CSJ OVC Conference Football Preview: Fall 2021

The term “Second Season” has long referenced the postseason as worthy teams kept alive their hopes of a national championship.

But, if anything has been learned over the past 18 months, it’s that nothing is normal anymore and that new meanings are being given to familiar phrases.

“What a time this is to be a football fan,” Eastern Illinois coach Adam Cushing said. “We have a second season … two football seasons in one calendar year.”

Cushing made his joyful remark that would make Ernie Banks proud at the annual Ohio Valley Conference Media Day held July 19 via virtual links at each of the seven conference members’ home campus.

Each of the league’s head coaches took part in the event. Commissioner Beth DeBauche and Matt Young, the OVC officials’ coordinator, also took part in the event.

The league’s preseason poll and preseason all-conference team was also announced that day.

CSJ Predicted Order of Finish

Click the link for our in-detail preview of each OVC team!

1. Austin Peay
2. Murray State
4. UT Martin
5. Tennessee Tech
6. Tennessee State
7. Eastern Illinois


Established in 1948 it didn’t take long for the Ohio Valley Conference to establish itself as one of the premier athletic conferences in the nation for smaller colleges. 

Murray State, one of the six founding members of the league, is the only football-playing school in the league that has remained constant. 

Eastern Kentucky, which also helped form the league more than 70 years ago, opted out of a fall season in 2020 and did not play a spring schedule after announcing it was leaving the OVC to join the Atlantic Sun Conference. Jacksonville State, which joined the OVC in 2003, has also become a member of the ASUN this year.

That leaves OVC leaders looking at possible replacements and DeBauche spoke about that at the media day.

“We are looking at a growth in membership,” said the commissioner, who also added that some schools have reached out about possibly joining the OVC. She declined to identify any of those schools which have reached out.

“We will be very thoughtful in our growth,” she said. “The OVC has a mission and a vision and we will only add members that make sense.”

The strength of the league does not seem to be lost on the coaches leading the way.

“We have a very competitive league with great coaches and great players,” Austin Peay coach Scotty Walden said.


Young, the officials’ coordinator for the OVC, addressed several rule changes for the 2021 season that fans may or may not notice. He also noted that rule changes are made by coaches and not officials.

“Coaches make the rules, officials enforce the rules,” Young said.

No major rule changes have been implemented for the upcoming season, but fans will certainly notice a change in the overtime procedures.

If a game remains tied after the first overtime session, each team will be required to attempt a two-point conversion in the second extra session. If still tied, the ball will be placed at the three-yard line and teams will alternate two-point   

attempts until a winner is determined.

Young said the change was made to reduce the number of plays that could result in injuries to players that sometimes when games would go to six or seven overtimes, like seems to often happen in leagues such as the Southeastern Conference.

Young also said the feigning or faking of injuries will also be addressed this season.

He said that officials will not be making determinations as to whether a player is faking an injury in an attempt to get an unfair advantage, but he did say that if a school believes an opponent does engage in such behavior, they will have possible remedies. 

School will be allowed to send videos and other documentation to the NCAA for review. If it is determined a violation occurred penalties will be administered by conference offices against the offending school.

Coaches will also be quickly penalized for leaving the restricted area to protest a call made by an official this season, according to Young. Such outbursts will draw an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the offending coach.

There will be four points of emphasis this season for college football officials. Those will include offensive holding, pass interference, personal fouls and targeting.

Taunting could also see a crackdown by officials. 

“There will be zero tolerance for taunting,” Young said, “and there will be no warning.”

Gone will be the days of choreographed celebratory dances by players and no more standing over a player or handing the ball to an opponent.

“There will be an allowance made for youthful exuberance,” Young said. 


Each of the league’s head coaches and the communications directors at each school took part in the poll.

1 – Murray State (7) 64
2 – Austin Peay (4) 60
      SE Missouri (3) 60
4 – UT Martin 38
5 – Tennessee State 32
6 – Tennessee Tech 28
7 – Eastern Illinois 12


Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Draylen Ellis (QB), Austin Peay
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Kordell Jackson (DB), Austin Peay

Preseason All-OVC Offense

QB: Draylen Ellis, 6-1, 178, So., Austin Peay
QB: Preston Rice, 6-2, 227, Sr., Murray State
FB: Benjamin Johnson, 6-2, 230, RS-Jr., Tennessee State
RB: Geno Hess, 5-8, 209, Sr. SE Missouri
RB: Devon Starling, 6-0, 190, RS-Fr., Tennessee State
TE: Rodney Williams II, 6-4, 235, Grad., UT Martin
WR: Jacob Bell, 6-3, 177, Jr., Murray State 
WR: LaMartez Brooks, 6-1, 192, Sr., Murray State
WR: Colton Dowell, 6-3, 215, RS-Jr., UT Martin
WR: Zack Smith, 5-9, 200, Grad., SE Missouri
WR: Cam Wyche, 6-0, 190, RS-Jr., Tennessee State
OL: Cam Durley, 6-6, 315, RS-Sr., Tennessee State
OL: Matthan Hatchie, 6-2, 310, UT Martin
OL: Seth Johnson, 6-5, 308, Sr., Austin Peay
OL: Colby McKee, 6-5, 247, Sr, Austin Peay
OL: Levi Nesler, 6-1, 318, Sr., Murray StateOL: Shyron Rodgers, 6-3, 290, Sr., SE Missouri
OL: Jaden Rosenthal, 6-2, 295, Sr., SE Missouri
OL: Jacob Vance, 6-4, 328, RS-Sr., Murray State
OL: Bucky Williams, 6-3, 290, Jr., Austin Peay

Preseason All-OVC Defense

DE: Ethan Edmondson, 6-3, 246, Sr., Murray State
DE: Chris Tucker, 6-2, 270, Grad., Tennessee Tech
DT: Bryson Donnell, 6-1, 293, Sr., SE Missouri
DT: Davoan Hawkins, 6-3, 286, RS-So., Tennessee State
ILB: Jason Johnson, 6-2, 200, So., Eastern Illinois
ILB: Jack McDonald, 6-0, 206, Sr., Austin Peay
ILB: Eric Samuta, 5-10, 215, Sr., Murray State
OLB: Omardrick Douglas, 6-3, 234, Grad., SE Missouri
OLB: James Green, 6-1, 220, RS-Jr., Tennessee State
OLB: Scotty Humpich, 6-4, 252, Sr., Murray State
CB: Marcis Floyd, 5-10, 215, Sr., Murray State
CB: Jay Woods, 5-9, 185, Grad., UT Martin
S: Josh Green, 6-0, 180, RS-So., Tennessee State
S: Josh Reliford, 5-10, 200, RS-Jr., Tennessee Tech
S: Deven Sims, 6-2, 200, RS-Jr., UT Martin
NB: Kordell Jackson, 5-9, 188, RS-Sr., Austin Peay

Preseason All-OVC Specialist

K: Antonio Zita, 5-9, 170, Jr., Tennessee State
P: Zach Haynes, 6-1, 170, Jr., SE Missouri
KR: Matt Judd, 6-2, 185, RS-Fr., Eastern Illinois
PR: Malik Honeycutt, 5-10, 177, RS-Sr., Murray State