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Camp Notebook: Three players in the mix at critical defensive end spot

By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
Video by Tom Hollander, Video Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Perfect weather greeted the Tennessee Tech football team Wednesday morning for a two-hour practice session in full pads. Temperatures had dropped slightly and the humidity was way down. A slight breeze made things pretty pleasant on the turf of Overall Field.

What Happened Today: The Golden Eagles worked for two hours in the morning in full pads, and spent their afternoon session in shorts and helmets. The morning session included work on the two-minute drill along with kickoff coverage and kickoff returns.

Best Offensive Play of the Day:
Senior runningback Stephen Bush took a pitch and raced around left end, beating the cornerback to the corner, and turning on the speed as he turned up the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown scamper. Bush is a 5-9, 200-pound ball carrier from Cookeville High School.

Best Defensive Play of the Day:
In full team drills, redshirt freshman Joe Robertson made a tremendous tackle as the offense was trying to move off its own goal line. Robertson shed his blocker and met runningback Willie Davis with a resounding crunch to halt the play. Robertson is a 6-3, 225-pound tackle from Franklin, Tenn., who attended Page High School.

They Said It:
"We've still got time to get better. We're making this football team right now. Once the season starts, we won't have time to do that. We need to make this team right now." - Head coach Watson Brown talking to the Golden Eagles as a group at the conclusion of Wednesday morning's practice in Tucker Stadium.
What's Next:
The team has only one practice session scheduled for Thursday, that being at 9 a.m. in full pads. A morning session in shorts is set for Friday, then Saturday fans will get a chance to see the Golden Eagles in action at the annual Gathering of Eagles and the second full scrimmage of fall camp. The event is free.


Defense filling a hole

From 2000 to 2006, Malcolm was in the Middle on the popular television series. From 2012-13, Malcolm -- a completely different Malcolm, of course -- was out on the edge, playing defensive end for Tennessee Tech. However, with the departure of Malcolm Mitchell from his position on the defensive line, Tennessee Tech has a rather gaping hole to fill in 2014.

"On defense, that's probably the biggest piece that's missing," said veteran coach Watson Brown. "Malcolm was just so consistent, and he was an all-OVC calibre player out there. We've had several years in a row where we didn't have to worry about that position. The last two years it was Malcolm, and before him we had Jamere Hogue."

Replacing Mitchell will fall to a trio of promising players, each of whom has the potential to emerge as a similar performer with the opportunity to become a game-changer. They are juniors Harrison Reid (Cincinnati) and Avery Rollins (Gadsden, Ala.) and sophomore Jordan Patrick (Alcoa, Tenn.). All three saw action last season, and all three are mixing it up during fall camp.

The group didn't open camp that way. Rollins was working inside at a tackle position, while the end spot included Reid, Patrick and sophomore Jordan Carroll (Birmingham, Ala.). Two things have happened. First, Reid pulled a hamstring in late July and missed the entire first week of fall camp. With him on the sidelines, the coaching staff moved Rollins to the end to fill in, and he has adapted so well they are leaving him in the spot. At the same time, Carroll was moved to a linebacker position. That left Patrick and Rollins for a brief while. With Reid's return, Brown feels confident that the three can share playing time and give the Golden Eagles plenty of punch at the position.

"We need all three of them at that position," Brown said, "and all three of them are doing a good job."

Even though Mitchell has wrapped up his playing career, he will still have an influence on the position this season, according to Reid.

"I was a roomate on the road with Malcolm last year, and some of his personality rubbed off on me," Reid insists. He lists those traits as a positive attitude and being 'goofy'.

"He also taught me a lot about the position, and got my technique right," Reid says. "Technique is the biggest part of it, and he corrected me on the field. I wasn't staying focused on my man or my assignment. I wasn't beating my opponent. I was a big risk-taker, and I was immature as a player. He helped me to realize that, and this year I'm more focused on my assignment and helping the team. I'm not so much of a risk taker."

Reid (above), who played at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, helped the Warriors win their first-ever Ohio Division II state championship as a sophomore in 2009 with a 13-2 record. As a senior, he led the team with 10 quarterback sacks. Upon his arrival at Tech, he saw limited action in 2012 as a true freshman but last season was on the field in every game including a starting nod at Wisconsin. Of his 13 total tackles, six were behind the line of scrimmage for losses.

Like Reid, Patrick (far left) won a state championship during his high school career. His senior season for Alcoa High School included 84 total tackles. A 2011 graduate, Patrick first enrolled at Tech in the 2011-12 season but was not a member of the football team. He became a walk-on member of the roster beginning with the 2012 season, and went through 2013 spring drills before earning plenty of playing time in his first year.  After coming off the bench in the first two games of the 2013 season, he  earned a starting role for the remaining 10 games and made 38 total tackles.

Rollins (near left) doesn't have a high school state championship to his credit, but he was a standout two-way starter at Gadsden City High School and helped the team win three consecutive region titles. As a senior, he had 90 tackles including 12 tackles-for-loss and five quarterback sacks. He spent one redshirt season at Tech in 2011, then played in every game during the last two seasons.

"There's pretty good competition between us," Reid says. "We're teamates, and we talk trash to each other when we mess up, but we're all brothers and teammates, and we are all working toward the same goal."

Get your season tickets
The Golden Eagles will host six home football games during the 2014 season, opening against Kentucky Christian on Thursday, Aug. 28. After that, Tech will welcome Murray State on Saturday, Oct. 4 (7 p.m.), Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 18 (7 p.m.), Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 1 (1:30 p.m.), Southeast Missouri for Homecoming on Saturday, Nov. 8 (1:30 p.m.), and Chattanooga on Saturday, Nov. 15 (1:30 p.m.).

For season ticket information, contact the Tennessee Tech Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or call 931-372-3940. Tickets are also on sale online at TTUsports.com.

Women's Clinic and Gathering of Eagles reminder
Just a reminder that the second annual Women's Clinic is this coming Saturday as part of a day full of activities for the Gathering of Eagles. The "Now You Know" Women's Football Clinic begis at 10:30 a.m. Head coach Watson Brown will host the event which is free, but space is limited. The first 100 participants to sign-up (by calling 931-372-3940) will receive a specially desiged tote bag and an opportunity to tour the TTU athletic facilities.