In 2013, Tennessee State was a 10-4 FCS playoff team and Black College National Champion. Since then, the Tigers won 10 of their next 22 games — including a 4-6 mark (1-6 Ohio Valley) last season.
Despite the two-year regression, head coach Rod Reed sees 2016 ripe for a Big Blue resurgence. That may be coachspeak from a coach with a warming seat, but Reed just may be on to something.
The Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the nine-team OVC, despite returning eight starters on a defensive unit that ranked fourth in total defense (367.9 ypg) and returns preseason All-OVC pick in defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko (58 total tackles; 10.5 tackles for loss; 5 sacks) and defensive tackle Rodney Edwards (41 total tackles; 10 TFLs; 2 sacks). TSU’s defense also returns its two top tacklers, linebacker Chris Collins (79 total tackles; 6 TFLs; 1 sack; 1 INT) and safety Laquarius Cook (58 total tackles; 2 TFLs).
However, the problem for Big Blue was not stopping teams from scoring … it was generating points. In four of six OVC losses, the Tigers lost by 14 points or fewer. The Tigers finished the 2015 seventh in total offense (332.6 ypg) and sixth in scoring (24.6 ppg). The Tigers were eighth in the OVC in rushing offense (123.4 ypg) while fourth in the conference through the air (209.2 ypg). [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B018WR0G4M” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
TSU returns six starters on offense, including All-OVC preseason picks in wide receiver Patrick Smith (54 catches; 996 yards; 10 TDs) and offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker. Dunker is one of three returning o-line starters as the Tigers seek to have more continuity on the offensive side of the ball.
O’Shay Ackerman-Carter (110-of-190 passing/57.9 percent completions; 1,279 yards; 11 TDs; 5 INTs) and Ronald Butler (62-of-115 passing/53.9 percent completions; 813 yards; 8 TDs; 7 INTs) split time at quarterback last season, with Butler taking over after injuries shortened Ackerman-Carter’s season. The duo combined for 2,092 yards, 19 TDs and 12 INTs while completing 56 percent of their passes.