Nine UT Martin football players have been named to the 2019 Phil Steele All OVC teams as announced by Phil Steele Publications while quarterback John Bachus III was named OVC Freshman of the Year.
UT Martin was represented on the first team by sophomore tight end Colton Dowell, senior linebacker TJ Jefferson and senior punt returner Terry Williams. Junior running back Peyton Logan, junior offensive lineman Aries Davis, senior defensive lineman Austin Pickett, graduate linebacker Cecil Cherry, junior safety JaQuez Akins and Williams (all-purpose) were named to the second team. Rounding out the third team honors was senior defensive back DaVonte Maura and Logan (all-purpose).
Bachus, a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award given to the FCS National Freshman of the Year, took over a team that was 2-9 overall (2-6 OVC) last year and started all 12 games in 2019 in helping UT Martin improve to 7-5 overall and 6-2 in the OVC (third place). Bachus ranked 39th nationally and first among freshmen in passing yards (2,549), 24th nationally (and fourth among freshmen) in passing yards per completion (13.56), 48th nationally (and fourth among freshmen) in passing touchdowns (18) and 57th nationally (and fifth among freshmen) in total offense (218.1 yards/game). A Pulaski, Tenn. native, the redshirt freshman completed 188-of-332 passes (56.6%) for 18 touchdowns while also rushing for 93 net yards and three additional scores. Bachus, who was named OVC Newcomer of the Week four times and OVC Offensive Player of the Week twice during the season, completed 16-of-22 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns in the team’s win over Tennessee Tech on October 12.
Hailing from Lebanon, Tenn., Dowell posted arguably the biggest breakout season by a Skyhawk in several seasons. The pass-catching tight end ranked second on the team with 38 receptions for 765 yards and four touchdowns. The playmaker averaged 20.1 yards per reception while tallying 63.8 receiving yards per game. He tallied four 100-yard receiving contests against Tennessee Tech, Southeast Missouri, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay. Arguably his best game came against Tennessee Tech where he notched five receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns – including a 73-yard score. As a whole, Dowell tallied 12 plays of 25 yards or more this season.
Known as the team’s ultimate leader, the former walk-on turned captain and starter, Jefferson played and started in all 12 games at two different linebacker positions. He led the team and ranked fifth in the league with 94 tackles on the season while recording 9.5 tackles for loss totaling 40 yards. His 4.5 sacks ranked tied for first on the team and eighth in the OVC. The Nashville, Tenn., native tallied a team-best 11 quarterback hurries while forcing and recovering a fumble – including a 44-yard return against Eastern Kentucky for a touchdown. Overall, he posted four games with 12 tackles against Northwestern State, Southern Illinois, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State while tallying a career-high 2.5 sacks at Tennessee Tech.
Hailed as one of the nation’s most exciting playmakers, Williams left fans wanting more throughout the season every time he touched the ball. While he led the team with 58 receptions while tallying 581 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver, it was his ability on special teams that takes his game to another level. A native of Southaven, Miss., he tallied 22 punt returns for 397 yards, averaging 18.0 yards per return while ranking as the only player in the country (FCS or FBS) to return multiple punt returns for touchdowns. His 18.0 yards per punt return average ranked second nationally while also ranking 42nd nationally in kick returns (22.4 yards/return). He tallied punt return touchdowns against Northwestern State (55 yards) and Jacksonville State (65 yards) while also busting a season-long 71-yard return at Eastern Kentucky. As a whole, Williams tallied 24 plays of 25 yards or more this season.
Logan was another preseason selection that lived up to the hype this season before missing the final three games of the season due to injury. A native of Horn Lake, Miss., Logan was in the midst of a breakout season in which he tallied 109 carries for 784 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 87.1 yards per game while tallying four 100-yard rushing performance against Northwestern State (149), Eastern Kentucky (112), Tennessee Tech (107) and Eastern Illinois (109). He also tallied 11 receptions for 119 yards while returning five kickoffs for 108 yards, averaging 21.6 yards per kick return. Despite missing the final three games of the season, his 784 rushing yards still ranked second in the OVC. He totaled 14 plays of 25 yards or more, including three plays of more than 50 yards.
Hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Davis played and started in all 12 games this season for the Skyhawks at right guard. After redshirting last season following an injury, he returned to action in a big way to lead the Skyhawk offensive line. Anchoring an offensive line which blocked for All-OVC honorees Bachus and Logan, he graded at 86 percent or higher per game while tallying 107 knock downs.
A preseason honoree, Pickett picked up where he left off last season by anchoring a potent defensive front three. While the Skyhawk defense led the OVC in sacks, the Lake Minneola, Fla. native shared a heavy load in that attack, tallying 38 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the season. His 4.5 sacks tied for the team lead while accumulating 34 yards of loss. While he wasn’t bringing the opposing quarterback down, he brought the pressure with seven quarterback hurries while tallying one forced fumble at Eastern Kentucky which was returned for a touchdown. Arguably his best contest came at Tennessee Tech where he recorded a career-best eight tackles.
Cherry burst onto the scene for the Skyhawks as a graduate transfer. In his lone season, he played in all 12 games while earning three starts at linebacker. He tallied 83 total tackles to rank amongst league leaders while recording 9.0 tackles for loss – including 4.0 sacks. He was tabbed STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week along earning OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors after tallying a season-high 14 tackles along with five quarterback hurries against nationally ranked Jacksonville State.
Hot off winning back-to-back national championships at the JUCO level, Akins wasted little time making his presence known in the Division I ranks. A native of Starkville, Miss., Akins ranked second on the team and sixth in the OVC with 92 tackles. Widely known for his hard-hitting body tackles against the nation’s elite, he tallied 5.5 tackles for loss while forcing two fumbles. He also recovered a pair of fumbles against Murray State and Austin Peay while notching an interception in the endzone against Eastern Illinois. He eclipsed double figures in the tackle column in three games against Florida, Southern Illinois and Tennessee State with a career-high 12 stops against the Salukis.
A Baltimore, Md. native, Maura played and started in all 23 games of his Skyhawk career at cornerback. Maura ranked fifth on the team with 73 total tackles while tallying 3.0 tackles for loss. He ranked third in the league with 11 pass breakups – which sits sixth in program history – while also recording an interception. For his career, he ranks second in UT Martin history with 20 pass breakups. His best game came against nationally ranked Florida in which he tallied 10 tackles while notching 1.5 tackles for loss at Kentucky.