Monday, August 14, 2017

COMPLETE SCHEDULE/DATES OF EVERY HBCU HOMECOMING FOOTBALL GAME IN 2017

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Photo by Philip McCollum
Late October will be a busy and festive one in the historically black colleges and university world as a slew of big HBCU homecoming games are scheduled Oct. 21 and 28.

But you won’t have to wait until then to attend an HBCU homecoming football game – the first one this season will be held Sept. 23 when Lincoln (Mo.) hosts conference foe Truman State.   The final homecoming game of the season takes place in Montgomery, Ala., when Alabama State hosts Cheyney (Pa.) in the 94th annual Turkey Day Classic on Nov. 23.

Here is the full schedule of HBCU homecoming football games for 2017:


SEPTEMBER


23rd
LINCOLN (Mo.) vs. Truman State

30TH
ALABAMA A&M vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
WEST VIRGINIA STATE vs. Glenville State

OCTOBER

7th
CENTRAL STATE vs. Miles
LANE vs. Langston
NORTH CAROLINA A&T vs. Delaware State
SAVANNAH STATE vs. Hampton
SOUTHERN vs. Alabama A&M
TEXAS COLLEGE vs. Texas Wesleyan

14TH
ALBANY STATE vs. Morehouse
ALCORN STATE vs. Prairie View A&M
ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF vs. Central State
DELAWARE STATE vs. Howard
ELIZABETH CITH STATE vs. Lincoln (Pa)
FLORIDA A&M vs. North Carolina A&T
MILES vs. Kentucky State
MORGAN STATE vs. Savannah State
TENNESSEE STATE vs. Austin Peay
TEXAS SOUTHERN vs. Alabama State
VIRGINIA STATE vs. Bowie State

21st
CHEYNEY (Pa.) vs. West Chester University of Pa
CLARK ATLANTA vs. Albany State
EDWARD WATERS vs. Warner
FAYETTEVILLE STATE vs. Saint Augustine’s
HAMPTON vs. Florida A&M
HOWARD vs. Morgan State
JOHNSON C. SMITH vs. Shaw
KENTUCKY STATE vs. Tuskegee
LANGSTON vs. Arizona Christian
LINCOLN (Pa) vs. Virginia State
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE vs. Virginia University of Lynchburg
MOREHOUSE vs. Benedict

28th
BETHUNE-COOKMAN vs. Hampton
BOWIE STATE vs. Lincoln
FORT VALLEY STATE vs. Morehouse
GRAMBLING vs. Texas Southern
LIVINGSTONE vs. Fayetteville State
NORFOLK STATE vs. Savannah State
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL vs. Delaware State
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M vs. Bacone
SAINT AUGUSTINE’S vs. Johnson C. Smith
SHAW vs. Fayetteville State
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE vs. Howard
TUSKEGEE vs. Central State
VIRGINIA UNION vs. Elizabeth City State
WINSTON SALEM STATE vs. Shaw

NOVEMBER

4TH
JACKSON STATE vs. Alabama State

23rd
ALABAMA STATE vs. Cheyney (Pa)





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A .500 2016 Season Serves As Motivation for Lane in 2017

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

Last year’s 5-5 season at Lane didn’t sit well with head coach Derrick Burroughs, especially since he believes his Dragons were much better than that.

“We left too much on the table last year,” Burroughs said during last month’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Media Day.  “I’m very disappointed in a 5-5 season.  I don’t think we were a 5-5 team last year.”

The Dragons were a team that lost two games by a total of six points and lost another to Central State after allowing a 100-yard kickoff return and having an unusually unproductive game on the ground.   

A lot of their problems came in the passing game where Lane was the SIAC’s second-worst pass offense in 2016.  In eight games last season, dual threat quarterback Marcus Reynolds recessed from a promising 2015 as he threw for just 674 yards (just 84 yards a game).

Reynolds said he has been working on his mechanics, as well as sharpening the timing between him and his receivers.

“I think we have the guy at the quarterback position to do the job,” Burroughs said. “I think he’s one of the most athletic quarterbacks we have in this conference.  We just need to settle him down a little more, but I think we have the people to do it.”

The other half of the “Marcus and Marcus Show,” running back Marcus Holiday, didn’t have too many issues last season. He led the SIAC in rushing with 1126 yards rushing and rushing average with 126 yards a game.  Holiday is a first team, All-SIAC preseason pick, but he is looking for a better season this year.

