Ohio Valley Conference coaches and sports information directors picked Jacksonville State to win the league football crown  this season, the OVC announced on Monday in conjunction with its media day event.
Tennessee State was picked to finish eighth in the nine-team conference, despite Rico Council being named the OVC’s preseason co-defensive player of the year.
TSU returns 16 starters but finished just 3-8 last season, including an 0-7 mark in the OVC. It was the first time joining the league in 1986 that the Tigers went winless.
Only Austin Peay received fewer votes as the Governors went 2-9 last year and finished the season on an eight-game losing streak.
Murray State, Eastern Kentucky, Southeast Missouri State (the defending champ) and Tennessee Tech rounded out the top five. UT-Martin is expected to finish sixth, with Eastern Illinois picked to finish seventh.
Council was one of three TSU players to be named to the preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference football team. The 6-foot, 256-pound linebacker from Chattanooga recorded 79 tackles and four sacks as a junior last year. His 209 career tackles rank only behind head coach Rod Reed (409) on the school’s all-time list. Council shared the co-defensive player of the year pick with Jacksonville State defensive lineman Monte Lewis.
Along with Council, two TSU players were named to the offensive team. Guard Kadeem Edwards (6-5, 330) returns for his sophomore season. He created holes for running back and fellow pick Dante’ Thomas. The 5-10, 200-pound senior has led the Tigers in yards per carry (5.1) the last three years. He made five starts last year after Preston Brown went down with a knee injury midway through the season. Thomas finished 2010 with a team-high 793 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Tennessee State begins it season at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 as it hosts Southern University in the John Merritt Classic at LP Field.