NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Florida has been known for producing top flight talent on the football field and Tennessee State University has tapped into that vein.
The Tigers have made the Sunshine State a priority in their recruiting lately. The coaching staff continually brings in top talent on offense, defense, and special teams like: Mike German, De’Ante Saunders, Dinsdale Jackson, and Tevin Spells.
“Florida is one of the areas we concentrate on,” Co-offensive Coordinator Jeff Parker said. “We’ve been successful in bringing in guys who have really helped out the team in multiple areas.”
Last season Michael German, and A. C. Leonard were standout performers who hailed from Florida. German completed 60% of his pass attempts on the year and threw 13 touchdowns without throwing an interception. A standout at tight end, Leonard was second on the team in both receptions (34) and receiving yards (441).
Along with Leonard, De’ Ante Saunders, and Jessamen Dunker have all transferred to TSU from the University of Florida. The impact of those three transfers, along with a number of other recruits from the state of Florida, is due in large part to the coaches on the staff from Florida who brought them in.
“When I’m talking to recruits from Florida, I try to sell them on my experience,” defensive backs coach Mikhal Kornegay said. “I’m a Florida guy, through and through, but to get out and make a name for yourself outside of the state is something special.”
Coach Kornegay has played for and learned from a few of the top coaches in college football. Playing under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, Kornegay saw the effectiveness of intensity. As a graduate assistant for the Seminoles, he learned the strategy and cerebral aspect of coaching from current Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher and now Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops. While he was there, Kornegay coached current New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson and 2010 sixth round pick of the Tennessee Titans Myron Rolle.
Head coach Rod Reed has built a strong recruiting network by having his assistants recruit the areas they know and grew up in.
“We’ve been able to bring in some good players through the relationships that our coaches have,” coach Parker said. “They’re able to bring in these guys because of the connections with their community where another coach, who doesn’t have any connections, may not be so successful.”
Florida recruits who come in to Nashville can feel at ease with the well meshed community that has been created by the Florida coaches and upper classmen. Some guys say they don’t even feel the difference.
“It just felt like home to me,” redshirt junior defensive lineman Dinsdale Jackson said. “They fit me right in to the team and took care of me.”
TSU’s coaching staff has done a terrific job of combining players from all over the country. With 22 players from the state of Florida on the team, some guys may feel they have something to prove against the Sunshine State but the coaches are able to take that and mold it into a working team dynamic that drives the team throughout the season.
“Being from there and having experienced it myself, some guys think the Florida guys are kind of cocky,” coach Kornegay said. “They feel like the Florida guys believe they’re coming from the mecca of football and that they have to prove themselves. It’s great to see the guys we bring in from Florida mesh well with the team.”
Florida recruits continue to add depth to the Tigers with newcomers such as quarterback Oshay Ackerman-Carter and cornerback Terrell Bonds making an impact in camp. Sunshine State seniors like German and Darion Hall will help pave the way to a successful campaign in 2014.