#19 UT Martin FCS Football 2022 Preview

UT Martin Skyhawks
Overall Rank: #19
#1 Ohio Valley
 UT Martin Logo
UT Martin saw a lot of firsts in 2021. Their 32-31 victory over Missouri State in the first round was their first ever playoff victory. Their 5-1 mark in Ohio Valley play was their first ever outright OVC title. The last time they came close to reaching those marks was back in 2006 when they last went to the playoffs and earned a share of the OVC title. That was Coach Jason Simpson’s first year leading the program. Sixteen years later and the Skyhawks have turned a corner and are now looking to become regulars in the postseason.
2021 Record: 10-3, 5-1
2021 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Jason Simpson (100-80 at UT Martin, 100-80 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Gardner
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Polizzi
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zak Wallace, RB, 807 yards
Passing: Dresser Winn, QB, 438 yards
Receiving: Colton Dowell, WR, 398 yards
Tackles: Deven Sims, S, 93
Sacks: Eyabi Anoma, LB, 6.0
Interceptions: Oshae Baker, S, 4; John Ford II, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Jordan Castleberry, OL Matthan Hatchie, S Carson Evans, LB Robert Hicks
Key Losses: QB Keon Howard, RB Peyton Logan, WR Donnell Williams, TE Rodney Williams II, WR Zoe Roberts, OL Michael Shanahan, LB D’Carrious Stephens, S Takeem Young, DB JaQuez Akins, DT Austin Pickett, DB Jay Woods
The Tennessee-Martin has some rebuilding to do. Quarterback Keon Howard and top rusher Peyton Logan are both gone. Coach Jason Simpson has some options though. He brought in Cornelious Brown from Georgia State to help fill the hole under center. Back in 2020, Brown threw for 2,278 yards and 17 touchdowns with ten interceptions. He lost his starting job in 2021 though after struggling early in the campaign. At running back, Zak Wallace powered his way into the end zone 15 times last season and tallied 807 yards on the ground. Jordan Castleberry is a young back who has potential to provide a quality one-two punch with Wallace.  
The defense returns just four starters, but there are some solid pieces to build around. Eyabi Anoma led the Skyhawks with 6.0 sacks. At linebacker, John Ford II has turned into a great leader and playmaker. He recorded 88 tackles and four interceptions. Deven Sims was the team’s leading tackler though, just edging Ford with 93 tackles. The safety will again team up with Oshae Baker, who added 68 tackles, four interceptions and nine pass break-ups. UT Martin has enough talent and experience to fill in around the four returning starters, but it may take a little time for all those new pieces to come together.
The Bottom Line:
In week two of the season, the Skyhawks will take a familiar trip to Missouri State, the team they beat in the first round of the playoffs last season. Other non-conference games sprinkled throughout the season include games against Boise State, Tennessee and Kennesaw State. That is a tough group of games. But UT Martin’s road to the playoffs will come with an OVC title and this is the most talented team in the conference. An October 8th trip to Murray State should be the most difficult conference game.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 207.6 (15th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 178.2 (89, 4)
Total Offense: 385.8 (40, 2)
Scoring Offense: 30.0 (35, 2)
Rushing Defense: 148.5 (55, 3)
Pass Defense: 211.2 (49, 5)
Total Defense: 359.7 (49, 4)
Scoring Defense: 25.0 (43, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (47, 3)
Sacks: 1.62 (92, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (14, 1)