NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State boasted one of the top defenses in the country, which helped guide them to the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 2013. The Tigers suffered numerous injuries throughout the season forcing several true freshmen into action.
TSU hopes to return to form as one of the top units in the nation. Leading the way will be seniors Justin North and Chris Collins in the middle of the defense. North is the last Tiger with playing time on the 2013 squad and will provide experience. North played as a true freshman, but his career was derailed for a season after suffering a season ending injury in the third game of the 2015 campaign. The senior bounced back with 25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, last year.
Collins earned Ohio Valley Conference Second Team honors a year ago after leading the OVC with 58 solo tackles. Collins has led the Tigers in tackles over the past two seasons, picking up 87 in 2016 to go along with 9.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Junior Blair Edwards recorded 20 tackles and recovered a fumble will provide depth to the unit along with senior Joe Johnson. Highly touted newcomers Moris Lugo and Terry Straughter will add to the unit, while Antowan Malone and Justin Brown round out the inside linebackers.
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Senior Linebacker Justin North
- On the depth of the inside linebackers and grasping the new system
“We have a lot of young guys backing up me and Chris (Collins), so we are taking them under our wing and showing the right ways to be an exceptional team for the upcoming years. This is a new system, but I believe we are grasping the keys to perform at a high level. I am hoping for the best.”
Freshman Linebacker Antowan Malone
- On the transition into college football
“I struggled a lot when I first got into camp. I missed my last year of high school football, so I came in not knowing much. As I get further into camp I learn more and more. Chris (Collins) and (Justin) North have helped me a lot to understand the playbook.”
- Returning to action after losing last high school season to injury
“I love putting on the pads. I missed the physical aspect of football.”