NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Eastern Kentucky University football team was picked as the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference title this fall in a poll conducted by the OVC coaches and sports information directors. The announcement was made Monday at the OVC football media day event.
This was the first time since 2009 that EKU was picked first in the preseason poll. The Colonels, who have won a record 21 OVC titles including a share in 2011, received 12 of the 18 first-place votes. Jacksonville State notched the remaining six first-place votes and was tabbed second in the poll. Murray State and Tennessee Tech were picked third and fourth, respectively, in the preseason voting.
Eastern Kentucky advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs one year ago thanks to finishing 7-5 overall and 6-2 in the OVC. The Colonels finished in a three-way tie with Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech for the 2011 conference title. Eastern returns 10 offensive and seven defensive starters including a league-high 10 players who were named to the 2012 preseason All-OVC team.
Five offensive starters earned preseason all-conference honors – senior offensive lineman Aaron Adams, senior running back Matt Denham, senior offensive lineman O.J. Enabosi, senior offensive lineman Patrick Ford and senior wide receiver Tyrone Goard. The EKU offense switched gears last year from a spread scheme to more of a pro style attack. The change brought significant results as Denham finished third nationally in rushing (130.8 yards per game).
Earlier in the month, Denham was one of just two OVC players named to the initial Walter Payton Award watch list, which is handed out annually to the FCS offensive player of the year.
Meanwhile, four defensive players were recognized on the preseason All-OVC team – senior defensive back Justin Bell, junior linebacker Anthony Brown, senior defensive back Brooklyn Fox and junior linebacker Ichiro Vance. The EKU defense ranked first in the OVC in scoring defense (23.3 ppg) and turnovers forced (31) one year ago.
Junior punter Jordan Berry was Eastern Kentucky’s final selection on the preseason team. He ranked second in the conference in punting in 2011 (41.0 yards per punt).
EKU will kick off the 2012 schedule on Sept. 1 at Purdue. The season opener will be televised by the Big Ten Network beginning at 3:30 p.m. The Colonels’ home opener is scheduled for Sept. 8 against Morehead State at 6 p.m.