The 2014 All-Ohio Valley Conference football teams were released this afternoon and four University of Tennessee at Martin players were voted as the league’s best by the head coaches and sports information directors.
Redshirt senior left tackle Charles Sweeton and senior linebacker Tony Bell were named to the All-OVC first team while senior running back Abou Toure claimed second team honors and redshirt junior linebacker Nick Dance was named to the OVC All-Newcomer squad. Jacksonville State claimed three of the four individual awards (Defensive Player of the Year Devaunte Sigler, Freshman of the Year Justin Lea, Coach of the Year John Grass) while Eastern Kentucky’s Dy’Shawn Mobley was voted as the Offensive Player of the Year.
A 6-5, 291-pound native of Lawrenceburg, Sweeton has helped anchor a Skyhawk offensive line that established itself as one of the best units in the league. Starting in all 46 games of his collegiate career, Sweeton helped block for a UT Martin team that averaged 30.2 points per game from 2011-14. He has graded out at 88 percent or better in every game in the last two years while conceding just one sack in that span, which led to an All-OVC second team nod in 2013 and Preseason All-American accolades in 2014.
Bell cemented his status as one of the best defensive players in program history this season when he broke the all-time record for sacks which had stood for 26 years. When the dust settled, the 6-1, 200-pound Memphis native had 5.5 more sacks than any other player who donned a UT Martin football uniform. He led the league and ranked in the top-10 in the country with 21 tackles-for-loss (ninth nationally) and three fumble recoveries (sixth nationally). Just yesterday, the Preseason All-American was named as one of 25 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, annually given to the most dominant defensive player in the FCS ranks.
Toure also rewrote UT Martin’s record book in 2014, as his 1,138 rushing yards ranked as the third-highest single-season total in program history. He racked up five 100-plus yard rushing performances – four of which came against OVC opposition. That included a dominant 234-yard, three-touchdown effort at Murray State on Nov. 1 that ranked as the most rushing yards by any OVC player in 2014 and the third-best performance in UT Martin history. The 6-2, 230-pound Framingham, Mass. native was responsible for three multi-touchdown performances, finding the endzone eight times overall.
A 5-11, 210-pound transfer out of Western Michigan University, Dance is the only linebacker on the 11-man OVC All-Newcomer squad. The Nashville native piled up 56 tackles, five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one sack and an interception in his debut season as a Skyhawk. He tallied back-to-back season-high nine-tackle performances at Jacksonville State and against Tennessee Tech. He even found the scoreboard with a 32-yard interception return at Murray State on Nov. 1. He also forced a big turnover in the season finale at Eastern Illinois, causing a fumble on the Skyhawks’ 1-yard line to ensure UT Martin kept the lead.
The Skyhawks concluded the 2014 season with five straight OVC wins for just the second time in program history. Overall, UT Martin posted a 6-6 record with a 5-3 mark in league play – which ranks third in the conference standings. The 2014 campaign was UT Martin’s eighth season with an overall record of .500 or better since it joined the Division-I ranks in 1992. Six of the aforementioned eight seasons have occurred in head coach Jason Simpson’s nine-year tenure.