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First scrimmage gives coaches exactly what they're looking for

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Edwards is a man of his word. Corbin Miles lets his actions speak for themselves.

Both players came up with big defensive plays Sunday night during Tennessee Tech’s first scrimmage of fall camp.

The Golden Eagles went through nearly two hours of work on Overall Field, running 82 plays from scrimmage plus a few kickoff and punt plays. The offense, running behind four different quarterbacks, moved up-and-down the field for 480 total yards but the defense held, allowing just one touchdown and three field goals.

Edwards and Miles had some of the biggest defensive plays, while the offense got impressive performances from several players. Among them, receivers Tim Benford and Alden Olverson had three catches each, Josh Perez was a workhorse with 12 carries for a team-high 48 yards, and Jocques Crawford rushed for 40 yards and the lone touchdown of the night on six carries.

Breaking away behind the Attack Team

Henry Sailes provided one of the highlights of the night. It came early in the scrimmage and didn’t last long, so if you weren’t paying attention you missed it. Sailes, a senior from Palmetto, Fla., fielded a punt and followed his blockers – called The Attack Team – on his way to a 78-yard return for a touchdown. 

Edwards a man of his word

Just before play began in Tucker Stadium, Edwards predicted that he would get three quarterback sacks. Because coach Watson Brown used so many players on both sides of scrimmage, Edwards wasn’t on the field enough to get his three sacks, but in his limited action the sophomore linebacker from Alabaster, Ala., had one quarterback sack and one quarterback hurry. He got his hands on freshman quarterback Darian Stone, forcing him to throw it out of bounds.

“I’d like to get a sack every game,” Edwards said. “That would help my team out. I want to work on being more fit at the linebacker position and have quicker hands when I’m at the defensive end position.”

Actions speak louder than words

Senior Corbin Miles (pictured) didn’t make any predictions Sunday, but he came up with two of the biggest plays of the night. The cornerback from Tyrone, Ga., broke up Cass Barnes’ first pass attempt of the night. Several series later, Miles went man-coverage on Tim Benford and covered him stride-for-stride downfield. His sticky coverage put him in a position to intercept Tre Lamb’s long pass, the only turnover of the night by the Golden Eagle offense.

“When you play cornerback, you have to stay focused,” Miles said. “You’re the last line of defense so you can’t give up any big plays. If you mess up, everyone sees it. So, honestly, I don’t care about my personal stats. If I don’t give up big plays that means I’m doing my job and getting the defense off the field.”

Miles said getting onto the field for the scrimmage Sunday was something everybody was looking forward to as a way to cap off the first week of fall camp.

“We’ve all been waiting to hit somebody for about a week now, so we were all a little antsy,” Miles said. “We had a few mental errors, it was hot and everybody’s body started to go, and when your body goes, your mind goes. But we gave a great effort and you can’t teach effort.”

Other big defensive plays

Several other Golden Eagle defenders earned cheers from the couple hundred fans on hand in the stands for the scrimmage, in addition to some “oohs” and “aahhs” from teammates.

* Redshirt freshman Seth McDonald of Sparta, Tenn., made a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return, stopping Demetrous Garrett as he was breaking to daylight.

* The defense came up with back-to-back plays to halt a drive near midfield. First, Caleb Mitchell stopped Garrett in his tracks after a seven-yard reception from Barnes on second-and-eight. Then, on third-and-one, LaDarrius Verge and Kelechi Ordu filled a hole and stopped Josh Perez for no gain to end the possession.

* With the offense facing a first-and-10 from the 12, Jake McIntosh came up with two huge tackles-for-loss in the red zone. He stopped Zach Salada for a three-yard loss on a sweep to the left, then two plays later caught Salada in the backfield for a five-yard loss on the right edge.

* Cookeville products Taylor Hennigan and Nick White made three stops during a series when the defense came up with several big plays. Hennigan stopped Henry Sailes for no gain and held Zack Ziegler to a two-yard pickup on the next play. Three plays later, White stopped Dontey Gay for a two-yard gain.

* Also on the same drive, Barry Lenon batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage and two plays later Blake Adams broke up a pass attempt on third down, forcing the offense to settle for a field goal.

