Coaching ties. The head coach of Tennessee Tech will be very familiar to one assistant Oregon Coach; John Neal. Prior to taking over the job at his hometown school, Watson Brown was the head coach at none other than University of Alabama-Birmingham. Watson hired John Neal as his secondary coach after Neal had coached the secondary at the University of Mississippi.
Neal coached under Brown for 8 seasons serving as the defensive coordinator for the Blazers his final two seasons before coming to Oregon.
Returning Starters: 7
Key returners: Tre Lamb, QB, 5-9, 185, Junior; Adam Urbano, RB, 5-8, 195, Senior, Slade Adams, OL, 6-6, 315, Senior
Key Losses: Dontey Gay, RB; Tim Benford, WR; Scott Schweitzer, Left Guard
Key Arrivals: Eric Belew, WT, 6-3, 180, Columbia Central HS (Columbia, TN)
Tennessee Tech runs a balanced offense with a small quarterback. Tre Lamb had the second most rushing yards on the team last season, but managed to gain just 213 yards rushing on 109 carries. Though he had lost a lot of yards, he is still a threat to run the ball and has better than average speed. He is like an extra running back that can get “lost in the crowd” behind his offensive line.
Adam Urbano will replace last seasons leading rusher Dontey Gay. He will have big shoes to fill as Gay carried the ball 190 times for 1045 yards and 15 touchdowns. The most impressive stat for Gay was that in 190 carries, he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage just one time for a loss of 4 yards. Urbano saw plenty of action in 2011 as well with 77 carries for 475 yards and a touchdown. His 6.2 yards per carry average is very impressive.
Though the team was balanced in their overall passing and rushing statistics, the team lost its most important receiver in Benford who led the team with 65 receptions for 923 yards and 5 touchdowns. Behind him a slew of running backs caught passes. The second leading wide receiver in 2011, Cody Matthews, caught 12 passes for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Golden Eagles run a spread type offense with two running backs an H-Back a tight end and two wide receivers. Tech is very successful at swinging the ball to the running backs out of the backfield and the H-back. They will be replacing last years strter at the h-back position, but return two very good running abcks. Zach Ziegler (6-0, 200) plays the A-back position and caught 37 passes for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns last season to go with his 33 carries for 128 yards on the ground.
Early Offense Prediction: Expect Tennessee Tech to work side to side with short passes to multiple receivers. The Golden Eagles do not have a lot of speed at the receiver positions, but use multiple receivers to catch the ball. Though their offense performed well in the Ohio Valley Conference last season averaging 410.5 yards per game, they did not play particularly well against the better teams they faced. Tennessee Tech is a notch above Missouri State for comparative purposes, but not significantly. Expect Tennessee Tech to struggle against the Ducks defense.
Key returners:Marcus Edwards, DE/LB 6-1, 240, Senior; Austin Tallant, FS, 5-11, 185, Sophomore; Jordan Johnsopn, DT, 5-11, 285, Junior
Key Losses: Jake McIntosh, ILB; Rishmond Tooley, CB; Corey Watson, CB
Tennessee Tech was one of the better defenses in the Ohio Valley Conference giving up just 352 yards per game in 2011. The Golden Eagles play a hybrid 3-4 defense with a “Bear” defensive end position that plays either DE or linebacker. Their defense is not big, it gets to teams with a tenacity and aggression that relies more on quickness than strength.
As a freshman Austin Tallant led the Golden Eagles in tackles with 92 total tackles. Though he played free safety, he played mostly in run support. Another freshman defender last season, Cory Webber played the rover position for Tech and pitched in with an additional 35 tackles on the season. The best cover corner was not a starter but led the Golden Eagles with 3 interceptions including 2 that were taken back for touchdowns. He also led the team with 10 passes defended.
Marcus Edwards, a part-time starter in 2011, was a very effective pass rusher as he led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks on the season. He will likely be called on a lot against the very fast Oregon offense to try and slow down the Ducks on the edge.
Early Defense Prediction: Tennessee Tech has two very important factors working against them in this game; size and speed. In the Ohio Valley Conference, the Golden Eagles have good size and speed and swarm tot he ball very well. But they are over-matched here. They are not particularly big up front and will not be able to generate much penetration. On the edges, the Golden Eagles lack the elite speed to contain known commodities like De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will win this game. There are not many “if” situations that provide a scenario where the Ducks do not win. However, the Ducks will win by more than 45 points if they are crisp and play every play as if this were against a Pac-12 school. If the Ducks do not turn the ball over and are able to generate defensive pressure and turnovers, the Ducks will be emptying the bend early.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: This is not really a game the Ducks can lose. However, if the team plays sloppy and turns the ball over, it will not be a pretty game and could see the Ducks scoring less than 35 points which would be a moral victory for the Golden Eagles.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: Oregon with a very large margin of victory.