JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the ninth part in an 11-part series breaking down all of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2017 season. This feature breaks down the second oldest rivalry in the state of Tennessee and a matchup with the Tusculum Pioneers.
The Pioneers were picked sixth in the preseason SAC coaches poll and produced seven preseason All-SAC selections. Tusculum finished 4-7 last year, but finished 3-1 with a 31-30 overtime win over C-N in the finale at Pioneer Field.
Offense was the Pioneers primary struggle last season. Tusculum averaged 17.4 points and 250 yards of total offense per game; however, the defense was stout in Jerry Odom's first year. That unit ranked toward the top of the SAC last year, giving up 24 points per game and 350 yards of total offense.
The offense began to sure the back half of the year. TC produced its four highest scoring efforts in the final four weeks in the season.
The Pioneers should be improved from a year ago. Seven starters return on offense, as do six on defense.
Tusculum will be breaking in a new quarterback with the departure of Luke Lancaster, however, Odom did sign Alex Ogle in the offseason. The signal caller stands 6-4, 230 and transfers to Greeneville from Boise State.
Ogle played in three games as a freshman for the Broncos before transferring to Arizona Western College. He was a three-star recruit out of high school at Jensen Beach. He completed 151-of-271 passes for 2,338 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, earning the team's most valuable player honor.
Ogle, or whomever the Pioneers starting QB is, will have some weapons to work with including deep threat Evan Altizer. He led the Pioneers with five touchdowns and 16.5 yards per catch. Chavis Williams also returns for his sophomore year after a 10-catch, 145-yard season.
Last year, the Pioneers started three different players at running back. Tony Belle returns from that group after rushing for 287 yards last season and three touchdowns. Belle and offensive lineman Keveon Broadwater were the Pioneers lone two preseason All-SAC selections offensively.
Defensively, the Pioneers have to replace a pair of linebackers and a pair of defensive linemen. However, in the secondary, the Pioneers have plenty of talent.
Chief among them is 2016 SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year Jay Boyd, who garners first team recognition at both defensive back and return specialist. Boyd, a 6-0, 190-pound sophomore from Viera, Florida, earned Don Hansen Football GazetteAll-America honorable mention recognition at the safety position last year, becoming the first TC rookie to earn All-America gridiron recognition. Boyd led the SAC with five interceptions, which were tied for the second most in school history. In his 10 games, he posted 44 tackles, including six for loss, with three pass break-ups, forced a fumble and recovered another.
Martez Thompkins and Malik Goodman also return in the defensive backfield. Both players picked off passes last season for the Pioneers.
L'Keith Brown returns to anchor the Pioneers linebacking corps following a 95-tackle, four-sack season.
The Better Know the Opponent series returns Monday with a look at the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears.