HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Tennessee State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country with HERO Sports.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
- FCS Home
- FCS Preview Schedule – Team Links
- The HERO Sports Preseason Top 25 Poll
- Preseason All-American Teams
TENNESSEE STATE (4-5 IN 2018)
The OVC (TSU was 5th in 2018)
COACH: Rod Reed – At School: 10th year (53-47 record) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2013 (lost in 2nd round to Eastern Illinois)
2018 OFFENSE: 29.3 ppg. (47th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 32.1 ppg. (83rd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 2 – vs. SEMO: Where exactly does Tennessee State stand against 2018's elite OVC teams? We think this will be a very good indicator, as SEMO was one of the FCS' top stories last year and should be in the mix at the top of the OVC standings again. If TSU comes into this game in Nashville with five wins, keep a close eye on this matchup — because it might determine an at-large playoff spot if conditions are right around the FCS.
SUM IT UP: Last year was an interesting one for Tennessee State, as two of its games were canceled due to weather conditions (winnable ones against Jackson State and Hampton – lightning and hurricane, respectively). The truth is, the Tigers could easily have opened up 4-0 last year heading into the game with the SEC's Vanderbilt, which the Tigers also nearly won. Then things flipped around a bit once TSU hit OVC play. It was an up-and-down season, and the Tigers also had to worry through a scary injury situation with one of its brothers, Christion Abercrombie, who suffered a life-threatening brain injury in the Vanderbilt game.
Well, we're pleased to report that Christion has recovered, he's taking online classes and he wants to be on campus again next year. He and two of his teammates — Chris Rowland and Dante Ferguson Jr. — were on hand at OVC media days and they and their coach talked about the potential of this fall, and there's plenty of it. Three quality quarterbacks — former Minnesota QB Demry Croft, Michael Hughes and Cameron Rosendahl — received substantial playing time last year and they're all back and available. They'll once again have really good receivers to throw to, their leading rusher back and three starting linemen back up front. There should be an uptick in scoring here, as the plan is to take the pace up a notch in the attack this season.
Defensively, this group has seven starters back — a load of individual talent. If this group can become a force collectively? This should be a pretty good unit, and statistically, it was pretty strong against the run last year — with Ferguson, former Alabama player Mekhi Brown, Jeremiah Caine, Justin Culpepper, Jahsun Bryant and Terry Straughter all returning from that run-stopping nucleus, just to name a few. The secondary definitely wants to improve on last year and has the talent to do exactly that. And not many FCS programs have as good a special teams return game as TSU, so that's another strength.
OUR TAKE: When you take a look at Tennessee State's opening month, you see the potential for 3-1 (or maybe even 4-0 if TSU can play FBS Middle Tennessee State the same way it played Vandy last year). Then the Tigers go on the road against the two toughest teams in the OVC — in my opinion — Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State. After that, the Tigers have four straight home games in Nashville and close the year on the road against the two OVC teams that finished at the bottom of the conference standings last year — UT Martin and Tennessee Tech.
In other words, this is like a four-phase season. 1) Non-conference, 2) brutal two-game OVC road stretch, 3) four 50/50 type conference games at home, 4) two winnable road games. Translation? The potential is here in this 12-game schedule to win eight, maybe even nine games … but history tells us in the OVC that those 50/50 games (and there are a lot of them in the OVC) are exactly that — toss ups. Then again, typing 50/50 and "toss-up" in the same sentence is rather redundant, isn't it? Bottom line, we think this TSU team is going to be pretty solid this year. The worst-case scenario for a healthy TSU team is seven wins, we think. Best-case? Are you ready for this? Nine wins. Yes, we typed that. Do we think TSU can or will win the OVC? Not quite … but there is a slight chance TSU could be in the FCS Playoff discussion in November, though it needs just about everything to go right.
[divider]SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast
COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./CB Dajour Nesbeth (First Team 2018 All OVC – 4 INTs, 58 tackles led team, 11 PDs — NFL prospect)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./WR Chris Rowland (57 catches, 727 yards, 5 TDs — 13.0 yard punt return average); Sr./DE Dante Ferguson (6.5 TFLs, 23 tackles); Sr./WR Steven Newbold (300 yards receiving, 24 career starts); Sr./DE Mekhi Brown (4 sacks, 26 tackles); Sr./OC Thomas Burton (28 career starts); Jr./OL Raekwon Allen (started all 9 games last year); Soph./PK Antonio Zita (12 of 14 on FGs); Jr./RB Te'kendrick Roberson (527 yards rushing).
THE NEWCOMER: R-Fr./WR Jatavious Harris (Louisville transfer)
THE QUOTE: "There's a lot of parity in this league. There's a lot of good football teams and there's a lot of good coaches, and on any given Saturday if you don't come with your A-game you can come out with an L." — Head Coach Rod Reed told HERO Sports' Brian McLaughlin at OVC Media Days on July 22
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Tennessee State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The OVC
Austin Peay | Eastern Illinois | Eastern Kentucky
Jacksonville State | Murray State | SEMO
Tennessee State | Tennessee Tech | UT Martin
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast