The Tennessee State Tigers' football team has three of the best skill players in the Ohio Valley Conference.
But the Tigers have been picked to finish fourth this season behind Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois in a vote of OVC coaches and sports information directors.
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks claimed the 2003 and 2004 OVC Championships and were tabbed as the favorites for the second time.
Although Jax State was tabbed as the favorite, the votes indicated the pollsters predicted this year’s race should be extremely tight, as the 18 first-place votes were split evenly amongst three schools. It marked the closest preseason vote in Ohio Valley Conference history.
The order of finish was rounded out by Tennessee State (84 points), UT Martin (69), Tennessee Tech (55), Austin Peay (50), Murray State (36) and Southeast Missouri State (22).
TSU running back Javarris Williams and TSU receiver Chris Johnson were named preseason first team All-OVC, as was offensive tackle Cornelius Lewis. Last season Williams rushed for 1,187 yards (107.9/game) and scored 12 touchdowns. Johnson had 41 catches for 740 yards and four touchdowns.
The Tigers also return quarterback Antonio Heffner, who was limited to just seven games in 2007 due to injury. Heffner was a first-team All-OVC selection as a sophomore after passing for 1,668 yards and nine touchdowns and rushing for five more scores. Last season in limited action he still managed to throw for 1,486 yards and 10 touchdowns and rush for 337 yards and three scores.
All eyes in the league will be on Jacksonville State junior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who transferred from LSU following the 2007 season. Tabbed the National Offensive Player of the Year out of East St. John High School, Perrilloux was named the MVP of the SEC Championship game last year as the Tigers won that game and went on to claim the BCS National Championship.