UT Martin Football enters 2014 at number 23 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 7-5 (5-3) Ohio Valley Conference
The Skyhawks squeeked into our top 25 after a fourth-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference last season, one of the toughest conferences in the FCS. Martin’s three conference-losses came against the three teams who finished higher than them in the OVC standings: Eastern Illinois, Tennessee State, and Jacksonville State.
-Jeremy Butler WR – Third team FCS All-American, 90 receptions, 1,203 yards, 10 TDs
-DJ McNeil RB – 239 carries, 1,092 yards, 7 TDs
-DJ Roberts DL – 53 tackles, 11 TFL, 4 sacks
-Ben Johnson LB – All-American, 102 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT
-Bobby Ellis LB – 71 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 FF
-Thad Williams DB – 80 tackles, 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 INTs
-J’vontez Blackmon S – 70 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 2 FFs, 1 FR, 2 blocked kicks
-Camaren Harris DB – 51 tackles, 1 TFL, 4 INTs, 12 pass defences
What to Watch For
Meet the New Receptionist – Third team FCS All-American Jeremy wide receiver Butler is gone. His 90 receptions, 1,092 yards, and 10 TDs last season were all more than double the second most productive receiver on the team – Chris Thompson. Butler was one of two UT Martin football players named to the All-American squad. Top rusher DJ McNeil is gone as well. Like Butler in the passing game, McNeil was the feature player in the rushing attack, toting the ball 239 times while no other Skyhawk got more than 87.
Many of 2013’s defensive stars are now gone. Top tackler Ben Johnson is now a Kansas City Chief, defensive end DJ Roberts is on the Ravens roster, and seven of the top ten Skyhawk tacklers graduated with them. They’ll be tough to replace. On the plus side, the defensive front seven is nearly intact.
On offense, the receiving corps is depleted but almost the entire line will be back. If given the choice between losing experienced members of the front seven and losing experienced skill position players, most coaches would pick the latter, especially with the quarterback returning, and Jarod Neal and Dylan Favre will both be back this season to compete for the starting quarterback job. Expect UT-M to struggle early on and figure it out as the season progresses. If they get it going in time, they could move up in the OVC standings – if not, watch out. Could be a long season.