HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Tennessee-Martin.
The OVC (4th in MEAC)
COACH: Jason Simpson – 13th year (78-59)
2017 OFFENSE: 19.6 ppg (92nd in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 14.3 ppg (4th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: When you look at UT Martin's 2017 schedule/results, you realize just how close this team was to busting loose — thanks for the most part to a strangling defense that wouldn't let go of opponents and finished fourth in the nation in points given up (see above). Well, that defense is nearly intact on the line and especially in the linebacking corps — arguably one of the top collective units in the country once again. The secondary is a bit depleted in the 3-3-5 scheme, and therein lies the first big question about this team. If that position group firms up? Watch out.
Couple all of the above with the fact UT Martin returns one of the top multi-dimensional running backs in the nation in Ladarius Galloway — who is as good a receiver as runner — and there is serious cause for optimism here. If some of the new skill players can be big-time contributors on offense, this team can and probably will take off. But there needs to be more than Galloway. The opportunity is there for some new name on the roster to become a First Team All OVC type guy — and maybe even an All-American. Who will "that guy" be?
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: This year, Jason Simpson has the potential to become the school's all-time wins leader (needs eight wins). He has brought the most stability this program has had in more than 50 years, when current wins leader Bob Carroll (85 wins) was coaching. Last year, Simpson's team was within 7 points of perennial OVC power Jacksonville State, and 7 points of 2017 FCS story of the year, Austin Peay. Those two teams are still sitting there above the Skyhawks in most people's minds, but the talent is here to upset that OVC apple cart and reorder things a bit. The first two weeks are FBS opponents, but the Skyhawks won't be an easy out for Mizzou or Middle Tennessee — and nobody in the OVC will be overlooking this UT Martin team. This group feels like a 7 to 8-win type team this year.
TOP RETURNEE: RB Ladarius Galloway (2nd Team All OVC; 859 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 22 receptions, 307 yards)
THE NEXT BEST: LB James Gilleylen (2nd Team All OVC; 88 tackles, 9 TFLs); KR Peyton Logan (27 yards per kick return, 1 TD); OL Nick Thomas (returning starting center); QB Dresser Winn (744 yards passing, 5 TDs); LB Kevin Prather (77 tackles, 10 TFLs); LB Garrett Wall (66 tackles, 8.5 TFLs)
TOP NEWCOMER: WR/KR Terry Williams (Three-star rated JUCO All American product who caught 79 balls for 1,095 yards and averaged 32 yards per kick return).
DID YOU KNOW?: Legendary womens basketball coach Pat Summitt was a UT Martin alum, and went on to coach from 1974 to 2012 at Tennessee and change the entire world of womens college basketball with the Vols. She won more than 1,000 games as head coach, including 8 national championships.
THE QUOTE: "This will be a challenging schedule week in and week out. We start out the season with a matchup against one of the best quarterbacks in the nation at Missouri and then another FBS game at Middle Tennessee the week after. Then opening the home schedule against a formidable non-conference opponent in Chattanooga followed by conference play, we will be challenged every week.." — coach Jason Simpson said about the 2018 schedule
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #MartinMade
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @UTM_FOOTBALL
— UT Martin Football (@UTM_FOOTBALL) July 25, 2018
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