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TTU Young no more
With the last few years, the talk about the Tennessee Tech football team has been youth.
As the Golden Eagles’ begin to prepare for the 2011 campaign, this year’s squad has more experience than it’s had in a long time.
“You can’t call us young anymore,” joked Tech coach Watson Brown during Monday’s Ohio Valley Conference football media day. “But the league’s matured too. Every team in the league has a bunch of people back, but we probably have more than anybody. We have 21 starters and 52 lettermen back, so this is a deep team with experience and maturity to go with it.
“Every year it gets tossed around by everybody that Tech’s the young team. Well, we’re not the young team anymore at all.”
As Brown’s recruiting system finally took hold, it has created a pipeline of players that will keep young players coming in with a core group of returning experienced players staying in place for future years.
“We won’t be young next year,” Brown said. “We’ve got 26 juniors this year that will be seniors next season.”
That experience will be the key as Tech looks for its first OVC championship since 1975.
“This is the year that I think we have the shot of getting over that hump,” Brown said. “We have to quit talking about it. Now, we have to be relentless and prove our worth.”
Even with a 4-4 record in the conference last season, the Golden Eagles were seven points early and 11 injuries late away from potentially winning the league title.
“There were two pieces,” Brown said. “The UT Martin game was our killer. We could have handled the Southeast Missouri loss, let’s get back up and get on a run. We’re up 11 late in the third quarter, then lose the game. So we had to regroup. Our kids did, I was proud of them and we got on a roll winning three straight.
“Then, following that, we had 11 starters out in one week. The early losses and the injuries late made us a 4-4 OVC team. Part of that is our fault, part of it is luck of the draw. I think the SEMO game killed us because the kids left there thinking we blew one. They didn’t realize that they were one of the best teams in our league. That game led to the next week. We just have to understand you have to go one at a time and be around at the end. We can’t sit here and talk about the whole thing – you’ve got to go one at a time. Hopefully, you’re within a game of it at the end of the year and can win that game to get the championship.”
That said, Tech still has a positive note from last season to help lead the Golden Eagles into the new season.
“The Jacksonville State game was a confidence builder for us in two ways,” Brown said. “We had nine starters out of that game. Number two, we’re down 17 points midway through the third quarter, yet we dominate the last quarter. That is a confidence boost for our kids. When you have this many people back, you needed something like that to take you into the next season.”
It also helped the Golden Eagles to believe in themselves a little bit.
“You’ve got to get over that hump,” Brown said. “I’ve looked at it. In the last two years, we have the third-best OVC record in the league. We’re tied with Martin at 9-7. The next step is the hardest one. Going from that upper middle of the pack to winning one, there’s a lot of pieces that go into that. Confidence is a big piece of that. With the maturity this team has and the depth this team has, there’s no reason for us not to be a confident bunch.”
There’s still one major obstacle to get out of the way.
“We have got to learn not to get so emotional with the ups and downs. We still do that a little too much. I’m talking about in the middle of a game and after a game. We hang out a little too much on one game or too much on one quarter. The kids have just got to keep going. We have to be relentless and hang in there. I just don’t think our team has handled that well yet.”
by Thomas Corhern, The Herald-Citizen