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Camp Notebook: Developing players, improving systems focus of camp

PLEASE NOTE: The starting time for the scrimmage
on Saturday has been moved to 10 a.m.


By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information

Video by Marc Graham, Video Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the season-opening game exactly three weeks away, the Tennessee Tech football team continued its fall camp Thursday with an ongoing emphasis on developing the new offensive scheme and locking the defense into it's role.

 

What Happened Today: The Golden Eagles worked out twice on Thursday, wearing full pads for a two-hour session in the morning, and scaling back to shorts with helmets for the afternoon. In addition to the usual position drills, the team spent some time in the morning on kickoff returns, and in the afternoon on kickoff coverage. The morning session included 46 full plays to wrap things up.

Best Offensive Play of the Day:
On back-to-back plays, sophomores Demetris Watson (left) and Cory Malone (right), taking turns manning the H-back role, each came off the goal line and blocked down on the defensive end to spring the ball carrier for a big gain.

Honorable mention: Known more for his pass routes than his downfield blocking, junior wide receiver Steve Wilson sustained an outstanding block on the edge to spring ball carrier Trey Burks for a long gain.

Best Defensive Play of the Day:
Sophomore Maleek Hall made a diving interception, gaining control of the ball as he hit the turf, on a deflected pass attempt.

Honorable mention: A spectacular defensive play at the goal line by senior safety Marty Jones to knock down a potential touchdown pass from Jared Davis to Darian Stone got the defensive players on the sidelines yelling and clapping for his effort.

They Said It:
"We've got to get good at this. We've got to know what we're doing." - Head coach Watson Brown, talking to his H-backs and runningbacks who were running pass routes out of the backfield.
What's Next:
After Thursday's two practices, Friday should be an easier day with only one practice, and that's in shorts and helmets. The team will be on the field Friday at 9 a.m. for about two hours, making final preparations for Saturday's 10 a.m. scrimmage.


Forecast moves scrimmage Saturday
A forecast for afternoon showers has brought about a change in the team's schedule for Saturday. Originally set for its first scrimmage of fall camp in the late afternoon (4 p.m.), the session has been moved up by head coach Watson Brown. The team's scrimmage will now be held at 10 a.m. Saturday. Fans are invited to attend the free event.

A week later, the team will host its annual Gathering of Eagles with the second scrimmage of the camp. That day features a wide variety of activities, including a Women's Clinic, Kid's Zone, free picnic for all attending, and an autograph session after the scrimmage. The entire event is free.

The Blind Side
Tennessee Tech's offense appears to be loaded with talent in the skill positions – the guys who run, pass and catch the ball – but all of that ability could come grinding to a halt without an effective front line protecting the quarterback and knocking open some holes.

That's where assistant coach Dewayne Alexander's players enter the picture, and they do so holding what could be the biggest key to success for the Golden Eagles in 2014. There are a handful of returning veterans up front, including left tackle Matthew Smith, left guard Randall Reeves, center J.T. Rankin, right guards Jibrin Linge and Brett Dillard, and right tackles Matt Martin and Justin Ivory.

Watching the big men toiling in the end zone during fall camp, a casual observer will notice there are whole bunch of large bodies in those drills. And, it's a good thing, since offensive linemen play some of the most physically demanding positions. To say the least, depth is critical.

Are there other names that might emerge this season? Players that Alexander has noticed as making strides toward being contributors?

"The most improved player we have from the spring to the fall is Wiliam Chatmon," Alexander states without hesitation. "He's having a really good camp so far. His strength is good, h is weight is good, he's physical.

"We needed another tackle to come on, and we think that he has the potential to be that guy," Alexander said. "We've been really pleased with what he's done."

Alexander also mentioned redshirt freshmen Gage Terry (at right guard) and Tyler Coen (at left guard).

"Both of them are much improved from the spring to the fall," said the veteran coach.

