BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The Ohio Valley Conference's media expects Jacksonville State to continue its recent dominance of the league in 2017.
The OVC released its Preseason Football Media Poll on Friday, and Jacksonville State is picked to win its fourth-straight Ohio Valley Conference title and Darius Jackson is predicted to repeat as OVC Defensive Player of the Year.
JSU received 13 of the 16 first-place votes given and finished with 141 points in the poll, 21 ahead of second-place UT Martin. It marks the fourth consecutive year in which the league's media has conducted the poll and the fourth time JSU was voted at the top of it.
After earning All-America honors from every FCS outlet in 2016 and earning his first OVC Defensive Player of the Year award, Jackson is picked to be the top defensive player in the league again. Friday's honor comes after already receiving multiple Preseason All-America honors over the summer.
The Gamecocks are picked as high as fourth in the preseason national polls that have already been released and will look to its defense to lead the way in 2017. Jackson leads a Gamecock defense that returns eight starters from a unit that ranked fourth nationally in total defense, fifth in rushing defense and seventh in scoring defense.
He was one of the nation's top pass rushers in 2016, leading the OVC and ranking 16th nationally in sacks per game with 0.83. He ended the season with 10 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, both tops in the league.
Through just three seasons in a Gamecock uniform, Jackson has already made his mark in the record books. He holds the school's career records for both sacks (20.5) and tackles for a loss (40.0) with one year of eligibility remaining.
The Gamecocks enter the 2017 season having won 24 consecutive league games, the longest active conference winning streak in Division I. Alabama is second on that list with 17-straight SEC wins, while N.C. Central's 15-game MEAC streak is second among FCS schools. JSU is closing in on the OVC record for consecutive conference wins of 26 set by Eastern Kentucky from 1992-95.
The Gamecocks are chasing more history in 2017. A conference title would give JSU its fourth-straight and tie EKU (1981-85) for the most consecutive outright titles in league history.
JSU will report to campus for fall camp on Wednesday and will begin practice for the 2017 season on Thursday. The Gamecocks open against Chattanooga on Aug. 26 in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff in Montgomery's Cramton Bowl. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Tickets to the opener and season tickets for JSU's five home games are available online at www.JSUGamecocksTickets.com.
The pollsters for the 2017 OVC Media Poll included: Autumn Allison, USA Today Network - Tennessee; Bob Belvin, ESPN Clarksville; Catlin Bogard, OVC Ball; Mike Bradd, Eastern Illinois Radio; Neal Bradley, Murray State Radio; Ben Craven, Cookeville Herald-Citizen; Bryan Edwards, Murray Ledger & Times; Mark Edwards, Anniston Star; Craig Haley, STATS; Edward Marlowe, Paducah Sun; Mike Organ, Tennessean; Mike Parris, Jacksonville State Radio; Brian Rives, Governors Sports Network; Justin Rust, Charleston Journal Gazette & Times-Courier; Greg Stotelmyer, Eastern Kentucky Sports Network; Van Stokes, ESPN Clarksville.
2017 Media OVC Preseason Football Predicted Order of Finish
1. Jacksonville State (13 first-place votes) - 141 points
2. UT Martin (1) - 120
3. Tennessee State (2) - 112
4. Eastern Illinois - 96
5. Tennessee Tech - 70
6. Murray State - 62
7. Eastern Kentucky - 61
8. Southeast Missouri - 33
9. Austin Peay - 25
2017 Media OVC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Smith (WR), Tennessee State
2017 Media OVC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Darius Jackson (DE), Jacksonville State