#15 Tennessee State FCS Football 2014 Preview

Tennessee State Tigers

Overall Rank: #15
#2 Ohio Valley

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Tennessee State looked like a potentially dangerous playoff team in 2013. But after beating Butler 31-0 in the first round, the Tigers ran into a familiar foe in Eastern Illinois. EIU had beaten Tennessee State earlier in the season 34-16 and once again the potent offense got the best of the Tigers defense. In Charleston, Tennessee State fell 51-10. Now it is time to get revenge.

2013 Record: 10-4, 6-2
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Rod Reed (26-21 at Tennessee State, 26-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Jones
Defensive Coordinator: Osita Alaribe, Justin Roberts

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Telvin Hooks, RB, 688 yards
Passing: Ronald Butler, QB, 1,405 yards
Receiving: Lavatiae Kelly, WR, 360 yards
Tackles: Nick Thrasher, LB, 110
Sacks: Anthony Bass, DL, 10.0
Interceptions: Daniel Fitzpatrick, DB, 8

Other Key Returnees: RB/KR Martine Stevenson, OL Robert Myers, DB Harold Watson, DB De’Ante Saunders, DL Samquan Evans, DE Detorrius Shipley

Key Losses: RB Tim Broughton, WR Ryan Mitchell, WR Devin Wilson, TE J.C. Leonard, OL Kadeem Edwards, OL Demetri Rhaney, DB David Van Dyke, DL Antonio Harper, LB Greg Barksdale, DB Andrew Taylor, DE Marquaveus Jackson, K Jamin Godfrey

Despite playing Eastern Illinois twice, this team ranked seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing a mere 18.1 points per game. The heart of the unit is back too. Defensive end Anthony Bass totaled a team high 10.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss. Coach Rod Reed will need to find a new end opposite of Bass to replace Antonio Harper, but Detorrius Shipley is more than ready to step into a starting role. With tackles Samquan Evans and Dinsdale Jackson, this is a great line that could be even better than last year if enough depth is found. At linebacker Nick Thrasher returns after totaling a team high 110 tackles. He is a smart leader in the middle of the field and filling in a couple new faces around him will not be a problem. The secondary is led by strong safety Daniel Fitzpatrick. He intercepted an FCS best eight passes in 2013. Fitzpatrick is not just a ballhawk when the opposing quarterback looks to the air, he also tallied 75 tackles. De’Ante Saunders, who intercepted four passes of his own, will man one of the cornerback spots. While there are a couple starters to replace in the secondary, Coach Reed does have experienced options ready to fill in.

Offensively, the Tigers want to establish a ground game. Last year with Tim Broughton and Telvin Hooks, that worked amazingly well. But now Broughton, who rushed for 1,146 yards and six touchdowns, has graduated and Hooks is injured. Darion Hall is next in line, but the hope is Hooks will not be out too long. Greg White, a transfer from Missouri, and Stephen Hopkins, a transfer from Michigan, are other options. A solid ground game has opened up the passing attack. Michael German was hurt for a while last season and suspended for a couple games as well. Ronald Butler did an admirable job replacing him, but this is still German’s team if he can stay on the field. German threw for 1,168 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions during his seven appearances last season. The ground game needs to be established, but that does not mean Tennessee State will not heave out some deep passes on occasion. And German can hit those passes and, more importantly, if he misses them, he misses deep.

The Bottom Line:
Tennessee State really failed to win the big games last year. They did beat a very good Jacksonville State team, but completely failed to show up for many of the other big games. After their first close loss to Eastern Illinois, the Tigers had a big bounce back contest at Eastern Kentucky. They lost that one 44-0. This team can win close games, but things seem to fall apart when they get down a couple touchdowns. That cannot happen again if this team wants to make a bigger playoff run in 2014.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.8 (57th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 184.2 (84, 5)
Total Offense: 348.0 (81, 6)
Scoring Offense: 27.2 (56, 4)
Rushing Defense: 121.9 (15, 1)
Pass Defense: 175.1 (11, 1)
Total Defense: 296.9 (6, 1)
Scoring Defense: 18.1 (7, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.50 (21, 2)
Sacks: 2.57 (21, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.14 (68, 7)


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