“I worked on my acceleration,” Holiday said of his offseason preparations.  “I think that’s my biggest problem. My first step is quick, but when it comes to like open field, that’s what I’ve been working on. My open field speed, blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield. Last year, I didn’t have a lot of receiving yards, so I’ve been working on it.”

Stopping the pass was the Achilles heel for a Lane defense that wasn’t that bad last season. Seven starters from a defense that ranked in the top half of the SIAC in scoring defense and was second in pass defense returns.   But they were in the bottom half of the conference in stopping the run last season, plus their two top tacklers from 2016 have to be replaced.

“Our intention was to go out and find some defensive lineman,” Burroughs said of the off-season. “Hopefully, we’ve added a little more depth to help our run defense.”

Burroughs and his team of Dragons see 2017 as a redemption season, bettering a 2016 that they thought should have been much better.

“Still have a very sour taste in our mouths because we went 5-5 last year,” he said. “We left a lot on the table so hopefully we can go back and get it this year.”








Friday, August 4, 2017

Despite Lots of Losses, Rick Comegys is Focused On Winning at Mississippi Valley State

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

No one said it would be easy.

It’s year four of Rick Comegys' tenure as head football coach at Mississippi Valley State and the Delta Devils so far have won a total of four games, as in a record of 4-29.

But this season alone, Comegys is hoping for more wins than that, he said during the Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day in July.

“I’m sure that the athletic director wants us to have more wins than we’ve had, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m sure alumni as well.  But I’m looking at maybe around .500, something of that nature, to kind of balance that thing out.”

Those five or six wins would be the most that MVSU has won since a 5-6 campaign in 2012.  The program has won five or six games only four times since 2000, including back-to-back, six-win seasons in 2005 and 2006.  Before that, the last back-to-back (to-back) winning seasons came in 1983, 1984 and 1985. That’s back when the legendary Willie Totten was throwing a lot of touchdown passes, those first two seasons to a guy named Jerry Rice.

These Delta Devils look nothing like those teams.  They had the SWAC’s worst offense last season, averaging an anemic 245 yards and 14 points a game. The MVSU roster that appeared in the 2017 SWAC media guide didn’t include last year’s quarterback, Austin Bray, or last year’s leading receiver, Joshua Banks, or rusher in Slade Jarman.

“I believe offensively we’ve got some weapons coming in that can make a difference in what we do,” Comegys said.  “But I think our strength will be defense right now because we’re mature.  But yet and still, we’ve got some quarterbacks coming in that I think will make a big difference.” 

The Delta Devils defense had issues last season also, giving up a SWAC-worst 504 points and 45 points a game.  They lost their leading tackler, but return defensive back Mark Pegues who had 63 tackles last season, and preseason All-SWAC defensive back Everett Nicholas, who picked off four passes last season.  Farrian Toney also returns to the secondary where he had three interceptions, but will also play wide receiver for the Delta Devils. He caught seven passes for 151 yards against Grambling in 2016.

There’s a lot of work to do in Itta Bena to get to at least five wins this season as Comegys hopes.  And the schedule doesn’t help. Besides a high-scoring, but four-win team in Southern Illinois, MVSU faces three post-season FCS teams in their first four games – North Dakota State, Grambling and Charleston Southern.

“But that’s just the way the schedule is,” he said. “The only thing I can say right now is that we’ve got to get our kids prepared to play football and if we can get our kids prepared correctly, we’ll be alright up in there.”

A lot of MVSU’s issues are out of Comegys, or any coach’s, control. A big one -- resources, or lack thereof.  A USAToday study found that of the 347 schools participating in NCAA FBS or FCS football, Mississippi Valley State ranks dead last in the amount of money that a school spends on athletics - $4.29 million.  North Dakota State meanwhile has a $22 million athletic budget and just opened a new state-of-the-art locker room facility.

But Comegys said he is just focusing on getting his team ready to compete.

“[We’re] not where I want to be right at this moment,” Comegys said.  “But I believe by the time we start the season, we’re going to be in a position where we can play with those guys and make a game out of it. If we don’t win, we don’t.  But I’m looking to win those football games.  I don’t care if its Grambling, North Dakota State.  I’m looking to win.” 