Terry sat out last season after coming to Tech out of Creek Wood High School in Charlotte, Tenn. A civil engineering major from Burns, Tenn., Terry was a four-year starter on both the football and baseball teams at Creek Wood, where he was a  three-time all-district selection in football and twice chosen as team captain. A starting lineman on both sides of scrimmage for the Red Hawks, Terry led the team to three playoff appearances in his four seasons.

Coen, meanwhile, made name for himself while helping lead Gordonsville High School to a dramatic victory in the 2012 TSSAA state championship game in Tucker Stadium. A business management major, Coen was voted as Tennessee Mr. Football Class A Lineman and the Upper Cumberland Defensive Player of the Year. A first-team All-State pick as an offensive lineman by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association, he was a team captain and led the Tigers to a 14-1 mark.

Chatmon has gotten a larger dose of playing time this week, sharing left tackle playing time with Charles Rutledge while projected starter Matthew Smith is temporarily sidelined with a minor injury.

"I'm just taking fall camp day-by-day," Chatmon explained as one reason for his noticed improvement. "I'm taking it one day at a time, and focusing on one thing and trying to get better at that. I feel I've become a lot better because of that."

The one-day-at-a-time idea came from a solid source.

"Frank Omiyale (former Golden Eagle All-American and eight-year NFL veteran at left tackle) came to visit last week and his advice just stuck with me," Chatmon said. "He said to pick something in particular for that day and try to perfect it. To make it your own craft."

Chatmon agrees with Alexander's assessment of his rise in performance over the  past four months since the close of spring drills.

"I think I have improved dramatically," he said. "I've gained 15 or 20 pounds, and having that kind of size is important at tackle. Gaining weight has allowed me to be a better player."

Some of the credit also goes to Casey Kramer, Chatmon said. Tech's strength coach, Kramer is the director of the Athletic Performance Center.

"He does a great job with us, and really pushes us to our limits," Chatmon said.

With Smith sidelined, Chatmon said he and Rutledge are getting a tremendous number of reps at the position. Physically that added work hasn't bothered him.

"I feel like I'm in really good shape because of all the work we did this summer," Chatmon said. "Now I just need to get into 'football' shape."

The increase in his snaps has also put a greater strain on the mental aspect of his game.

"Mentally, I have more focus because I'm playing so much, and I really need to try to stay 100 percent focused on technique in the last few plays on a day like today (team ran 46 plays at the end of practice).

Sitting out his freshman season after being a high school star wasn't something he planned to do.

"Actually, I thought it was a curse because I really thought I could come in and play as a freshman," Chatmon said. "But I was only 230 or 235 pounds, so I realized a redshirt year was the best thing that could have happened to me. It allowed me to develop more into a college football player."

Last season, Chatmon saw action in 11 games and earned a start in two contests. This year, he plans to provide leadership to the younger players.

"That's why I chose to stay in the dorms with them this summer," he said. "I think I helped the younger players out with guidance. I wanted to see where their head is at and help them develop toward their future, acting as a kind of mentor. I think they can benefit from that."

Majoring in pre-occupational therapy, Chatmon said the "top dog" among the offensive linemen when it comes to leadership for the younger players is fifth-year senior Randall Reeves.

""He's been here, he's played in a lot of games, and he knows what everyone is going through," Chatmon said. "When we need a leader, he's the one who really steps up."

Season tickets on sale with several plans to choose from
The Golden Eagles will host six home football games during the 2014 season, and a variety of season ticket options are available including a Family Plan that admits up to five people (two adults) to every game. The cost of the Family Plan is just $75 for 30 total tickets, or an average of $2.50 per ticket.

Tech will open the home season against Kentucky Christian on Thursday, Aug. 28, then 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 has some openings remaining
For the second straight year, Tech football's annual Gathering of Eagles will feature the "Now You Know" Women's Football Clinic. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16, head coach Watson Brown will host the event for the second season in a row. The women's clinic is free but space is limited. The first 100 participants to sign-up (by calling 931-372-3940) will receive a specially designed tote bag and an opportunity to tour the TTU athletic facilities.