NASHVILLE --- Just as a phoenix emerges from the ashes, the 2016 Tennessee State University football team looks to arise from its first losing season since 2011. This should not be a problem for Head Coach Rod Reed and his staff as the program has been in this position before.
After suffering a losing season in 2011, a young Tiger team got off to a blistering start in 2012 by winning their first seven games and finishing the season 8-4. The current team, which boasts many similarities to the 2012 squad, looks to have similar success.
The 2012 football team had a young gun slinger at quarterback in Michael German; while the current squad has a young but poised quarterback in O’Shay Ackerman-Carter.
The Tigers wrapped up spring ball with their annual Blue and White scrimmage on April 16. There were many positives to take away from the end of spring that provide much excitement for the upcoming season. Reed saw his defense getting lined up and communicating better throughout spring practices. He also liked the explosiveness he saw on offense from wide out Ronnie Killings and tight end Mahlon Medley.
With the Tigers being so young, many different players took an abundance of reps. Spring ball allows the young players the opportunity to get a better understanding of the scheme and team strategy.
Kickoff for the 2016 season will be Sept. 3 with the annual John Merritt Classic versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff. This game will be followed by the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis. One of the biggest games of the year occurs Oct. 22 when the Tigers travel to Vanderbilt for the Commodores’ homecoming.
When asked to describe the feeling of playing Vanderbilt in the Music City Battle Reed said, “I think it is pretty cool for the city of Nashville. I want to see our guys compete versus an SEC school; I hope they have a mindset that gives us a chance to win it in the fourth.” The two teams have not played each other since 2006 with Vanderbilt winning 38-9.
Reed will look to build on the previous season experience by combining it with the 2016 number one recruiting class in HBCU football. This is yet another similarity that the current Tigers share with the 2012 team as the former Tigers also earned the top honor.
The coaching staff expects a lot of improvement to a young team that has a year under its belt now. On offense, the Tigers return seven starters including All OVC second- team selections wide receiver, Patrick Smith and offensive lineman, Jessamen Dunker. Meanwhile, the defense looks to return to its dominance led by first team All-OVC selection defensive end, Ebenezer Ogundeko and an additional nine returning starters.
All these pieces mix well to create a recipe for a winning season.