Thursday, August 3, 2017

Southern Focuses on “The Process” As They Look For a SWAC Title in 2017

(photo by Arthur Williams/Southern athletics web site)
By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

For most teams, an 8-3 season with only one loss to an FCS team would be cause for celebration.
Not if you are the Southern Jaguars.

That one loss came in the Bayou Classic to their heated rival, Grambling, in a game that would determine the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s West Division champion and who would play in the SWAC championship game the next weekend.

The loss instead meant the end of an eight-game winning streak and the 2016 season.

But it’s 2017 and the Jaguars have been picked to again finish second in the West to Grambling.  However, that’s not what Southern is thinking about this season.  

“We’ve got an opportunity not only to be a good football team,” said head coach Dawson Odums during the SWAC Media Day in July. “We’ve got an opportunity to put ourselves in position to win a SWAC championship.”

They will do so without last year’s SWAC leading rusher, Lenard Tillery, who finished his career as the SWAC career-rushing leader. Tillery is a big reason why the Jaguars led the SWAC in scoring and were second in total offense.  But now he’s gone.

Senior Herb Edwards will lead a group that will try to take over for Tillery.

“When young men depart your program, it’s a great opportunity for other men to step up,” Odums said. “If we can get the same production, whether it’s between two guys or three guys, I think we’ll be happy with that position.  [Tillery is] and outstanding football player. We’ll never replace him, but him departing creates a window of opportunity for someone new to step up and now they can showcase what kind of talent they have for our program.”

The offense won’t be bare at all though.  Quarterback Austin Howard returns, as does star wide receiver Willie Quinn. Howard threw 29 touchdowns and was second in SWAC passing last season, while the diminutive Quinn (he is 5’ 5” and weighs a hefty 150 pounds) is also back. He was third in receiving last season with 63 receptions for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns.

On defense, the Jaguars’ defense, particularly their rushing defense, was in the bottom half of the SWAC last season.  The spotty defense came to a head in that Grambling game last season as the Jaguars gave up 452 yards of offense – 262 of it on the ground – and six touchdowns in that 52-30 loss.  Grambling also had a kickoff return for a TD.

But four members of last year’s defensive squad, led by defensive lineman Aaron Tiller (60 tackles and nine sacks in 2016), have been named to the preseason All-SWAC team.  Defensive back Danny 
Johnson led the SWAC with seven interceptions, one for a TD, last season, while Kentavious Preston also had 60 tackles and two sacks for Southern.

Odums said his team is focused on making another run at a SWAC title, but not looking ahead to a rematch in November with the team that denied them a shot at it last year.

“It’s not a game we really talk about as a team,” he said of the 2017 Bayou Classic.  “When we sit down with our team the first time and we talk about the mission for our football team, of course you want to beat your in-state rivals. But at the end of the day, we talk about how do we get to that point. And in order to get to that point, we call it ‘chop wood and carry water.’  We’ve got to fall in love with the process.  And the process right now is getting our minds set on coming to camp, having a healthy camp, getting through camp and focusing [season opening, Sept. 3 opponent] on South Carolina State.  We don’t really worry about [the Grambling] game because we’re going to have to play that game. It’s enough to worry about it once you get to it.  

“At the end of the day,” Odums added, “we try to focus on us and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”





Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Florida A&M Looks to Continue Football Rise in 2017

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.     
                        

Thing have been tough the past few years for those part of one of the nation’s top HBCU football fan bases, Florida A&M.

Since 2012, the Rattlers program, which has won 567 games over its history, including the first FCS national championship in 1978, has won only 15 games, the worst five-year period in FAMU football history. 

But buoyed by a second-half of 2016 in which they won four of seven games, the Rattlers go into the 2017 season feeling like they are a team on the rise and ready to look more like the FAMU teams of yesteryear than the ones of yesterday.

 “We’re very close,” said defensive end Calvin Darville during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Media Day last week.  “This upcoming season, you’re going to see a different team, a different swag. We’ve been working hard all off season and we’re ready to showcase that.”

Others are also beginning to see the Rattlers rise. MEAC coaches and sports information directors picked Florida A&M to finish sixth in the 2017 conference race, which is where they finished last season.  They were picked to finish eighth at the beginning of last season.

