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Skyhawks picked in lower half of league rankings

Skyhawks picked in lower half of league rankings
After a wild 2011 football season where anyone of six teams could have claimed the Ohio Valley Conference championship with Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State ultimately sharing claim to the title, Eastern Kentucky has been picked to win the 2012 crown by league head football coaches and sports information directors.
UT Martin, under the direction of seventh-year head coach Jason Simpson, has been picked sixth in the preseason OVC poll, released this morning at the annual football media day in Nashville.
UTM senior wide receiver Quentin Sims and senior placer kicker Cody Sandlin were named to the preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference football team.
Eastern Kentucky totaled 124 points to top the poll. The only other school to receive first-place votes was Jacksonville State, who picked up the remaining six votes and had 117 total points.
Murray State was picked third (85 points) and was followed closely by Tennessee Tech in fourth (83). The poll was rounded out by Tennessee State (69), UT Martin (67), Southeast Missouri (44), Eastern Illinois (42) and Austin Peay (17).
UT Martin dropped the final three games of last season, all of which were on the road, to finish 5-6 overall and 4-4 in Conference play (tied for fifth place). Simpson has never had a losing season in OVC play.
This season’s Skyhawk squad returns seven offensive and eight defensive starters. The offense is led by senior signal caller Derek Carr, who threw for 2,482 yards and 25 touchdowns last season for the high-octane Skyhawk offense.
The team also returns the running back tandem of Jason McNair and Tevin Barksdale who combined for 1,467 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Returners on the defensive side of the ball for UTM include linebacker Ben Johnson, who had a team-best 96 tackles and space-eater Montori Hughes, who had 30 tackles and 6.5 tackles-for-loss a year ago after transferring from the University of Tennessee.
Sims, from Cincinnati, Ohio, had 54 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season. He had a season-best 11 receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee State.
Sims is ranked 46th in the nation with 4.9 receptions per game.
Sandlin, from Good-lettsville, made 14-of-17 field goals, including a school-record tying 53-yarder. He also made 45-of-48 PATs.
Sandlin was ranked 27th national in scoring with 87 points. He was first in OVC in kick scoring and third overall.
Murray State senior quarterback Casey Brockman was named 2012 OVC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Southeast Missouri State senior linebacker Blake Peiffer was tabbed the top defensive player in a vote of head football coaches and sports information directors.
Returning players who were first-team All-OVC selections last season (13 in total) were automatic selections to the preseason team this year.
The squad also included nine players who were second-team selections in 2011.
Of the 26 total selections, 18 were seniors, six were juniors and two were sophomores. Published in The Messenger 7.24.12

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