Getting back to the postseason is the main priority for Rod Reed in 2017.
The Tennessee State head coach has only been to the FCS playoffs once in his seven seasons with the Tigers and is just 22-30 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Two high-profile transfers from Power Five conferences, though, are looking to change the team’s course this season.
Former Florida quarterback Treon Harris transferred into Tennessee State in January and won the starting job during spring practice. On the other side of the ball, former Clemson recruit Ebenezer Ogundeko has been phenomenal since arriving on campus in 2015 and should be the best defensive lineman in the OVC again in 2017.
These two will make the Tigers a real threat to claim the league crown and will give Jacksonville State its first true test in quite some time.
2016 Tennessee State Football Season In Review
Last year started off pretty well for the Tigers. They won their first four games of the season, but then they lost their next two conference road contests. A one-point setback to a ranked Eastern Illinois team was respectable, but getting torched through the air by a Murray State squad that only won four games ended any discussion of the Tigers earning an at-large spot in the playoffs.
It was a shame that it failed to reach the postseason, as Tennessee State led the OVC in scoring at 32.3 points per game thanks to a dynamic passing attack and two very talented receivers.
Patrick Smith was one of the best receivers in the nation. He had 966 yards and 13 touchdowns and saved his best for the Tigers’ lone game against an FBS opponent. He hauled in seven passes for 170 yards and two scores against FBS foe Vanderbilt.
Meanwhile, freshman Steven Newbold had a fantastic season alongside Smith. He was able to see a lot of single coverage because of Smith’s dominance, and he exploited it. Newbold ended up being named a FCS Freshman All-American in 2016.
On defense, Ogundeko was a terror when he was on the field. He missed three games due to injury, but he was a force to be reckoned with when healthy. He ended the season with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks despite teams trying to game plan around him.
2017 Tennessee State Football Season Preview
Harris should dominate at the FCS level. He was overmatched sometimes when he was at UF, but he won’t face near the same competition in the OVC. His completion percentage should skyrocket and he will be a dynamic runner in the open field. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being named First-Team All-OVC at the end of the season.
His job will be easier by getting to work with both Smith and Newbold. Smith was just named the conference’s preseason Player of the Year and is primed for a big year. Harris will get him the ball often, and he should break 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Unlike many teams at the FCS level, the kicking game is a strength for the Tigers. Lane Clark has one of the biggest legs in the country and hit from 50 yards or more four times last season. Athlon placed him on its Preseason All-America team, and he can put points on the board anytime that Tennessee State gets inside its opponents’ 40.
A healthy Ogundeko is bad news for the rest of the OVC. He was a four-star recruit out of high school that will likely be playing on Sunday next year. He is a difficult matchup for any offensive lineman in the conference.
2017 Tennessee State Football Schedule
August 31: Tennessee State at Georgia State
September 9: Tennessee State vs. Jackson State (in Memphis)
September 16: Tennessee State vs. Florida A&M (in Tampa)
September 23: Tennessee State at UT Martin
September 30: Tennessee State vs. Eastern Illinois
October 7: Tennessee State at Eastern Kentucky
October 14: Tennessee State vs. Austin Peay
October 28: Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech
November 4: Tennessee State vs. Virginia University of Lynchburg
November 11: Tennessee State vs. Southeast Missouri
November 16: Tennessee State at Jacksonville State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Don’t be surprised if this Tennessee State team ends up knocking off FBS foe Georgia State in the season opener. The Tigers are very talented and have the skill-position personnel to pull off the upset.
The most important game for this team comes at the end of the year. Jacksonville State is likely to hold the record for the longest winning streak in OVC history heading into this one, and Tennessee State has the best chance to break it. This matchup could easily decide the conference champion. It will receive prime billing on a Thursday night and should be in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that week.