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TSU Football picked fourth in conference

by Cass Teague

The Tennessee State University football team was well represented on the All-OVC Preseason Team with eight players named, as announced at OVC Media Day at the Cool Springs Marriott on Tuesday, July 19. Head coach Eddie George’s Tigers were selected to finish fourth in the preseason poll conducted by league head coaches and communications directors. Defending league champions UT Martin secured the top spot in the league. Southeast Missouri and Murray State sit in second and third place, respectively, followed by Tennessee Tech fifth, Eastern Illinois sixth, and new OVC football member Lindenwood seventh.

Entering his first season at TSU after transferring from Austin Peay, quarterback Draylen Ellis — the 2020-21 OVC Co-Freshman of the Year with Devon Starling — followed his impressive freshman campaign with a solid sophomore outing. He was ranked among the FCS leaders and led the OVC in passing touchdowns (19), passing yards (2,625), yards per completion (13.7), and total offense (268.5 ypg) last season.

Starling followed his Co-Freshman of the Year honors by earning second-team All-OVC honors this year.  He was injured in the next-to-last game of the year, but still finished ranked 45th nationally with 800 total rushing yards and three touchdowns. Starling caught 37 passes (for 312 yards) which was the most on the team, 5th most among all players in the OVC, tied for 1st among all running backs, and eighth among all FCS running backs.

Wide receiver Zaire Thornton made 26 catches and moved the ball 398 yards while averaging 15.30 yards/catch. Offensive lineman Robert Lacy was instrumental in the Tigers gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground, converting on 27-of-36 red zone attempts and 53 third-down conversions.

TSU defensive tackles Terray Jones and Tadarrius Patterson join linebacker James Green, who led the TSU defense with 77 total tackles (41 solo and 36 assists). Dayron Johnson did it on both sides of the return team, as a kick returner and as a punt returner. Another name to keep an eye on this season is Ohio State transfer K’Vaughn Pope, a 6-foot-1 225-pound linebacker from Dinwiddie, Virginia

TSU kicks off the season on September 3 at Eastern Washington University in Cheyney, Washington, at 3 p.m. CDT. Following that contest, the Tigers are scheduled to once again play Jackson State in Memphis for the Southern Heritage Classic at 6:00 p.m. on September 10. The Tigers play five games in Nashville with the home-opener on October 1 against Lane College in the John Merritt Classic, at Hale Stadium. The remaining four home games are at Nissan Stadium — Homecoming October 8 at 5:00 p.m. CDT against Bethune-Cookman, and OVC contests Eastern Illinois October 22, SEMO November 5, and UT Martin for Senior day, November 12. TSU closes the regular season on November 19 at Texas A&M Commerce.

Tennessee State Football will celebrate its new season and senior class at the 2022-2023 Kickoff Luncheon on Friday, August 26 at the Sheraton Music City. All proceeds will support the TSU Football program. To purchase TSU football season tickets, please visit tsutigers.com/tickets.

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