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Golden Eagles optimistic about 2021 at OVC Football Media Day

Golden Eagles optimistic about 2021 at OVC Football Media Day

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As the fall football season draws near, it was a step back towards things being back to normal as the Ohio Valley Conference football coaches and student-athletes came together for the league's annual Football Media Day.

Well, almost normal. This year's event continued to be held virtually across Zoom, so tiny boxes of coaches, student-athletes, reporters and sports information directors on computer screens continued to be the norm for the time being.

"I miss being in Nashville, bringing the student-athletes to the event and meeting with the other coaches," Tennessee Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander said, "but the technology has come a long way. From recruiting to post-game press conferences, we can bring more people together and it makes it easier for all of us to communicate."

With the departures of Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky, the preseason poll wasn't exactly a clear-cut decision. Murray State, with half of the 14 first-place votes cast between the league's coaches and sports information contacts, took the top spot at 64 points, followed by Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri in a dead-heat for second with four first-place nods for the Governors, three for the Redhawks.

UT Martin was picked fourth, Tennessee State with new head coach Eddie George was fifth, followed by the Golden Eagles and Eastern Illinois.

"This was probably one of the hardest preseason polls for me to fill out," Alexander said. "Any one of the teams in the conference can win the title and I could have made a case for every team. There are a lot of good players on all of these teams, so it wouldn't surprise me if the final result is flipped."

The biggest thing Alexander emphasized over the day's media and conference sessions was that the Golden Eagles aren't a young team, even though there are young players. With the extra year of eligibility granted to the players who competed this spring, there's a few players coming back with experience that are still freshmen, and it just goes up from there.

The biggest example is graduate Chris Tucker. A Preseason All-OVC selection at defensive end, Tucker is entering his sixth season, the fifth with the Golden Eagles. He earned his second-straight All-OVC selection in the spring, collecting 34 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks.

With the extra year to play, Tucker made the commitment to stay at Tech and finish out his collegiate career with the Golden Eagles.

"We just kept moving forward as a team during all of the spring's adversity," Tucker said. "I like the way our team came together – we learned from it and it didn't stop us from becoming better. In my time here, the defense continues to get better and better. The depth we have on the D-line is ridiculous. Everyone brings something different to the table."

While the 2-5 season wasn't the result the team hoped for in the spring, the team did show vast improvement. Tech's defense ranked second in the OVC in total defense. Tucker and fellow Preseason All-OVC selection – safety Josh Reliford – were big parts of that, but those are only the tip of the iceberg when you throw in players like Seth Carlisle, Marcus McMeans, Jack Warwick and Jyron Gilmore among many others.

Reliford ended the shortened year with 41 tackles, two interceptions and four pass breakups.

Offensively, nearly every game was in reach for the Golden Eagles in the spring campaign with three of the five losses decided by one possession. Willie Miller had an impressive season in the QB slot in the short season, throwing for 879 yards and rushing for another 243 with nine combined touchdowns. Tech also saw emerging efforts from receivers Quinton Cross and Brad Clark, showing that there is some promising talent as Metrius Fleming and David Gist return from injury.

"We got valuable experience in the spring," Alexander said. We took what we learned and put that season behind us. When we brought all the guys back in June, the motivation was there and their minds were fresh. Our guys were ready to come back and get ready.

"We have vision. We have goals. That's what motivates us. I feel confident in our team and we have the makings of a special season."

Season tickets for 2021 Golden Eagle football are on sale now. To order, call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or go online at TTUsports.com.

Photos | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

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