Note: Before we begin this edition of the Notebook, Brian and I would like to pass along our condolences to the family of former Lion Head Coach Guy Morriss. Morriss was a star lineman at TCU, and then spent a decade with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. His coaching stops included Baylor and Kentucky in addition to his time at Commerce.
Morriss’s time in Commerce may have not involved a winning record, but through his efforts, new east side stands were built, along with a press box, and jumbotron scoreboard. He helped establish stadium wide WIFI and brought back the classic “East Texas” jerseys for Homecoming and big rivalry games. After he left the program, he offered to stay and assist with the transition to the Colby Carthel tenure.
He may not have put a ton of wins In the record column, but he possessed so many other characteristics that laid a foundation for coaches like Carthel and Bailiff to follow. Class. Dignity. Integrity.
His time in Commerce may have been brief, but there is one thing that will remain. He always will be a Lion.
Now, onto this week’s Notebook, and a look at the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
OVERVIEW: Like the vast majority of the college football world, Tech operates out of a spread formation with mainly four and five wide receivers, with some pistol (a single back lined up behind the quarterback) mixed in. They are fairly well balanced and somewhat conservative in their play calling. The Eagles do have some issues protecting the passer, and the quarterback does not make many plays with his feet. The Eagle’s run game is very basic, and there is some speed on the outside. It is important for the Blue Gang to keep the quarterback in the pocket and bring the pressure. The Tech offense is not very explosive.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Golden Eagle Offense:
Points: 10.0 ppg
Rush: 93.0 ypg
Pass: 97.0 ypg
Total: 190.0 ypg
Blue Gang Defense:
Points: 7.0 ppg
Rush: 82.0 ypg
Pass: 113.0 ypg
Total: 195.0 ypg
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE:
Golden Eagle Offensive Line: 6’3″ 301 lbs.
Blue Gang Front Six: 6’1″ 247 lbs.
Tennessee Tech starts three sophomores up front, but the line is anchored by two graduate students, Spencer Strachyra (6’4″ 301 lbs.) and Trevor Stephens (6’3″ 301 lbs.) Although the Tech line has good size and strength, they are not particularly quick.
The Blue Gang, especially up front, is what legendary coach Paul Bryant of Alabama once described as “agile, mobile, and hostile”. Senior Ben Hutch (6’4″ 293 lbs.) and Celestin Haba (6’2″ 250 lbs.) created a lot of havoc in the Lincoln backfield last week, and sophomores Bryson Stewart (6’0″ 269 lbs.) and Clifford Funderburk ((6’2″ 235 lbs.) always seem to be around the ball. Their efforts allowed senior linebackers Dee Walker (6’2″ 224 lbs.) and Michael Noble (6’0″ 216 lbs.) to roam and make plays. The front six will certainly have to step up their efforts this week.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Golden Eagle Offense: 6’0″ 198 lbs.
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 174 lbs.
Graduate Jeremiah Oatsvall (6’1″ 200 lbs.) leads the Tech offense, and despite not being particularly mobile, is a good decision maker and deceptive runner. When Tech runs the football, senior David Gist (5’11” 201 lbs.) is the primary running back. Gist is a tough and elusive runner, although not that fast.
Seniors Metrius Fleming (6’0″ 178 lbs.) and Willie Miller (6’0″ 178 lbs) both caught three balls last week but were both held under 40 yards in receptions. The Kansas defense generated a lot of pressure and allowed very few plays for Tech to develop for any length downfield.
The Lion back line was very good in coverage except for a few instances in which they lost containment on the quarterback and allowed a couple of deep passes when coming up to rush the passer. This postion group, although very young, is coming together very quickly. Sophomore Maxwell Epps (5’11” 189 lbs.) had a pick six in the game against Lincoln last week, and senior Darius Williams (5’10” 180 lbs.) is keeping everything on order.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED:
The Golden Eagles had more than their share of issues with special teams last week. Graduate Devin Parker (6′)” 175 lbs.) was only 1 of 3 on field goal attempts (long of 39 yards), and had a kick blocked. Sophomore Nicholas Bigelow (5’10” 160 lbs.) averaged just over 32 yards on 6 punts and had a couple of bad snaps and short punts.
Senior J.T. Smith had two kick returns for a 31-yard average, including an electrifying 43-yard return on the opening kickoff. Senior B.J. Busbee had two punt returns for an 11-yard average, and Jordan Brooks-Wess had one return for 15 yards.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF:
Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. The Tech quarterback is not very mobile and can be forced into some questionable decisions. While having some individual talent and quickness at the skill positions, the Golden Eagle offense is not very imaginative in their play calling and don’t show much explosiveness.
That being said, it will be key for the Blue Gang to be disruptive and not let Oatsvall get comfortable, to force some turnovers and give the Lion offense a short field on which to work.
It’s a long road trip to Cooksville for the Lions, and a Tennessee Tech team awaits that is smarting from a big defeat in Kansas last week. They will be anxious to get back home against a Lion team, that quite frankly, they’re overlooking.
It’s time to prove the doubters wrong.
See You Saturday.