The Rattlers have six offensive players who were named to the 2017 preseason All-MEAC team, including quarterback Ryan Stanley who headed a passing offense that was fourth in the conference last season.  His top target, wide receiver Brandon Norwood, returns as do three preseason All-MEAC offensive line picks.  While Stanley and running back Devin Bowers combined for 749 yards rushing last season, head coach Alex Wood will need to shore up a running game that was one of the worst in the MEAC last season.

“We know we can run zone read and we can throw play-action pass off it.  That’s where we’re going to hang our hat on,” Wood said.  “You have to be able to run the football, obviously, to be successful offensively.”

The Rattlers ranked in the bottom half of the MEAC in total defense and defensive scoring in 2016, with real problems stopping the run.  But FAMU’s secondary was the league’s best, allowing just under 159 passing yards a game last season.  They return preseason All-MEAC picks in defensive backs Orlando McKinley and Terry Jefferson.  As a freshman in 2016, Jefferson had 46 tackles, while McKinley was one of the MEAC’s best in passes defended.  Both had four interceptions last season.


“The thing that has to come to fruition for us is playing a lot better defense,” Wood said. “To win a championship, you’ve got to play really good defense and that’s something that we’re going to emphasize.”

They will be under the gun early.  A rugged, first seven games this season includes a strong Texas Southern team from the SWAC, FBS SEC team Arkansas, preseason nationally-ranked Tennessee State, MEAC champ North Carolina Central and NCAA playoff team North Carolina A&T.


“We’ve got a veteran team coming back, which is exciting, and obviously something every coach cherishes when you’ve got a lot of veterans coming back,” Wood said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to line up.” 

Monday, July 31, 2017

North Carolina Central Picked to Win MEAC; Leonard and Philyaw Named Preseason Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year


By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

Despite having to retool a bit on offense, North Carolina Central has been picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference race in 2017, according to MEAC coaches and sports information directors.

The Eagles, who didn’t lose an FCS game last season until their one-point loss to Grambling in the Celebration Bowl, had five players chosen to the MEAC’s first team preseason All-Conference defensive squad and have their 2016 leading rusher, preseason All-MEAC 2nd team pick, Ramone Simpson, returning.  He will also get help from 3rd team All-MEAC pick Dorrel McClain, their leading rusher from 2015 who missed last season with an injury.  NCCU will have to find a replacement for last year’s offensive leader in dual threat quarterback Malcolm Bell. 

Picked second, with five first place votes, is their rival North Carolina A&T. The Aggies lost star rusher Tarik Cohen to the NFL, but quarterback Lamar Raynard who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 TDs in a run-heavy offense, has been named the MEAC’s first team, preseason All-Conference quarterback.  He will throw to fellow All-MEAC first teamer in wide receiver Elijah Bell, and will have three All-Conference Aggies on the offensive line to block for him. Marquell Cartwright will step in for Cohen.


The MEAC’s leading tackler last season and this season’s preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Darius Leonard, returns to lead a defensive-minded South Carolina State squad that’s picked to finish third in the MEAC.  Six SCSU defenders were named to the preseason All-MEAC team, indicative of a team that was led the conference in total defense last season.

Second-team preseason All-MEAC quarterback Larry Brihm Jr. is back to lead Bethune Cookman, a team picked fourth after a surging second-half of 2016 erased an ugly start.  Brihm, the third-ranked passer in the MEAC last year, will throw to Jawil Davis, a third-team preseason All-MEAC pick.


Anthony Philyaw, the second-leading rusher in the MEAC last season, returns for Howard (picked to finish ninth) and has been chosen as the MEAC’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Philyaw rushed for 1,230 yards and nine touchdowns for Howard, a team that has the conference’s second-best rushing offense but had severe problems on defense in 2016.

Here is the full order of finish predictions and the entire preseason All-MEAC first, second and third teams:

1)     North Carolina Central
2)     North Carolina A&T
3)     South Carolina State
4)     Bethune Cookman
5)     Hampton
6)     Florida A&M
7)     Norfolk State
8)     Morgan State
9)     Howard
10)  Savannah State
11)  Delaware State

All MEAC First Team Offense

(POSITION/NAME/YEAR/SCHOOL/HOMETOWN)

QB Lamar Raynard Jr. North Carolina A&T State High Point, N.C.
RB Anthony Philyaw Sr. Howard Los Angeles, Calif.
RB* Yahkee Johnson Sr. Hampton Richmond, Va.
RB* Ramone Simpson Jr. N.C. Central Wilmington, N.C.
WR Elijah Bell So. North Carolina A&T State Wheeling, W. Va.
WR* Brandon Norwood Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
WR* Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
TE Leroy Hill Jr. North Carolina A&T State Smithfield, N.C.
C Darriel Mack Sr. North Carolina A&T State Clio, S.C
OL Brandon Parker Sr. North Carolina A&T State Kannapolis, N.C.
OL Nick Leverett So. N.C. Central Concord, N.C.
OL Robbie Stephenson Sr. S.C. State Fairburn, Ga.
OL Justin Evans Sr. S.C. State Florence, S.C.
PK Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.

