NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State football opened camp for the 2019 season on Thursday afternoon. The practice capped off a day which began with a fitness test in the morning followed by weights and meetings.
The Tigers look to improve upon a 4-5 season with 47 returners, including eight starters on defense, seven starters on defense and three members of the special teams. Demry Croft, Micheal Hughes and Cameron Rosendahl each earned victories for the Tigers at quarterback. The trio return and will have plenty of experienced weapons to work with, including wide receivers Chris Rowland and Steven Newbold. Rowland is coming off an All-Ohio Valley Conference season, while Newbold is ranked tenth on the TSU career receiving yard list.
The running game is intact from a season ago with all seven backs with yardage on the squad. Senior Te'kendrick Roberson led the Tigers in yards, while DeMarco Corbin led the team with six touchdowns.
Preseason All-OVC selections Raekwon Allen and Thomas Burton will join returner Lachavious Simmons in anchoring the front line.
The defensive line returns seven of the eight players who were on the two-deep. Seniors Mekhi Brown, Justin Culpepper and Dante' Ferguson, Jr. provides a solid base. The linebacker unit is young with sophomores Jahsun Bryant and Terry Straughter to go along with junior Terry Straughter. The three backers were tabbed for playing time a season ago, but ware thrust into key roles after injuries plagued the Tigers.
Senior cornerback Dajour Nesbeth leads the defensive backfield. Nesbeth is a two-time Preseason All-OVC selection after picking off four passes for 152 yards in 2018.
Sophomore kicker Antonio Zita earned a spot on last years OVC All-Newcomer team after leading the Big Blue with 64 points. Sophomore punter Kaleb Mosley and senior long snapper Thomas Newberg provide depth to the special teams unit.
The Tigers kickoff the season on Aug. 31 against Mississippi Valley State in the John Merritt Classic.
Senior Wide Receiver Steven Newbold
On last year of camp and goals for the season
“It’s been a good four years here, learning the system and learning the people around the system. I’m from Miami, a rough city. My goal this year is to be a great team. I can really focus on that because my skills are there, I just need to be a better team mate and be more accountable.”
On how, as a veteran, he will lead the newcomers
“I’m going to try and lead by example, doing things right, the small things. Coach talks about doing the small things and how much they matter.”
On how he’s grown
“I’ve grown a lot. I remember when I first came, I was everywhere. I was all over the place. I had to humble myself. The people and the coaches around me, the system – they’ve taught me a lot.”
On changes in the offense
“I see us moving a lot faster. Because of the work we put in over the summer, a lot of people were here, we’re a lot faster.”
Comparing first day of camp last season to this season
“The intensity. I hear no complaining. We had a conditioning test this morning. People were hurting but we still pushed through. It’s hot, but we still fought. There’s a lot of intensity and fight out here.”
Senior Center Thomas Burton
On All-OVC Preseason Team placement
“It feels good, but I don’t really care about myself. I just want to come out here and be successful as a team. I’ve been here for a minute, and one thing we haven’t accomplished as a team is a conference championship, so I just want to be great as a team this year.”
On leading the newcomers
“I try to do everything by example. It’s more of a show thing – I’d rather be seen than be heard. I would rather them see me do things right, see me moving the right way, see me making the block, as opposed to always being heard, but they never see me doing things the right way.”
On first day of camp as a newcomer versus today
“Honestly, this one was easier. I’ve been here for a minute and have seen it all. I feel like we came out today and were ahead of the ball a little bit. Guys have been here all summer working hard, getting in the playbook, getting into film, so I think today we had a fast pace.”
On what to work on throughout camp
“This camp we should focus on the little things, stuff like staying back on the sideline, everyone paying attention. When the coach is coaching someone that’s in the game, he’s coaching you too. If you’re on the sideline, it doesn’t mean you can’t take something he’s saying to someone else and apply it. The little things.”
On what contributed to a changed mindset
“I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of techniques. I’ve caught on. They always preach to us, it’s the little things. Do the small things right, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Senior Defensive End Mekhi Brown
On how he feels the team is coming back from last year
“We’re a lot more together... Everybody is more locked in, everybody knows their stuff, everybody came back conditioned.
On the team preparing coming into camp
"We've changed the staff around, changed up how we train, how the coaches coach us. Everybody has been way more tough on us. No more excuses. Either you're above the line or you're below the line."
Thoughts after today's practice
"I feel great! We can really win a National Championship. I want another championship. I have five rings, I need to get six."
Junior Linebacker James Green
Thoughts on coming back this season
"We all look pretty good, summer workouts have been great. We have about 95% of the team here, so we're all flying around making plays. It's all good."
After today's practice
"We're going to win it all. I am confident in what we have here. We have depth everywhere. We're competitive everywhere. We're going to push eachother all season. National Championship - thats my end goal."