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Friday, July 1, 2022

Commentary

Scouting the opposition: Tennessee Tech a ‘dual threat’


The Cougars practice before the season opener against Tennessee Tech. | File photo/The Cougar

Game time is finally upon us, as the Tom Herman led Cougars hit the field for the first time tonight when the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles come to town for the season opener at TDECU Stadium.

The Tennessee Tech football program is coming off of a 5-7 season in which the team struggled on both sides of the ball, finishing eighth in total offense and seventh in total defense in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Since current head coach, Watson Brown, took over in 2006, the team has had just two winning seasons and produced a 38-53 overall record.

While TTU and UH have never met on the football field, the Golden Eagles have some familiarity with the American Athletic Conference, having played five different teams for a combined 7-14-4 record against schools in the league.

Brown, however, is more familiar with the Coogs, having directed teams against Houston seven times for a 4-3 record during his 31-year career as a head coach.

Heading into this season, the Golden Eagles have 10 starters to replace, four on offense and six on defense. These include their leading receiver, leading passer/runner in quarterback Darian Stone and both leading tacklers from a year ago.

Because the offensive line will have new starters at left tackle, left guard and center, all seeing their first action for TTU against Houston.

The two returning starters on the line will be switching positions. Expect the changes to make it difficult to holdup against defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and his blitz-happy Cougar defensive line.

At quarterback, junior Jared Davis had a solid training camp. He will start after coming off the bench twice to spark the Golden Eagles to wins in the second half of last season.

After playing in 19 games his first two years, Davis has some experience under his belt, but has been inconsistent and turnover prone thus far, passing for 1,705 yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with 12 interceptions and 11 fumbles.

Davis proved to be a duel threat, racking up eight rushing touchdowns as a quarterback in his career. The Golden Eagles will need him to do the same this year, as seniors Radir Annoor and Willie Davis will be the two starting running backs for Tennessee Tech and that duo combined for just 375 yards and five touchdowns last season.

While the top receiving threat seems to be sophomore Brock McCoin, coming off a solid freshman campaign with 43 catches for 517 yards, two touchdowns and two 100-yard games, senior Ladarius Vanlieris must not be over looked.

Vanlier is an all-purpose threat in the Golden Eagle offense, racking up 494 yards and five touchdowns as a runner and 130 yards as a receiver in 2014.

He is an outstanding return man for TTU, posting two touchdowns and a 22.3 average on kick returns last year, he makes the Golden Eagles a threat to score every time on special teams.

Defensively, the linebackers have been the heart and soul of coordinator Donn Landholm’s scheme and they will have to replace not one, but two 100-plus tackle guys in 2015.

Despite this, the Golden Eagles look to have a solid, veteran tandem at inside linebacker with seniors Jay Rudwall and Tra’Darius Goff. Between them, the pair has 414 career tackles, 23.5 tackles-for-loss, seven quarterback sacks and 68 career games.

From a pass rushing standpoint, six different TTU players come into the year with seven-or-more career tackles-for-loss, but sacks have been hard to come by for a team that has produced just 49 sacks the past three seasons.

The secondary for this group will be a mixed bag of veterans and newbies looking to improve their effectiveness against the pass. Last year, they allowed opponents to complete 66.4 percent of their passes for 2657 yards and 20 touchdowns while coming away with just eight interceptions.

Overall, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles have a squad that can be dangerous in all phases of the game and will be hungry to make a name for themselves against an FBS opponent come game time.

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