Southeast Missouri State football team is picked to finish seventh in OVC

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Southeast Missouri State senior lineback Blake Peiffer was named the OVC’s preseason defensive player of the year by the league’s coaches and sports information directors Monday. (Southeast Missourian file)

The Southeast Missouri State football team didn't receive a whole lot of love from the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference during Monday's OVC media day in Nashville, Tenn.

But senior linebacker Blake Peiffer did.

Peiffer was named the OVC's preseason defensive player of the year in voting by the league's coaches and sports information directors.

It's just the latest in a long list of honors for Peiffer, who recently was named to the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision preseason All-America first team and is on the preseason watch list for the nation's top defensive player. He landed a spot on four All-America squads in 2011 after leading the OVC in tackles with a school-record 151.

The Jackson High School graduate ranked third in the nation with an average of 13.7 tackles per game and was the Redhawks' only first-team all-OVC honoree a year ago.

Peiffer recorded double-digit tackles in 10 of Southeast's 11 games, including a career-high 19 against Jacksonville State. He also led the Redhawks with 7.5 tackles for loss.

"It's a great honor for Blake. He's had a great career so far," said Southeast coach Tony Samuel, entering his seventh season with the Redhawks. "But I know how Blake's mindset is. He doesn't pay a lot of attention to those things. He's all about the team. He's stepping up and being quite the leader."

Peiffer was Southeast's lone representative on the preseason all-OVC team.

Southeast, two years removed from winning the program's first OVC title and earning the program's first playoff berth on any level, was voted seventh in the nine-team preseason poll. It's the same spot in the standings the Redhawks finished last season.

Eastern Kentucky was tabbed the preseason favorite. Jacksonville State and Murray State rounded out the top three.

"I've never really paid much attention to those kinds of things. It's so hard to predict," Samuel said. "This league is always so close. I think it's going to be another close, close push. There's really no way you can predict what's going to happen."

Samuel knows that first-hand. His 2010 Redhawks were picked to finish toward the bottom of the OVC, like his previous four Southeast squads, but instead turned in their record-setting, history-making season.

That led to Southeast being tabbed fourth in the 2011 preseason poll. But the Redhawks, after losing 20 key seniors, went just 3-8 and 2-6 in the OVC to tie for seventh.

This year's Redhawks are much more experienced, returning nine offensive starters, seven defensive starters and both specialists.

Samuel hopes that helps Southeast win more close games. The Redhawks thrived in down-to-the-wire affairs in 2010, but not last year. Four of their six OVC losses were by eight points or less, including consecutive one-point defeats to end the season.

"So many close games, not just us but throughout the conference," Samuel said.

Southeast's most notable graduation loss was record-setting quarterback Matt Scheible, but Samuel believes the Redhawks have a strong replacement in Ohio University transfer Kyle Snyder, who went through spring practice.

"I like Kyle. He's got a lot of talent," Samuel said. "He can run and he throws the ball well. He picked up the offense [in the spring]. He's very capable."

Samuel said he has a good feeling about the season because a large group of players remained in Cape Girardeau over the summer for voluntary workouts that only involved the strength coaching staff.

"We've had a real good group stick around, a lot like two years ago and more than last year. That's always important," Samuel said. "I like this bunch. Any time they put in the extra work in the summer, when the coaches aren't around, that's a positive."

Southeast players report for fall camp Aug. 1, with the first practice scheduled for Aug. 3. The Redhawks open the season Aug. 30 at Central Michigan.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Samuel said.

EKU favored

Preseason OVC favorite Eastern Kentucky received 12 of 18 first-place votes after tying for the title last year along with Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech. All three squads compiled 6-2 conference records.

The Colonels, who return 17 starters and garnered 124 points, won their 21st league championship in 2011. That's the most conference titles by one team in FCS history.

Jacksonville State nabbed the remaining six first-place votes and was second with 117 points.

Murray State, which finished just one game out of first place last season, was picked third with 85 points. Tennessee Tech, which joined Eastern Kentucky in the FCS playoffs a year ago, was tabbed fourth with 83 points.

Tennessee State (69 points), Tennessee-Martin (67), Southeast (44), Eastern Illinois (42) and Austin Peay (17) rounded out the poll.

Eastern Kentucky led the way by a wide margin with 10 all-OVC preseason picks. Murray State, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State each had three selections.

Murray State senior All-American quarterback Casey Brockman is the league's preseason offensive player of the year.

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