Depth emerging for Golden Eagles in team's final scrimmage
Aug 29, 2009
Players, coaches sign autographs and meet fans
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – More than 1,200 fans streamed into Tucker
Stadium Saturday afternoon for the annual Gathering of Eagles
picnic and a chance to watch the Golden Eagle football team hold
its final scrimmage before opening the season in less than two
“I really appreciate all the people coming out, and
it’s neat for the players to see that kind of support,”
said third-year head coach Watson Brown. “It’s good for
the kids to see that people really care about them.
“I wasn’t surprised at all about the crowd, because
this is really a special time,” Brown added. “This is a
neat event for the Upper Cumberland, and when they learn more about
it I think it will grow and grow.”
What the fans got to see was the next major step for Brown’s
current work in progress. The veteran coach and his staff rested
most of their starters for the chance to evaluate the second and
third units, the youngsters hoping to make an impact on the 2009
“We will have a lot of young guys in the ‘twos’
on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “A lot of
freshmen will be backups, and they’ll play. We’ve got
to watch the film and decide who will be in the ‘twos’
but I think we’re good enough to play them.”
Starting quarterback Lee Sweeney never strapped on his helmet,
watching the entire scrimmage from the sidelines with most of the
offensive starters including Tim Benford, Henry Sailes, Cedric
Wilkerson, Antonio Robinson and Tremaine Hudson.
The starters in the offensive line got a few snaps, then let the
backups fill the trenches. On defense, starters took the field only
for the first couple of series.
“I thought the first defense looked good on the first two
series,” Brown said. “They played well, they showed
some quickness, and I was real pleased with them.”
Among the standouts on defense, junior linebacker Kelechi Ordu
made some big plays early in the scrimmage, knocking down a pass at
the line of scrimmage and following with back-to-back tackles.
Taron Ryce nearly got an interception, while Gerel Harlan blocked a
The “D” also got big plays from Mauricio Wallace and
Richmond Tooley, and quarterback sacks from Kelvin Quarles and
Justin Vann. Freshman Barry Lenon, an outside linebacker from
Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga., made some noise late in
the day. He batted down consecutive pass attempts at the line of
scrimmage, and made a tackle-for-loss on the same series.
With Sweeney handling a clipboard, that left the signal-calling
chores to redshirt freshman Tre Lamb, junior Cass Barnes and
sophomore transfer Clint Brewster, and it was the newcomer from
that trio whose numbers were the most impressive. After watching
Lamb and Barnes run the attack for the first half of the scrimmage,
Brewster played three series later in the day and finished 9-for-12
for 107 yards while leading the team on two touchdown drives.
In his first series, Brewster was 5-for-6 for 57 yards, directing
Tech 75 yards in nine plays before Jimmie Blair scored a touchdown
on a 12-yard run. The only incompletion in the drive was a dropped
Minutes later, after his offense was halted near midfield,
Brewster again revved the engine and moved Tech 43 yards in nine
plays, culminating in a three-yard burst into the end zone by
freshman Zach Salada
Lamb, who started 1-for-6 through the air, settled down to hit 50
percent of his remaining passes and finished the afternoon 7-for-18
for 79 yards. He had one carry for a 27-yard touchdown. He also
took the team to the 13-yard-line before coming up empty on a
missed field goal.
Barnes directed Tech for five series, leading the team to a field
goal on the opening drive and two touchdowns. He was 3-for-5
passing for 30 yards, and also rushed nine times for 40 yards.
“I was a little surprised that he (Brewster) had the best
numbers,” Brown said. “He went to the right people with
the ball. He’s still got a ways to go, but I think today was
the best he’s been in the 10 days he’s been out here. I
think I’ve seen improvement from him every day.
“The other two (Barnes and Lamb) ought to know better where
to go, because they’ve been out here. I thought Cass and Tre
were both very inconsistent, and we need consistency out of that
group. That just shows us how important Lee Sweeney’s
experience will be. One of those guys needs to step up.”
Blair, a transfer from UAB who moved to tailback just this week,
had seven carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns, reaching paydirt
from 12 and two yards out.
“I thought he really stood out,” Brown said. “He
showed some quickness, but he’s still a little behind on
where to go. We still have some issues with the transfers on
learning the system, so they will need to work with their coaches.
It’s the same with Clint (Brewster).”
Redshirt freshman Ronquez Beech had the longest play of the day, a
37-yard run to the two-yard line to set up a touchdown. He finished
with a team-leading 52 yards in five carries, and added two catches
for 38 yards, giving him a team-best 90 all-purpose yards in seven
Sophomore Dontey Gay had six carries for 42 yards and two catches
for 14, giving him 56 all-purpose yards. Junior Raymond Coleman
also looked strong, gaining 30 yards on five carries and grabbing
two passes for 21 yards, to account for 51 all-purpose yards.
Salada was a workhorse in short-yardage situations, pounding his
way for 10 yards on seven carries, including the final touchdown of
the day from three yards out. The Cookeville High School product
caught two passes for 19 yards, finishing with 29 tough all-purpose
“Zach Salada looked good,” Brown said.
“He’s such a strong kid. He’s going to be a good
player. He’ll be the kind of back who can move the
Another Cookeville freshman who saw some playing time was Taylor
Hennigan, who caught one pass for 12 yards.
“Taylor will play for us, and he’ll play this
year,” Brown said. “He will play at inside receiver and
on special teams.”
With some of the team’s top receivers on the sidelines, Tech
spread the ball around to several others pass catchers who are
hoping to make an impact. Tech’s quarterbacks combined to go
19-for-35 for 216 yards, and those 19 catches were made by 11
True freshman Colton Billups was the leading receiver with three
catches for 32 yards. Six receivers caught two passes apiece, and
four more had one catch. The longest passing play of the day was a
23-yard connection between Lamb and tight end Cory Powers. Freshman
Zack Zeigler had two catches for 22 yards, and freshman Demetrous
Garrett grabbed two passes for 18 yards.
In all, the offense had 453 total yards in 63 plays. Tech gained
237 with five touchdowns on 44 carries in addition to the 216
through the air.
Tech opens the regular season against Pikeville College on
Thursday night, Sept. 10, with kickoff in Tucker Stadium at 7 p.m.
Season tickets are on sale online at TTUsports.com, at the
Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or by calling (931)
Photos of signing provided by Gerard Harlan (top and
Action photos provided by Thomas Corhern, Cookeville
Top: Cass Barnes. Bottom Raymond