First Team Defense

DL* Kevin Thompson R-Sr. Bethune-Cookman Baltimore, Md.
DL* Chris Lee Sr. Norfolk State Woodbridge, Va.
DL Ja’Quan Smith Gr. N.C. Central Miramar, Fla.
DL Antonio Brown Sr. N.C. Central Jacksonville, Fla.
LB Darius Leonard R-Sr. S.C. State Lake View, S.C.
LB Dayshawn Taylor R-Sr. S.C. State Lincolnton, Ga.
LB Reggie Hunter Sr. N.C. Central Henderson, N.C.
DB Alden McClellon Jr. N.C. Central Lake Butler, Fla.
DB* Jason Baxter Gr. S.C. State Manning, S.C.
DB* Diquan Richardson Sr. Bethune-Cookman Alvin, S.C.
DB Zerius Lockhart Sr. North Carolina A&T State Auburn, Ala.
P Nathaniel Tilque Sr. N.C. Central Charlotte, N.C.
RS Khris Gardin Sr. North Carolina A&T State Morganton, N.C.

Second Team Offense

QB Larry Brihm, Jr. Sr. Bethune-Cookman Delray Beach, Fla.
RB Herb Walker, Jr. Sr. Morgan State Cleveland, Ohio
RB Mike Waters So. Delaware State Philadelphia, Pa.
WR Kyle Anthony So. Howard Miami, Fla.
WR Mason Rutherford Sr. Delaware State San Bernardino, Calif.
TE Demetrius Ferebee Sr. Norfolk State Roanoke, Va.
C Victor Ishmael, Jr. Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
OL Osman Aguilera Sr. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
OL Loubens Polinice So. Florida A&M Palm Coast, Fla.
OL Joshua Fala So. Delaware State Manteca, Calif.
OL Cade Pedro So. Delaware State Kailua, Hawai’i
PK Tyler Scandrett Sr. S.C. State Barnesville, Ga.

Second Team Defense

DL Steven Smith Sr. Hampton Norfolk, Va.
DL* Jai Franklin Sr. Morgan State Clinton, Md.
DL* Greg Newell Sr. S.C. State McDonough, Ga.
DL Julian McKnight Jr. North Carolina A&T State Conyers, Ga.
LB Trenton Bridges Jr. Bethune-Cookman DeLand, Fla.
LB* Malik Harris Sr. Delaware State Washington, D.C.
LB* Marcus Albert Jr. North Carolina A&T State College Park, Ga.
DB Brendan Cole Sr. Hampton Hampton, Va.
DB Orlando McKinley Jr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
DB Terry Jefferson So. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
DB Devondre Powell Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
P Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.
RS Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

 Third Team Defense

QB Ryan Stanley So. Florida A&M Pembroke Pines, Fla.
RB Dorrel McClain Jr. N.C. Central Cary, N.C.
RB Brycen Alleyne Jr. Delaware State Wilmington, Del.
WR Jalen Wilkes Jr. N.C. Central Greenville, S.C.
WR Jawill Davis Sr. Bethune-Cookman Miami, Fla.
TE Desmond Noird Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
C Phillip Norman Sr. Bethune-Cookman Sebastian, Fla.
OL Obinna Nwanko So. Florida A&M Miramar, Fla.
PK Wizdom Nzidee Sr. Delaware State Stone Mountain, Ga.

