NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State offense led the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring a year ago and was second in team offense. This season the Tigers will look to remain a high powered unit as they return seven starters, but will need to fill the quarterback position.
In 2016, Ronald Butler led the offense after stepping in as the signal caller during the third game of the season for O’Shay Ackerman-Carter who went down with a season ending injury. The senior finished 137-of-234 for 2,014 yards, averaging 251.8 yards per game which would have finished 21st in FCS and second in the OVC. On the season, Butler led all OVC quarterbacks in total touchdowns, 28 (21 passing, six rushing and one receiving), and in Passing Efficiency (147.8), which also placed him 14th in FCS play.
On the ground, Butler finished second, only to Murray State’s running back Devin Church, in conference games rushing, averaging 5.7 yards per carry; making him the top rushing QB in conference games.
With the departure of Butler and Ackerman-Carter, head coach Rod Reed, entering into his eighth season, seemed to answer the question of who will handle the snaps for the upcoming season with the addition of Florida transfer Treon Harris.
The incoming redshirt-junior, played in 21 games, starting 15, completing 174-of-346 passes for 2,695 yards, 10 interceptions and 18 touchdowns during his two year career with the Gators. Harris was a threat to run as well as he added 570 yards on the ground, carrying 171 times and reached the end zone on three occasions.
Harris will look to pilot the Big Blue after sitting out a season. As a sophomore, he started the final eight games of the season, including the 2015 SEC Championship game. As a true freshman, he started the final six games of the year, including an upset win over No. 9 Georgia in his first career start. Harris was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after throwing for 1,019 yards with nine touchdowns.
Redshirt-sophomore Michael Hughes will supply competition for Harris in the battle for the starting job. Hughes enters his third season with the Tigers and has yet to take a snap under center. The Nashville product has continued to learn the system and spent countless hours working with receivers this summer to hone his craft.
Transfer Kullen Wells will provide back-up to Harris and Hughes. The first-year Tiger redshirted in his only season at Troy University of the Sun Belt Conference. Also in the mix is freshman Josh Truehart who prepped at Stratford High School.
Sophomore quarterback Michael Hughes
- On running the offense
“Our number one thing is we control the offense. It all starts with the quarterback. What we try to do is get everybody up and start fast. That’s the main thing we need to do.”
- On working with the receivers
“It makes it easier for a quarterback. I can go anywhere on the field. I feel comfortable with everybody. All of our receivers can catch the ball and I can get it to anyone one of them. I do not have that pressure to go to just one person. I can go anywhere across the field and that is a great feeling to have.”
Freshman transfer Kullen Wells
- On learning the system
“As a quarterback you have to know what the offensive line is doing, what the running backs are doing and what the receivers are doing. Every night I am always studying my plays. I come out here and try to get the timing down with the receivers and know what the defense is doing and making the right reads and smart plays.”
- On the receiving unit
“It is always easier when you have receivers who are always going to be open. You do not always have to focus on one guy. You can scan the field and know where they are going to be. You are always on the same page as the receivers.”
- On his goals with the Tigers
“I came here to compete. I have to get in the weight room and gain some weight. I am just here to win.”
Freshman quarterback Josh Truehart
- On the transition to college ball
“It is a whole lot different. You have get faster and be smarter. You have to think outside the box when you’re in college. There is good talent at the high school, but it is not as good as the talent in college. For me personally, I have to step up a whole lot to read the defenses, make good plays and just get quicker with me feet and my throwing.”
- On coming back from an injury
“I have done a lot of work. It hasn’t been easy. I tore my ACL in October, had surgery in December and back in camp. It is a blessing I am back now, but I have to continue to rehab my leg and get it stronger. Just get back to being able to move, the way I use to move.”
- On learning the system
“I still have a whole lot of work to do when it comes to reading defenses and making things happen for the team. There are still a lot of things I need to get through”