By Rob Schabert, Asssistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Young players hoping to make an impact
and earn some playing time, quarterbacks getting a chance to line
up as receivers, and walk-ons and redshirts looking to establish
themselves helped drive the Tennessee Tech offense to nearly 500
yards and four touchdowns Saturday in the team's annual Purple/Gold
But, over on defense, it was a bunch of veteran players who weren't about to be overlooked by the offensive fireworks. The "older" guys made just enough big plays to remind the couple hundred fans watching in the sun-drenched stands, that the Tech defense will be ready to play in the fall, as well.
"It's been a great spring and I've had a blast. It's been very physical, and I've been very pleased on both sides of the ball," said veteran head coach Watson Brown. "We still need to improve everywhere. We're further ahead on defense because we're a lot older over there. The defense is more solid but the offense has come the furthest."
If the coaches wish to put together a highlight reel of the defense in Saturday's play, here are six players who will appear:
* Safety Jimmy Laughlin, who will be a junior next fall, got to the quarterback for a sack and also caused a fumble on the play.
* Safety Marty Jones, who returns as a sixth-year senior, came up with an early tackle-for-loss on a third down play.
* Defensive end Midoho Okpokowuruk, a rising senior, had one tackle-for-loss, stopped the ball carrier for no gain twice, and knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
* Patrick Prewitt, who will be a junior, broke up a pass over the middle, one of the few incompletions from the six players who threw passes.
* Current freshman Kevin Robinson-White, who made two tackles at the line of scrimmage and also blocked a field goal try.
* Sophomore defensive end Avery Rollins, who recorded the second quarterback sack.
"We have several returning players who I believe are going to be outstanding this fall, and possibly be all-OVC caliber players for us," Brown said. His list includes several of those listed above, plus linebacker Tra'Darius Goff and cornerback James Huguely, each of whom watched Saturday's action from the sidelines.
Likewise, Brown listed the names of some returning offensive players that he is expecting to emerge as potential dominant performers in the new Golden Eagle offense. That list includes Jared Davis and Darian Stone, tight end Dametris Watson, plus wide receiver Cody Matthews, who has not seen any contact this spring.
Brown's lists went on to point out other returnees that he was impressed with during spring ball, including offensive linemen Jibrin Linge, Matthew Smith and Randall Reeves.
And, he named off a whole host of players who will be newcomers on the field in the fall that have looked strong in the spring. Among the most notable are quarterbacks Charlie High and Brock McCoin and runningbacks Tyrus Rollins and Trey Burks.
"We have a lot of players who have gotten a whole lot better during spring practice," he said.
In Saturday's 70-play scrimmage, everybody saw a little action and nobody saw too much as the staff took a close look at every available player. Six different players threw passes, going a combined 25-for-35 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Charlie High had the biggest numbers, completing 11-of-14 for 97 yards and a touchdown, a 21-yard corner route to Neil Gannaway. Sophomore Jared Davis was 4-for-5 for 30 yards including the other touchdown through the air, an eight-yard swing pass to Darian Stone. Lefty Trent Thompson was 7-for-8 for 68 yards.
Meanwhile, the ground game which piled up nearly 300 yards last week in the rain, went for 268 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries this week in the sunshine. The rain-or-shine backfield was led by the speedy Burks, who broke free for a 50-yard romp and finished with 55 yards on just two totes.
Bulldozer Isaiah McKinney pounded his way for 42 yards on five tries, while elusive Ladarius Vanlier added 37 yards and a touchdown on just four tries.
A total of 13 different players had carries. Among the receivers, 14 different players caught passes, topped by McCoin with four catches for 32 yards.