A year ago Tennessee Tech found itself on the outside looking at as a number of narrow losses prevented the Golden Eagles from finishing in the upper echelon of the OVC standings.
They hope that can pass that threshold in 2021.
A 2-5 season does not normally garner a team much respect and that was apparent when the 2021 OVC preseason poll was announced earlier this week and Tennessee Tech found itself near the bottom of the rankings.
What might have been overlooked by those prognosticators was the fact that three of Tech’s setbacks were by a combined 16 points. Now the Golden Eagles think they have something to prove to those naysayers.
Tech coach Dwayne Alexander noted that his team ranked second in the league in total defense last season. He is expecting improvement when the new season gets underway.
“We are expecting bigger and better things from our defense with the added year of experience,” the Golden Eagle boss said.
His team will be tested early. Tech opens the season Sept. 2 at Samford, a former league foe and opens the home schedule one week later against Furman, a staple in the FCS playoffs in recent years. The Golden Eagles close the non-conference season Sept. 18 at Tennessee.
Chris Tucker (6-2, 270, graduate), a defensive end, was one of only two Tech players to be listed on the preseason all-conference team. Safety Josh Reliford (5-10, 200, RS-Jr.) was also chosen to the squad.
The Tech offense is filled with uncertainties.
Former starting quarterback Bailey Fisher recently announced on his Twitter account he had been offered to join the program at Gardner-Webb.
That opens the door for a bevy of young players to challenge for the starting assignment at quarterback.
Davis Shanley (6-2, 204), a graduate transfer from Western Kentucky, appears to have the inside track to start at that position for the season opener at Samford, based on experience alone.
Drew Martin (6-2, 2-1, RS-So.), Willie Miller (6-0, 178, So.) and Lem Wash (5-10, 213, Fr.) will also compete to determine who takes over the reins of the Golden Eagle offense.
Key Game: Tech opens the conference portion of the schedule of Sept. 25 against Eastern Illinois. A win will give the Golden Eagles a heavy dose of needed momentum they hope to carry throughout the rest of the season.
Worst Case: The depth of the teams in the OVC might be too much for Tech to handle in 2021 but it may be a silver lining for a bright future for the Golden Eagles.
Best Case: A defense that ranked second in the OVC last season returns largely intact. If that unit can continue to develop and help keep an emerging offense in contention good things could happen in Cookeville.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.