EIU Selected as Pre-Season Favorite to Win OVC

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Published on July 22 2013 4:12 pm
Last Updated on July 22 2013 4:12 pm
Written by Millie Lange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Eastern Illinois was selected as the preseason favorite to win the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference football title while senior wide receiver Erik Lora was named the OVC Offensive Preseason Player of the Year as the league held its annual football media day in Nashville on Monday.

The Panthers won the 2012 title going from worst to first finishing with a 6-1 OVC record.  EIU advanced to its 14th FCS playoff appearance as the Panthers won their sixth OVC title since 2000.

EIU received 12 of 18 first place votes finishing with 122 total points.  Eastern Kentucky had four first place votes to stand second in the preseason rankings followed by Tennessee State in third with a pair of first place votes.  Jacksonville State and UT Martin were ranked fourth and fifth.  Murray State and Tennessee Tech were tied for sixth followed by Southeast Missouri in eighth and Austin Peay in ninth.

Lora was named the OVC Offensive Player of the Year after winning the award in 2012.  Last year he set the FCS single season record with 136 catches while his 1,664 receiving yards ranked fifth on the all-time FCS single season list.  Lora was a consensus first team All-American and finished fourth in voting for the Walter Payton Award.  This preseason Lora has been named to every All-American list and was named the FCS Offensive Preseason Player of the Year by Lindy’s.  Lora recently was named to the 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List.

Joining Lora on the preseason All-OVC team were quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, guard Collin Seibert, defensive lineman Pat Wertz, safety Nick Beard and kicker Cameron Berra.

Garoppolo was a second team All-OVC selection at quarterback last season setting the OVC single season record for passing yards with 3,823 yards.  Garoppolo placed 10th in voting for the 2012 Walter Payton Award and has been named a candidate for the award again in 2013.  He was named a second team preseason All-American by Phil Steele.com.

Last season Eastern Illinois was the only FCS school with two finalists on the Walter Payton Award list with Lora and Garoppolo both finishing in the top ten, the first time that a school has had two players finish that high in award history.

Seibert was a first team All-OVC selection at guard last season helping to anchor an offensive line that blocked for both a 1,000 yard rusher and 3,800 yard passer.  A junior, Seibert helped block for an offensive unit that ranked in the top ten in the NCAA in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense.

Beard was a first team All-OVC selection at safety last season ranking second on the team in tackles with 85 stops.  He was the EIU leader in solo tackles with 61 and pass break-ups with nine.

Wertz was a second team All-OVC selection last year at defensive line.  Wertz was granted a sixth year by the NCAA and returns as the lone starter in the front four.  He made 53 tackles last year with 8.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks.

Berra was a first team All-OVC selection last season at kicker and was named a first team preseason All-American by Phil Steele.com.  Berra was 12-of-13 on field goals last season including 5-of-5 from beyond 40 yards.  Berra made 48 of 52 point after attempts.

EIU opens the regular season August 31 at San Diego State.  The Panthers home opener is Sept. 14 against Illinois State in the Mid-America Classic.  The Ohio Valley Conference opener for the Panthers is Sept. 28 against Eastern Kentucky at O’Brien Field.  Season tickets are now on sale by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com

EIU will have its on-campus football media day Saturday, August 3 at 1 p.m. at O'Brien Field.  That will be followed by a free youth clinic at 1:30 p.m.