CAMP NOTEBOOK: Defense improved, offensive line "solid" and Vanlier now a veteran
Aug 04, 2013
By Rob Schabert, TTU Sports Information Director Scroll to the bottom to view a video on Sunday's Camp
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- After just two days in shorts, Tennessee Tech
football coach Watson Brown can see that his defense is improved
and his offensive line is solid. Meanwhile, in his second season,
Ladarius Vanlier is already comfortable as a "seasoned"
"I can see it already," Brown told his team as it gathered at
midfield Sunday following a two-hour practice session, its second
of fall camp. "After just two days in shorts, we're getting better
While the Golden Eagle offense has set school record each of the
past two seasons, Brown is looking for improvement in the team's
defense in 2013.
"I think we have gotten better on defense," he said Sunday.
"That’s the place I’m really watching close. If we keep
what we’ve done offensively the last two years and stay at
that standard, and our defense improves, we’ve got a chance
to be really good. We’re watching the defense close, and
we’re off to a really good start."
The next two practices will see the team adding shoulder pads for
Monday and Tuesday afternoon sessions.
"Now we go to shells, we put the shoulder pads on, and we practice
two days in shoulder pads and shorts, and the fifth day we get to
go to full pads," Brown said. "We’ve got 25 of these
(practices). We’ve got two down and we’ve got 23 to go.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to hang in there
and see how good we can get in 25 practices."
The coaching staff continues to do a lot of teaching as fall camp
"The first 10 days are kind of installation and conditioning,
running and chasing the ball and trying to get into as good of
football shape as we can," Brown explained. "The second 10 days we
work on fundamentals and get as good as we can get with what
we’ve put in."
SOLID UP FRONT
No matter how many talented receivers dot the Golden Eagle
roster (a lot), or how well the quarterbacks throw the ball (they
throw it VERY well), or which runningback gets the call (there are
several expected to have the ball in their hands), none of it can
work unless the offensive line does its job.
On Sunday, assistant coach Dewayne Alexander continued to mold
three different units for the O-line.
"Our offensive line is solid in that there’s a lot of
returnees who have played and there are two or three redshirt
freshmen that we’re excited about throwing in there with
them," Brown said. "We want to get to eight, and hopefully 10, guys
that can play.
"With this style of offense, you can’t play five guys.
You’ve got to rest everybody some at the pace we go.
It’s important to have the five, and it’s just as
important to have at least eight guys. I think we do have eight
right now, if we stay healthy, and we’ve got a good chance to
get to 10."
Sophomore center J.T. Rankin has been sidelined with an illness,
missing Photo Day and the first two practices, meaning senior guard
James Normand has stepped in on some of the reps to play
That's been no problem for the Oak Ridger, who has played four
different positions in his time on the roster.
To open camp, the first five includes junior Randall Reeves at
center, Normand at left guard and redshirt freshman Matt Martin at
left tackle. On the right side, senior Wesley Sherrill is at guard
and sophomore Brett Dillard lines up at tackle.
On the second unit, Reeves and Normand have filled in for Rankin
at center, flanked by sophomores Justin Ivory and Jibrin Linge at
the guards, and redshirt freshman William Chatmon and junior
Matthew Smith at the tackles.
The third unit features four true freshmen along with redshirt
freshman Cory Malone. The group includes Ethan Crum at center,
Tyler Coen and Ian Isbell at the guards, and Malone and Charles
Rutledge at the tackles.
"Overall, it’s the most talented group that we’ve had
so far," Brown said. "It may not be the most experienced, but it is
the most talented.
"Coach (Dewayne) Alexander has jumped right in here and is
coaching those guys, and the players seem to love him," Brown
added. "They’ve adjusted to him real well. I’m excited
about where they are right now, and the way they look. The
fundamentals and what I’m seeing, and I’m excited about
OLDER AND WISER
Brown feels players might mature the most between their first and
second years on the roster. One of those second-year guys who is
much more settled this year than last is Ladarius Valier, a
sophomore from Nashville's Maplewood High School who is getting
preseason recognition as a punt and kick returner. The 5-foot-7,
170-pounder will also fill a runningback spot.
"When you come in year one, it’s all new. You’ve
been ‘the man’ for the last couple of years at your
high school, and now you’re starting from the bottom again
and working your way up," Brown said. "Maybe you’re away from
home for the first time, you have a roommate that you don’t
even know. There’s so many things to deal with."
Vanlier is doing just fine dealing with all those intangibles.
"Coming in my first year, I really didn’t know what to
expect," he says. "I really didn’t know the playbook, and it
was hard. I’m a quick learner, but it was still kind of hard
coming in. This second year, I’m coming in with way more
confidence because I actually know what’s going on and what
coach Brown wants me to do."
And Valier is one of the players lending a hand to the newest
players, helping them to settle in and learn the system -- both
on-the-field and across the campus.
"They first-year guys don’t know that much and you just kind
of try to take them under your wing and teach them," Vanlier said.
"Tremaine Hudson did that for me last year. He was a senior and I
was just coming in and I didn’t know much. He showed me the
"Me being a second-year guy, I can show the new guys – guys
like Trey Burks – if they have questions, I just try to
answer their questions the best way I can," Vanlier said.
His actions fit exactly what Brown expects of his players.
"I ask the older kids just to take them over, teach them, coach
them, cheer for them," Brown said. "Make them feel comfortable. It
makes it a whole lot easier when your teammates help you
"Ladarius is a great example of that. He’s just come out
here this year with so much more confidence because he knows what
he’s doing," Brown said. "I remember him last year on the
first couple of punts, he was dropping every one of them. Now
he’s confident, he’s ready to go.
"Maturity is one part of it, and experience within the program
SEASON TICKETS ON SALE
Season tickets for the 2013 Golden Eagles are on sale at the
Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931)
372-3940. Tickets may also be purchased online at