NASHVILLE --- The first 12-game regular season schedule in the rich tradition of Tennessee State University football kicks off for the Tigers Saturday (August 31) with a trip to play the South Carolina State Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. (central).
The Tigers enter the new campaign looking to build upon a 2001 season which saw the squad post one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation. TSU revered its mark of the previous year to post an 8-3 record and finished ranked 25th nationally in the final NCAA Division I-AA poll.
Coach James Reese is set to begin his third season as the Tigers head coach. Reese said the Tigers enjoyed a good preseason camp and are having a good game-week preparation for the Bulldogs.
“Our preparations are going fine for us this week and we continue installing our game plan for the opener,” said Reese. “We made some adjustments following our scrimmage on Saturday and will go through them with our players.”
The Tigers are led by first-year head coach Buddy Plough who replaced the retiring Willie Jeffries after last season. The Bulldogs welcome back 46 lettermen off last year’s 6-5 team and have added several transfers to the fold this season. SCSU closed out the season by winning five consecutive games.
“South Carolina State has a very good defensive unit which we have to execute well against,” Reese said. “Offensively, they have a lot of good athletes who have big play capabilities.”
The Tigers returned experienced players on each side of the football. Offensively, the Tiger possess one of the nation’s top receiving corps led by C.J. Johnson, Patrick Jenkins, Ron Jackson, and Carlos Wright. Running back Charles Anthony was the team’s leading rusher as a freshman and also on the scene is senior Sugar Sanders, a transfer from Memphis. Steve Farmer returns after a stellar season at tight end.
The offensive line features junior Rashad Shaw, who returns after coming off a knee injury. Shaw was elected team captain. Juandale Cooper and Alfred Walker return and the group was boosted by the recent addition of Southern Miss transfer Brock Anderson. The 6-4, 290-pound Anderson will have one year of eligibility remaining.
The starting assignment for the starting quarterback duties is not expected to be announced until later in the week. Kenny Irby emerged out of spring practice as the start heading into fall camp, but also seeing time has been sophomore Riley Walker, true freshman Dwayne Buchanan and redshirt freshman Bryson Rosser.
Defensively, the Tigers were dealt a blow when preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference defensive end Desmond Scantling did not graduate following summer classes and was not granted an extra year of eligibility.
The unit has other key returnees with linebacker Jermaine Beale and preseason All-OVC defensive back Deon Giddens leading the secondary.
The Tigers will be road warriors for the first portion of the season. TSU plays six of its first seven games away from the Coliseum. The Tigers play Prairie View A&M (Sept. 7) in the John Merritt Classic before hitting the road for five straight weeks.
Tennessee State and SCSU will be meeting for the seventh time and for the first time since 1997. TSU holds a 4-2 lead in the series which saw the first game played in 1959 between the two schools.
Howard Gentry, Jr., and Albert Dawson return to call the action of TSU Big Blue Football. Saturday’s game will have an air time of 4:45 p.m. on WNSR-AM Radio (560 AM) from Orangeburg South Carolina.