WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

EKU picked to win OVC title

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – In a balanced vote that saw five of the eight eligible teams receive at least one first-place vote, two-time defending champion Eastern Kentucky University has been picked as the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference preseason football favorite in a vote of league head coaches and sports information directors.

The Colonels received 10 first-place votes to take home the preseason honor for the third time in the last five years. UT Martin, 2006 co-champions, was picked to finish second and received four first-place votes. Eastern Illinois was third with two first-place votes followed by Tennessee State and Murray State who each received one first-place vote.

Eastern Kentucky, who has won a record 20 OVC championships, was picked first in the preseason poll for the 17th time since 1979. The Colonels were 7-1 in the OVC a year ago (losing only at Tennessee State) and are a combined 15-1 in the league over the past two seasons. Second-year head coach Dean Hood has seven offensive and five defensive starters back from last year’s team that lost to eventual national champion Richmond in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.

Four returning starters were honored with preseason all-conference accolades, including senior offensive lineman Derek Hardman. The native of Spencer, W.Va., made the transition from right to left tackle one year ago and proceeded to earn first team all-conference honors. He has started 35 straight games in the trenches for the Colonels and was noted by NFL.com as one of the top Division I FCS offensive tackles eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Hardman will be a key component on an offensive line that will block for another preseason All-OVC pick, senior running back C.J. Walker. The native of Altamonte Springs, Fla., is the leading returning rusher in the OVC. Walker carried the ball 147 times for 706 yards (58.8 yards/game) and seven touchdowns a year ago, including 229 yards in the win over Murray State.

On defense, preseason All-OVC defensive end Chris Hall (Waynesville, N.C.) led Eastern with 13 tackles for loss and six sacks a season ago and will be a major force on the defensive line. In the pivotal regular season finale at UT Martin, Hall produced one of his best games of the year with 3.5 tackles for loss.

Eastern Kentucky will be in search of its 32nd consecutive winning season and third straight Ohio Valley Conference title this fall. Last year, the Colonels advanced to the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs for a record 19th time. EKU opens the 2009 season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Indiana.

2009 OVC Football Predicted Order of Finish

(selected by head coaches and sports information directors)

Order of Finish Points

1. Eastern Kentucky (10 first-place votes) 105

2. UT Martin (4) 92

3. Eastern Illinois (2) 89

4. Tennessee State (1) 74

5. Murray State (1) 61

6. Tennessee Tech 35

7. Austin Peay 33

Southeast Missouri 33

Note: Jacksonville State is not eligible for the OVC Championship (NCAA APR penalties) and therefore is not ranked.

(7 points awarded for a first-place vote, 6 for second, etc. - Coaches and SID’s could not vote for their own teams)

2009 Preseason All-OVC Team

(selected by head coaches and sports information directors)

Offense

Pos. Player Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown

RB C.J. Walker 5-9 194 Sr. Altamonte Springs, Fla.

OT Derek Hardman 6-6 300 Sr. Spencer, W.Va.

Defense

Pos. Player, School Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown

DL Chris Hall 6-3 246 Sr. Waynesville, N.C.


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