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April 26, 2009

Future begins to emerge as Golden Eagles wrap practice with physical Spring Game

COOKEVILLE — The experienced veterans got a little break Saturday when the Tennessee Tech football team held its final workout of Spring drills with a two-hour “Purple/Gold Game” in Tucker Stadium.

Head coach Watson Brown watched his experienced players early in the scrimmage, then turned over most of the action to the younger players, and he liked what he saw.

A handful of future standouts emerged on both sides of the line during the sun-splashed exhibition in front of a few hundred interested spectators.

“I saw what I wanted to see, and overall I liked what I saw,” Brown said after the offense had produced 491 yards, seven touchdowns and a field goal.

“Now it’s time for the staff to do a lot of evaluating. We know what we have, and now we get to work figuring out the best way to use the talent that we have.

“I think we’ll be able to put this last piece of tape with the others and see who we think can play and who can’t,” Brown said. “We can put our depth chart together and see really what we can do, like our tight ends, what can they do. I think our defense, much more than our offense, has a better feel of gap control.”

Brown was also pleased that his team came through the month healthy.

“We didn’t hurt anybody, thank goodness, because this has been the most physical spring I’ve ever done,” he said. “I felt that this team was so young, we needed to block and tackle every day, so we’ve had some injuries, but I think that all of them will be back in the fall. I’m glad we got through it and got a lot of work done.”

On offense, rookie runningbacks Dontey Gay and Tremaine Hudson capped off strong spring performances and appear ready to take on major roles in the offense as sophomores in 2009. Gay rushed nine times for 90 yards and scored two touchdowns, while Hudson had eight carries for 102 yards and a TD. It was the second week in a row that Hudson gained 102 yards.

Freshman quarterbacks Tre Lamb and Jeremy Woods were sharp. Lamb threw for 64 yards, connecting on 4-for-6 passes, and rushed for a touchdown. He directed the offense to 17 points, the most by any of the four quarterbacks. Woods was 5-for-8 for 55 yards, including a 17-yard scoring pass to tight end Cory Powers that capped a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive.

Among the 11 players who caught passes, new names included freshman Demetrous Garrett, a transfer from Navy, with three receptions for 48 yards; Powers, a transfer tight end from UAB, with two grabs for 32 yards and a score; redshirt freshman Cody Seiber from Anderson County, with three catches for 29 yards and a TD; and freshman Jamere Hogue, who moved to tight end from defense, and had one catch for 12 yards.

While those newcomers look to bolster the offense, Tech’s defense also appears ready to add a few new playmakers, headlined by senior Kelvin Quarles, a transfer from UAB. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound outside linebacker, led Tech with eight tackles and had a quarterback sack.

LaDarrius Verge, an incoming freshman from Murfreesboro Riverdale High School, also made his presence known with two tackles and a quarterback sack.

Freshman Richmond Tooley, who became a starter last fall midway through the year, was the leader of the defense Saturday. The Memphis native had five tackles, broke up a pass, had the game’s only interception, and blocked a point-after attempt.

The rushing game accounted for 235 yards and five scores on 44 attempts, while the passing attack gained 256 yards on 21-for-34 accuracy, with two touchdowns.

The punting game continued to shine Saturday, with both Nick Campbell and Jason Lennartz looking strong. Campbell, a sophomore, handled the punting duties last year after Lennartz was injured following the first game. Campbell had four punts and averaged 52.5 yards per try. Lennartz kicked twice and averaged 54 yards.

Following the punting, the defense stopped Lamb & Company in the first offensive possession of the afternoon.

Sweeney took over and drove the squad 65 yards in 10 plays, a 19-yard strike to Garrett highlighting the drive. After Gay caught a 10-yard pass, the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder from Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., broke through the middle for a nine-yard touchdown.

Barnes was sacked to end his first possession, before Lamb marched his unit to the 12, setting up a 28-yard field goal by Timothy Donegan.

Sweeney also converted his second opportunity, driving Tech 65 yards in eight plays to set up an eight-yard touchdown by Gay. The biggest play of the drive was a 27-yard pass and run to Henry Sailes.

Tooley intercepted a pass from Barnes at the 35, setting up a short field, and Lamb made it count when he handed to Josh Paz for a one-yard touchdown. It ended a six-play scoring drive featuring a 13-yard pass to Benford and a 14-yard run by Hudson.

The final drive before the “halftime” break saw Barnes get his unit in gear for a 65-yard, nine-play touchdown drive. The junior quarterback hit Garrett for 22 yards, followed by a 13-yard pass to Colin Allen and an 11-yard completion to Benford to the 18. Three plays later, Barnes avoided a heated rush and scrambled toward the sideline, finding Seiber for an 18-yard touchdown.

Following the break, Sweeney got one more possession and moved Tech 65 yards in eight plays, with Hudson rambling the final 12 yards for the score. Hudson and Gay accounted for 51 of the 65 yards.

Woods moved Tech 65 yards for another TD, the drive taking nine plays to reach the end zone. Woods, a freshman from Ooltewah, hit Powers for 15, Seiber for four, Stevens for 12 and Seiber for seven, before connecting with Powers for a 12-yard touchdown.

The quickest scoring drive was also Tech’s final touchdown, led by Lamb who rushed six yards for the score on the fourth play. A 19-yard toss to Sailes and a 37-yard run by Hudson set up the TD.

The defense then held the “O” to three-and-out on three consecutive possessions as the game came to an end. The Dickerson brothers, senior Derek and freshman Chris, made the defensive stops on the final two plays of the day.

OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

RUSHING (attempts/yards/TD)

Team: 44/235/5TD
Hudson 8/102/TD; Gay 9/90/2TD; Beech 11/22; Sailes 1/9; Stevens 4/6; Lamb 2/3/TD; Barnes 6/2; Paz 2/1/TD; Cassidy 1/0

PASSING (completions/attempts/int, yards/TD)
Team: 21/34/256/2TD/1int
Sweeney 8/13/0, 93/0; Lamb 4/6/0, 64/0; Barnes 4/7/1, 64/1; Woods 5/8/0, 55/1

RECEIVING (receptions/yards/TD)
Team: 21/256/2TD
Sailes 3/53; Garrett 3/48; Benford 3/29; Seiber 3/29/1TD; Robinson 2/34; Powers 2/32/1TD; Allen 1/13; Hogue 1/12; Stevens 1/12; Gay 1/10; Beech 1/4

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

TACKLES
Quarles 8; Griffin 7; McChurch 6; Tooley 5; Wallace 5; Miles 5; Dillehay 5; Paz 4; Perez 3; Richmond 3; D. Dickerson 3; Grimes 3; Qualls 3; Seivers 2; Moran 2; Ryce 2; Verge 2; Davis 2; Miley 2; C. Dickerson 2; Harlan 1; McIntosh 1; Ordu 1; Waters 1

SACKS
Quarles 1; Verge 1; Richmond 1

INTERCEPTIONS

Tooley 1

BLOCKED KICKS

Tooley 1

PASSES DEFENDED
Tooley 1; McChurch 1; Moran 1

PUNTING
Campbell 4 punts/52.5 average; Lennartz 2 punts/54.0 average