Third Team Defense

DL* Stefen Banks Jr. Savannah State Columbus, Ohio
DL* Elijah Price Sr. Florida A&M Jacksonville, Fla.
DL* Kenneth Melton Sr. North Carolina A&T State Elizabeth City, N.C.
DL Tyberius Cravens Sr. S.C. State Austell, Ga.
LB Kyle Archie Sr. Norfolk State Virginia Beach, Va.
LB Mulik Simmons Sr. Savannah State Savannah, Ga.
LB Brian Cavicante So. Delaware State Portsmouth, Va.
DB Carl Garnes Jr. Morgan State Columbus, N.J.
DB Keyjuan Selby Jr. Delaware State Bear, Del.
DB Darius Johnson Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md.
DB Davanta Reynolds Jr. N.C. Central Tucker, Ga.
P Fidel Romo-Martinez So. Delaware State Banning, Calif.

RS William King Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

PIcked Third in the OVC, Experienced TSU Tigers Looking for a Big Season

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
TSU WR Patrick Smith
Tennessee State has the same typical run every season – they do really well with their primarily HBCU non-conference schedule, and then run into problems when they begin playing Ohio Valley Conference foes.

That’s understandable, as Jacksonville State, which is the OVC’s preseason pick to win the conference title this season, has been picked to win the OVC each of the previous three seasons and has gone on to finish on top each time.

Then Eastern Illinois, which is picked to finish fourth this season, won three of the five OVC titles before then.

So what does all that mean this year to the conference’s only HBCU, Tennessee State?
The Tigers, 7-4 (4-3 OVC) last season, are picked to finish third in the OVC this season after finishing fourth in the conference last season.  The Tigers finished 4-3 in the OVC play, with six of their games decided by a total of just 21 points.

But they are an experienced and talented team that sees themselves as a team that finished just a game away from last season's FCS playoffs and can make a better run at a national title this season.

“Our biggest challenge is to take them one game at a time and stay focused,” said TSU Head Coach Rod Reed said during the OVC Media Day. “We play classic games… and sometimes we get hyped up for those games and then every other game is just another game.  I think we’ve got to treat all of them as the same.  Every game is a classic game. Every game you’ve got to play like its fourth and goal.”

The Tigers seven starters returning on offense, including the OVC’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in wide receiver Patrick Smith. Smith was the conference’s second leading receiver last year and tied for tops in scoring with 13 TDs.  His wide receiver mate will be last season’s OVC Newcomer of the Year Steven Newbold, who averaged 19.1 yards a reception in catching 41 passes for 784 yards and six touchdowns.

The question is who will be throwing the ball to Smith and Newbold this season.  Ronald Butler, a senior who had 28 touchdowns and led the second-best passing offense in the OVC last year, has graduated and presumed replacement, O’Shay Ackerman-Carter, decided to transfer.  In will step, Treon Harris, an intriguing transfer from FBS Florida.  Harris started during parts of two seasons at Florida, throwing for nearly 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He also ran for 570 yards and three TDs.

“With a player like Treon, because he is so versatile, he poses a big threat,” said TSU linebacker Chris Collins. “With us dealing with him all spring, you don’t know what you’re going to get from him because he can throw and he can run. It’s hard to game plan against quarterbacks like that because he goes against all the rules.  So, he’s going to be a big threat for us.”

Leading rusher Erick Evans is also gone, as well as two All-OVC offensive linemen. The Tigers have two FBS transfers, Chidi Okeke (LSU) and Christian Morris (Ole Miss) to replace them.

On defense, where the Big Blue usually shine, they return nine starters, including 15 of their top 19 tacklers from last season. That includes preseason All-OVC defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko.  Ogundeko was an All-Conference pick last season, even as he missed three games due to injuries.  He had 48 tackles, 11 for losses, and 5.5 sacks.  Collins led TSU with 87 tackles and safety Laquarius Cook had 66 even though injuries kept him out of the last two games of the 2016 season. 

That early season schedule this year won’t be like previous years.  They start off at FBS Georgia State which is opening their new stadium, the former Turner Field/Olympic Stadium in Atlanta.  They go to Memphis to play rival Jackson State and then to Tampa for a new classic game against Florida A&M.  Then it’s right into a tough OVC schedule.  They go to UT-Martin, who TSU beat in a wild game last season, but UTM is picked to finish second ahead of TSU.  Then their first home game is against a tough Eastern Illinois squad.  The Tigers take on Jacksonville State in the final game of the season.

"We don’t set boundaries, we don’t set limitations," Collin said. "We are shooting for the stars. We want to reach the national championship and win that as well." 

“Our kids are really excited,” added Reed. “I’m fired up about this season. I think they are going to take the challenge.  They are going to play with a chip on their shoulders.”