As expected, Southeast tabbed for OVC basement

Monday, July 28, 2008

It certainly came as no surprise that the Southeast Missouri State football team was picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference this season at Tuesday's OVC media day in Nashville, Tenn.

Preseason polls generally are based on what a squad did the previous year and what type of talent it has returning as perceived by the rest of the league.

Some might say the good news is that the Redhawks welcome back 17 starters, but more people probably would say the bad news is that those regulars were part of a squad that went 3-8 overall and finished ninth-place at 1-6 in what was then a 10-team conference.

Now there are only nine OVC squads, and the Redhawks were tabbed for the basement.

Coach Tony Samuel, 7-15 overall and 3-12 in the OVC during his first two seasons at Southeast, emphasized at media day that year three in a rebuilding process often results in significant improvement.

Samuel said he is banking on the unity and bonding that his players have developed since he took over at Southeast, along with their dedication and familiarity with his system, to produce a much-improved record.

There are surprise teams every season -- a year ago Austin Peay was picked last in the OVC but tied for third thanks to numerous close wins -- and Southeast hopes to join that club.

Whether or not the Redhawks do will be determined in the next several months.

The OVC preseason poll has not exactly been on the money in recent seasons.

For five straight years, the team deemed the favorite has not captured the championship.

Whether Southeast is a factor or not, it should be an interesting OVC football season for at least two reasons.

First, the voters -- the league's head coaches and sports information directors -- expect a tight race among the three traditional powers.

Since 2001, Jacksonville State, Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky either have shared or won every OVC championship outright.

Jacksonville State, which tied for third last year, is the preseason favorite by a narrow margin, followed by defending champion Eastern Kentucky and 2007 runner-up Eastern Illinois. All three squads received six first-place votes.

Second, it will be intriguing to see how big an effect Jacksonville State quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has on the rest of the conference.

Perrilloux, who transferred from LSU, was the MVP of last year's Southeastern Conference championship game and was considered the nation's top high school quarterback as a senior. He was dismissed from LSU for disciplinary reasons in May.

If Perrilloux avoids injury, keeps his head on straight and stays out of trouble -- Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe said Tuesday that Perrilloux has been a model citizen since arriving on campus -- you've got to think he'll be one of the more electrifying players in OVC history.

A really nice touch at this year's OVC media day was that, for the first time, every team brought at least one player to speak with the media.

Senior quarterback Houston Lillard was selected to represent Southeast, and I thought he did a great job. He was personable and polite during every interview I saw him conduct.

Lillard seems to be a fine young man, and I've really come to like him as I've gotten to know him since he came to Southeast.

I also rate the accurate, heady Lillard as a solid quarterback who will certainly play a key role if the Redhawks are indeed going to surprise people and have a solid season.

After I wrote a story for Wednesday's paper about the Southeast men's basketball team adding a sixth recruit for the 2008-09 season, I had several people tell me they thought the Redhawks were out of scholarships.

Technically, that is accurate. In fact, by landing junior college forward LaMont Russell, Southeast now has signed six players to go along with nine returning players. The NCAA maximum for any season is 13 scholarships.

But I've heard it's almost certain that touted incoming freshman Martino Brock won't be cleared for eligibility by the NCAA, so that would put it down to 14 scholarships, which includes Johnny Hill, who was just cleared by the NCAA.

And who knows about Will Bogan, who is ineligible for the first semester. Whether he even comes back to Southeast remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that coaches always say they'll sign any good player they can, and then the scholarship situation will wind up taking care of itself. That looks like the way Southeast coach Scott Edgar is approaching things.

By the way, the university curiously has not officially announced the signing of Russell, who played the past two seasons at Hesston (Kan.) College.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Russell was a third-team National Junior College Athletic Association Division II All-American this year after averaging 17.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He shot 59.5 percent from the field.

One more Southeast men's basketball note:

After a caller on Thursday morning's Sports Huddle radio show said he heard Edgar had applied for an assistant's position at another university, Edgar telephoned me that night saying he wanted to set the record straight.

Edgar told me: "I have not applied or talked to anybody about any assistant coaching position. I've got good kids coming in, I've got good kids returning. I'm in the middle of July recruiting. I'm involved with very good kids."

That was a pretty rugged Southeast women's basketball schedule released by the university Friday.

For the first time in program history, the Redhawks will face teams from three of the major conferences (Florida State, ACC; Missouri, Big 12; and Providence, Big East) during the regular season.

The Redhawks also have interesting home games against Missouri Valley Conference squads Missouri State and Indiana State, along with Sun Belt Conference power Arkansas-Little Rock.

There also is a road date at Southern Mississippi, where Southeast coach John Ishee graduated from and used to be an assistant.

That is all in addition to the 18 conference games for the three-time defending OVC regular-season champion Redhawks.

The Southeast men's basketball schedule, which should be released soon, also is tough, as I detailed in a recent column.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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