The Tennessee State University football Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the Preseason Poll announced by the Ohio Valley Conference to begin Media Day on Monday, July 22. The Tigers finished in a tie with Murray State in the poll, which was voted on by the coaches and the sports information directors from each conference program. Former TSU linebacker Christion Abercrombie was in attendance at Media Day and was the recipient of the inaugural OVC Courage Award.
TSU is coming off a 4-5 season, 3-4 in conference play. TSU had two games cancelled due to weather a year ago and lost several key players to injury along the way, finishing 4-5 overall. This season head coach Rod Reed returns 51 letter winners including eight offensive and seven defensive starters.
The Big Blue placed four players on the Preseason All-OVC team. Senior wide receiver and return specialist Chris Rowland was honored along with senior center Thomas Burton, senior right guard Raekwon Allen and senior cornerback Dajour Nesbeth.
Rowland finished the season with 963 all-purpose yards in eight games played. The senior missed one game due to injury, but was still able to haul in 57 passes for 727 yards and five touchdowns. On special teams, Rowland ranked sixth in the nation by averaging 13.0 yards on 14 punt returns. Rowland was named to the All-OVC Second Team as both a receiver and as a punt returner. The Nolensville, Tenn. native also earned HERO Sports All-American honors for his returning abilities.
Burton will return for his final season after suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game of the season. The senior has started 28 games during his time at TSU and is considered one of the top centers in the conference.
Allen started all nine games at right guard and was an All-OVC Second Team selection. The senior was one of only two offensive linemen to start in every game a season ago. Allen helped the offense to a 105 yard per game increase in total yardage from the previous season, averaging 431.3 yards in 2018. The unit ranked 20th in the country in passing and 31st in total offense.
This marks the second consecutive year that Nesbeth has been named to the ALL-OVC Preseason Team. The senior backed up the prediction by leading the Tigers with 58 tackles, seven pass breakups and four interceptions. Nesbeth validated the early season honor by earning a spot on the All-OVC First Team.
The Tigers open camp on Thursday, August 1, in preparation for the season opener on August 31 at 6 pm in Nissan Stadium against Mississippi Valley in the John Merritt Classic. After that the Tigers are on the road to play at Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro at 6pm on September 7 and against Jackson State in Memphis at 6pm on September 14 in the Liberty Bowl for the Southern Heritage Classic, before hosting Arkansas at Pine Bluff in Hale Stadium on September. 21.