#33 Tennessee State FCS Football 2017 Preview


Tennessee State Tigers


Overall Rank: #33

#3 Ohio Valley

Tennessee State returns 18 starters to a team that went 7-4 last season. The Tigers did not get a shot at Jacksonville State last year and that meant they missed out on an opportunity to pick up a big win. That will not be a problem this season, but the tougher schedule leaves little margin for error when it comes to making the playoffs.
2016 Record: 7-4, 4-3
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Rod Reed (43-37 at Tennessee State, 43-37 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Parker
Defensive Coordinator: Garry Fisher
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Earl Harrison, RB, 475 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Patrick Smith, WR, 966 yards
Tackles: Chris Collins, LB, 87
Sacks: Ebenezer Ogundeko, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Terrell Bonds, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Steven Newbold, WR Chris Rowland, DL Jason Morrow, LB Dell Porter, S Laquarius Cook, K Lane Clark
Key Losses: RB Erick Evans, QB Ronald Butler, OL Jessamen Dunker, OL Kevin Kenton, DB Ezra Robinson, LB Antonio Justice, DB David Kamara
Quarterback Ronald Butler is gone, but the Tigers bring in Florida transfer Treon Harris to step into the starting role. Harris started 15 games as a freshman and sophomore with the Gators and threw for 2,695 yards and 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 570 yards. In the Ohio Valley Conference, Harris has the potential to put up some big numbers. He also has some great receivers to work with. Patrick Smith caught 61 passes for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and should have another big year. Steven Newbold added 41 receptions for 784 yards and six scores. With players like Chris Rowland and a bevy of very talented freshmen, this should be one of the best receiving corps in the FCS. The ground game will be led by sophomore back Earl Harrison. In eight games as a freshman, he rushed for 475 yards on 73 carries. That was an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He may not be able to keep up that pace with more carries, but Tennessee State will have a balanced and potent offense.
The defense allowed 30.1 points per game last season and will need to improve on that number. As many other teams in the OVC retool their offenses, Tennessee State should put up better numbers. It helps that Ebenezer Ogundeko is back after missing the end of last season with an injury. In eight games he recorded a team high 5.5 sacks and 11.0 tackles-for-loss. There is a need for somebody to step up and compliment Ogundeko on the other end though. Jason Morrow and a handful of newcomers will look to fill that role. Linebacker Chris Collins should again lead the team in tackling. He tallied 87 as a junior last year and added 9.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions. The secondary that was so strong last season will have to move on without Ezra Robinson and David Kamara. Terrell Bonds is ready to turn into the top cornerback after intercepting three passes last year, while safety Laquarius Cook was second on the team in tackles with 66.
The Bottom Line:
Tennessee State may not be able to compete with Jacksonville State, who has not lost a conference game since 2013, but they have the ability to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the toughest OVC games are away from home. The conference slate starts with a trip to Tennessee-Martin on September 23rd and ends with a trip to Jacksonville State on November 16th. Those two games could decide Tennessee State’s fate. Trips to Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech will certainly not be easy either.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 166.9 (47th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 248.2 (31, 2)
Total Offense: 415.1 (29, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.2 (26, 1)
Rushing Defense: 177.8 (75, 6)
Pass Defense: 221.0 (65, 5)
Total Defense: 398.8 (68, 5)
Scoring Defense: 30.1 (81, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.55 (23, 2)
Sacks: 1.91 (58, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.45 (31, 2)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#91 Ray Coggins
#97 James Green
#182 Moris Lugo
#201 J.C. Goins