Tooley, Baker block kicks

Richmond Tooley and Dominick Baker each blocked kicks during the scrimmage Sunday. Baker’s came first when Matt Barker attempted a PAT from the 25-yard-line following a penalty. Later in the scrimmage, Tooley got through to block a 52-yard attempt by Baker.

Balanced attack on ground, through the air

The offense piled up 480 total yards with good balance between the passing attack and the ground game. The four quarterbacks combined to hit 11 different receivers for 204 yards through the air, going 18-for-29 with one interception. On the ground, Golden Eagle ball carriers had 53 tries for 276 yards and one touchdown.

Inside the numbers

Sophomore Tre Lamb led the quarterbacks with 84 yards passing, going 6-for-10 with one interception. Senior Cass Barnes was 5-for-8 for 63 yards, junior Clint Brewster was 3-for-5 for 37 yards and freshman Darian Stone was 4-for-6 for 20 yards.

Benford had three catches for 48 yards, including a 29-yard catch-and-run for the longest pass play of the evening. Olverson also grabbed three passes for 28 yards.

Freshman Josh Wilson had one of the most impressive receptions of the evening, snapping up a low pass down around his ankles and turning it into a nine-yard pickup.

Explosions through the line


Freshman quarterback Darian Stone had the longest run of the night, breaking free down the left sideline then cutting back across the field before he was caught after a 35-yard gain. The next-longest run of the night was a 27-yard burst up the middle by Ronquez Beech. 

Reaching the end zone


Jocques Crawford bulled his way for 40 yards on six carries, including an eight-yard touchdown run. After getting stopped for a two-yard loss on his first carry, Crawford had a couple of four-yard runs, then broke loose for gains of 11 and 15 yards. His final touch resulted in the team’s first touchdown of the year.

Running strong with the second unit

Josh Perez (pictured)  was Tech’s workhorse Sunday, getting 12 carries for 48 yards including a long of 14 on his final attempt. Originally a safety/linebacker as a true freshman in 2008, Perez was a redshirt last season while he learned his new position as a B-back. Sunday night he said he feels “at home” in the backfield.

“I felt like I was running a little high,” Perez said. “I have to work at running lower, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Perez had words of praise for the second unit offensive line, which he ran behind most of the night.

“There are a lot of young guys up there, and I thought they did very well for their first scrimmage,” Perez said. “Technically I thought they did well. They’re still learning their positions, but I think they’re really coming along well.”

The players lining up on the second unit include Jacob Hoot at left tackle, Ben Davis at left guard, Ryan Weeks at center, Randall Reeves at right tackle and Wesley Sherrill at right tackle. Doug Page is the tight end in that group.

Welcome back to two former teammates

A couple of players who were seniors on last year’s squad were back on campus to watch the scrimmage. Quarterback Lee Sweeney and linebacker Derek Dickerson spent time on the sidelines visiting with former teammates.

Preseason for officials, too

While the Golden Eagles are going through preseason work, so are the Ohio Valley Conference officials who were on hand Sunday for the scrimmage. Wilson Jackson, one of the league’s supervisors of officials, was on the field working with his crew of eight. Ken Switzer of Nashville was the lead official Sunday, and was joined by officials from Nashville and Knoxville, including some newcomers who Jackson was watching.

And the final word…


Head coach Watson Brown said Sunday’s scrimmage was typical of a first scrimmage, but he told his players there was much work to be done before the season opener at Arkansas on Sept. 4.

“We have a long, long, long way to go,” he told the players assembled around him on the field following the workout. “We had some major mistakes and we are not near where we’ve got to be.”

He told his players this next week was crucial to the team’s improvement.

“There has to be a sense of urgency for everybody to get better,” he told them.

Coming up this week

The Golden Eagles don’t practice on Monday, then return to the field Tuesday for their first two-a-day workout beginning with a 7:30 a.m. session.

Season ticket sales continue

Tickets for the 2010 season are on sale and can be ordered online at TTUsports.com, over the phone at (931) 372-3940 or in person at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center. Tech hosts five games in Tucker Stadium in 2010, beginning Thursday, Sept. 16, with a non-conference game at 7 p.m. against Lane College.

-- photos by Nick Burns