August 9, 2010

Camp Notebook: Spirits soar for Golden Eagles on first day

Photo: Tyler York (left) and freshman Doug Page tangle in a drill Monday during first day of Fall camp -- photo by Thomas Corhern, Cookeville Herald-Citizen

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Spirits were extremely high Monday afternoon as Tennessee Tech went through a two-and-a-half hour workout on Overall Field, the team's first action of fall camp.

Coach Watson Brown and his staff ran the 90 Golden Eagle players through a wide variety of drills and got their first look at 19 newcomers including 15 freshmen. It was the first of two days in shorts and helmets.

"It was a very good first day," Brown said as he began his 26th season as a collegiate head coach and 39th season as a collegiate coach overall. "We got a chance to see everybody. I haven't seen them on the field in three months. I saw improvement in everyone in terms of their overall looks. They have worked hard in the off-season and it showed.

"The big thing is we made it through with no injuries, there was a nice breeze that came through here about halfway through, and it wasn't bad for a 98- or 99-degree day. The summer was so hard for them, I think a lot of them were looking forward to the start of camp so they could get away from (strength coach) Chip (Pugh)," Brown joked.

One player who was thrilled to be back in action was runningback Jocques Crawford, a senior from Memphis, Tenn., who came to Tech a year ago from Kansas University. Sitting out the 2009 campaign as a redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules following a solid season with the Jayhawks, Crawford spent two weeks on the scout team last fall before he was sidelined by a shoulder injury.

A 6-1, 238-pound bulldozer from Cordova High School who was the Junior College National Player of the Year in 2007, Crawford missed all of spring workouts, so he was on the field Monday for the first time in a year.

"I was a little rusty, but I had a lot of fun," Crawford said. "It's my last go-round and I really plan to enjoy playing this season. I feel like I'm catching on quickly but there's always room for improvement."

Crawford was impressed with the talent lining up around him Monday.

"With the teammates I have, we have a chance to be pretty good,"Crawford said. "We have a lot of weapons at runningback and at quarterback."

Learning Watson Brown's offensive system is foremost on Crawford's agenda.

"In junior college we ran more of a pro-style offense and at Kansas, it was more of a spread offense," he said. "Here there some of everything. I'm learning to move out of different formations."

With his size, Crawford will be one of Tech's biggest runningbacks and he's looking forward to contributing as both a ball carrier and a blocker.

"I get hit all the time as a ball carrier, and I'm looking forward to doing some hitting," Crawford said.

USA Today Coaches Poll includes two Golden Eagle foes

Tech's first two opponents of 2010 are included in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll, including one in the Top 10. Second-week opponent TCU (Sept. 11 in Fort Worth, Texas), coached by former Golden Eagle assistant coach Gary Patterson, is ranked seventh in the poll after finishing last year with a 12-1 mark. Season-opening opponent Arkansas (Sept. 4 in Fayetteville) is listed 19th. The Razorbacks were 8-5 last season.

Heisman Hype surrounding two quarterbacks

In addition to being ranked in the preseason polls, Arkansas and TCU have something else in common -- quarterbacks who are drawing plenty of Heisman talk. Arkansas is led by Ryan Mallett and TCU's signal-caller is Andy Dalton.

While those two gunslingers will provide a couple of severe tests for Tech's secondary, Brown is convinced his defense will learn valuable lessons from the challenges.

"I think, as a pair, we might have the best combination of cornerbacks in the conference in Kedrick Towles and Caleb Mitchell," Brown told the media gathered at Monday's Media Lunch in Eblen Center. "They should come out of those games as better players."

Up Next: Second day in shorts and helmets

The Golden Eagles will be on the field Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. for their second day in shorts and helmets. After that, Tech will add shoulder pads for practices Wednesday and Thursday, then be in full pads for the first time on Friday.

Season tickets on sale

Fans can purchase season tickets online at TTUsports.com or from the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center. Tech hosts five games in Tucker Stadium in 2010, beginning Thursday, Sept. 16, with a visit from Lane College at 7 p.m. Tech also hosts OVC foes UT Martin, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State. For ticket information, call (931) 372-3940.