Last season: 6-6 (3-5); Stronger defensive team than record indicates: #11 in FCS total defense, #4 in FCS pass defense, #4 in FCS sacks, #10 in FCS third down defense.
The Tigers entered the 2014 season ranked #17 in the FCS Coaches Poll, roared out of the gate to a 4-1 start, and were subsequently bitten by the injury bug – only one player started all 12 games on offense. The defense still managed to play at a high level.
2015: Returning starters: 5 on offense, 3 on defense, 2 specialists
Preseason All-OVC selections: DE Gabe Terry
Predicted OVC finish (media poll): Sixth
- Second team All-OVC DE Gabe Terry (24 Tks/11.0 TFLs/11.5 sacks/2 forced fumbles)
- RB Tom Smith (6 TDs)
- RB Telvin Hooks (started 4 games)
- LB Vantavious Williams (54 Tks/7.0 TFLs/1 fumble recovered/1 PBU)
- CB Berrell Brooks (23 Tks/2 INT/6 PBU)
- DT Dinsdale Jackson (39 Tks/3.5 TFLs/2.0 sacks)
- OLs Kevin Kenton, Shaq Anthony and Jessaman Dunker
- WR Chris Sanders-McCollum (22 rec/301 yds/1 TD)
- TE Joshawn Bowens (10 rec/91 yds)
- QB Ronald Butler (second team All-OVC in 2013)
Offensive outlook: How will TSU replace Michael German? The task will likely fall to junior Ronald Butler. Butler split time with German in 2013, garnering second team All-OVC and OVC All-Newcomer honors. He also stepped in while German was injured last season. However, he will have to battle O’Shay Ackermann-Carter for the starting job. Also in the backfield, running backs Tom Smith and Telvin Hooks return from a committee that saw four backs accrue more than 200 yards on the ground last season. Marcus Deanes will also play a role in the backfield. Out wide, 6-foot-5 threat Chris Sanders-McCollum looks to step up and lead an inexperienced group of receivers.
Defensive outlook: This is going to be a new-look defense in 2015. Gone are All-Americans Nick Thrasher, Anthony Bass and De’Ante Saunders. Also departed are All-OVC standouts Samquan Evans and Daniel Fitzpatrick. But the Tigers certainly aren’t without hope – defensive end Gabe Terry is ready to assume the position left vacant Bass. Terry racked up 4.5 more sacks than Bass despite only starting one game. Defensive tackle Dinsdale Jackson also hopes to make an increased impact in the trenches following a solid 2014 campaign. Linebacker Vantavious Williams is the lone returner from a linebacker corps that was as good as any last season. Justin North made a few starts last season and is likely to fill another one of the linebacker positions. In the secondary, only cornerback Berrell Brooks is listed as a returning starter for the upcoming season. Javon Brandon saw significant time last season, and will likely be a factor in the defensive backfield. Keep an eye on Ole Miss transfer David Kamara as well – he has the athleticism and skills to possibly be an impact player in his first year in the OVC.
Special teams outlook: Placekicker Lane Clark and long snapper Aaron Woods return for the 2015 season. However, the Tigers still hope for improvement in the kicking game – Clark was 8-15 on field goals last season and also had three kicks blocked. Australian Jordie Bunn is the favorite to handle punting duties.
Bottom line: This is going to be an inexperienced football team at the start of the season, but Rod Reed’s teams have shown a penchant for learning quickly. Expect the Tigers to play competitively in the OVC this season.
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