#39 Tennessee State 2018 FCS Football Preview

Tennessee State Tigers
Overall Rank: #39
#4 Ohio Valley
 Tennessee State Logo
Tennessee State got off to a great start in 2017, beating Sun Belt member Georgia State 17-10. They took care of business against Jackson State and Florida A&M too. But OVC play was a different story. The Tigers went just 2-5 in conference play and lost a couple close games to Eastern Illinois, Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech. If they can win those close games, this is a team that has a shot at making the playoffs.
2017 Record: 6-5, 2-5
2017 Postseason: None
Coach: Rod Reed (49-42 at Tennessee State, 49-42 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Parker
Defensive Coordinator: Gary Fisher
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Sabree Curtis, RB, 439 yards
Passing: Michael Hughes, QB, 1,304 yards
Receiving: Steven Newbold, WR, 627 yards
Tackles: LaQuarius Cook, S, 61
Sacks: Blair Edwards, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: LaQuarius Cook, S, 2; Dajour Nesbeth, CB, 2; Vincent Sellers, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Seth Rowland, WR Treon Harris
Key Losses: WR Patrick Smith, LB Chris Collins, DL Ebenezer Ogundeko, DL Jason Morrow, DB Terrell Bonds, LB Justin North
Michael Hughes started the last six games of the season at quarterback and went 3-3 in those contests. He proved to be a very efficient and effective passer, throwing for 1,304 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions. With some experience under his belt, Hughes should emerge as one of the better quarterbacks in the OVC. However, without wide receiver Patrick Smith on the team, there are some concerns in the passing game. Steven Newbold will be the new top target after catching 34 passes for 627 yards and four touchdowns, but somebody needs to step up and be a consistent secondary target. Former quarterback Treon Harris, who started the first six games in 2017, is an option now too. The ground game returns top rushers Sabree Curtis and Seth Rowland. Those two combined to rush for 860 yards in 2017.
With Ebenezer Ogundeko, Jason Morrow, Chris Collins and Justin North all gone, Tennessee State has some rebuilding to do in the front seven. Blair Edwards will be the leader of the new look linebackers after tallying 59 tackles and 2.0 sacks last season. The strength of this team was in the secondary and will be again. The Tigers ranked second in the FCS in pass defense, allowing just 146.5 yards per game through the air. With LaQuarius Cook, Dajour Nesbeth and Vincent Sellers leading the way, the secondary will again be among the best in the FCS. And if somebody can get a consistent pass rush going from the front line, this could be the best pass defense in the FCS.
The Bottom Line:
The first two conference games could be the biggest games of the season for Tennessee State. On September 22nd the Tigers head to Charleston, Illinois to face off against Eastern Illinois. After a trip to Vanderbilt on September 29th, Tennessee State travels again to Austin Peay. Those are the types of games against fellow playoff hopefuls that this team must find a way to win if they are going to make the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 140.0 (69th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 186.1 (81, 4)
Total Offense: 326.1 (83, 3)
Scoring Offense: 24.3 (60, 3)
Rushing Defense: 131.9 (36, 4)
Pass Defense: 146.5 (2, 1)
Total Defense: 278.5 (7, 3)
Scoring Defense: 19.6 (23, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.27 (41, 2)
Sacks: 1.73 (80, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.73 (97, 7)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#59 Cedric Banks
#151 Noah Shattuck
#158 Anthony Williams
#242 Raymond Horton