS, Sr.; Anthony Flemister, CB, So.; Steven Lillard, CB, Sr.; Nick Madonia, PK, So.

OUTLOOK: Satterfield's first season in Cookeville changed greatly when Birdsong, a former starter at James Madison, transferred in from Marshall. That allowed McCoin, who started the final three games at quarterback (a 2-1 record), to move back to wide receiver. Birdsong will surely get the ball to one of the more versatile players in the FCS. Satterfield, who has succeeded Watson Brown as Tech's coach, has impressed people in the program. Justin Rascati has come over from UT Martin as offensive coordinator and Shawn Quinn will try to do for the Eagles defense what he did as Western Carolina's coordinator. The defense needs improvement after being ravaged for 490.5 yards and 35.9 points per game last season. In Goff, the Eagles have lost one of the better players in the OVC. Hall is their defensive leader.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, Wofford

Sept. 10, at Austin Peay*

Sept. 17, at Mercer

Sept. 24, at UT Martin*

Oct. 1, Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 8, at Jacksonville State*

Oct. 15, Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 22, Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 5, at Tennessee

Nov. 12, at Tennessee State*

Nov. 19, Murray State*

* - OVC game

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9. AUSTIN PEAY GOVERNORS

LOCATION: Clarksville, Tennessee

STADIUM: Governors Stadium

COACH: Will Healy (first season at Austin Peay)

LAST SEASON: 0-11 overall, 0-8 OVC (9th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (9 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Trey Taylor, QB; Nicholis Matiere-Bey, DT; Adam Noble, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Kendall Morris, RB, R-So. (142 carries, 690 yards, 5 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Roderick Owens, CB, Sr. (61 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INTs, 8 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Timarious Mitchell, QB, R-Sr.; Mickey Macius, QB, R-So.; Marvin Franklin, RB, R-Fr.; Jared Beard, WR, Jr.; Rashaan Coleman, WR/PR, Sr.; Kyran Moore, WR, Jr.; James Coleman, TE, Jr.; Ryan Rockensuess, OG, So.; Tyler Miles, OG, Sr.; Byron Glass, C, So.; Byron Carver, DE, R-So.; Antonio Turner, LB, Sr.; Gunnar Scholato, LB, R-So.; Malik Boynton, DB, Jr.; Devon Jones, S, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Austin Peay went 1-34 in three seasons under former coach Kirby Cannon. Healy, who spent the last seven seasons on Chattanooga's staff, made a quick impression with a touted recruiting class in February. His staff must believe the Governors can improve quickly because there are a number of players who saw action early in their careers. But they have to settle on a quarterback, with Macius, who led the one win under Cannon in 2014, returning from a redshirt season. The Governors found a building block in RB Morris and WR Beard (49 receptions, 576 yards, 6 TDs) had a strong season last year. On defense, the Governors have to increase their pass rush and improve on stopping third downs. The secondary is experienced, with S Jones tying for the team high in tackles (68) a year ago.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Troy

Sept. 10, Tennessee Tech*

Sept. 24, at Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 1, Murray State*

Oct. 8, at UT Martin*

Oct. 15, at Jacksonville State*

Oct. 22, Mercer

Oct. 29, at Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 5, Tennessee State*

Nov. 12, Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 19, at Kentucky

* - OVC game

Updated August 12, 2016

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