When Tennessee State released its 2013 depth chart on Monday in conjunction with Ohio Valley Conference Media Day, Michael German remained the starting quarterback.
He also remains suspended.
German, 21, was arrested in March for felony vandalism between $1,000 and $10,000 after allegedly jumping and dancing on the roof and hood of a TSU student’s car. Defensive back Joseph Johnson, who was dismissed from Marshall after a violation of team rules, also was arrested for the same offense and is no longer on the team. Their court date is set for Monday, July 29. TSU begins preseason camp on Aug. 5.
On Monday, Reed told reporters German remains indefinitely suspended. Along with his arrest, German has not fulfilled his academic obligations, Reed said.
“We’ve got to go in with the attitude that Mike is not there,” Reed said. “He has not fulfilled everything he needs to fulfill right now. If he is there, that is fine and good. But right now, we have some guys – Holt Claiborne, Lamar McKnight, Ronald Butler. All those guys are working hard and those guys will be contending for that starting spot.”
German was the OVC Freshman of the Year in 2011 and completed 60 percent of his passes for more than 2,751 yards last year for the fourth-most yards in a single season at TSU.
Reed said this is the fourth-year junior’s first legal offense but alluded to prior missteps. Last season, Reed benched German for the opening series against Austin Peay after he violated team rules and repeatedly has expressed frustration with German’s immaturity.
“Very frustrated with him,” Reed said. “But you still have to understand you’re dealing with a 19, 20-year-old kid that is still trying to find his way. To that end, you want to try to be as compassionate as possible. But at some point you’ve got to mature and grow up. It was a silly offense that turned into something much bigger than what it should have been. But when you’re the quarterback and you’re the face, so to speak, of the university you have to make better decisions.”
With German’s status uncertain, the Tigers lack experience at quarterback. Ryan Turnage transferred after just one year at TSU. As a freshman, he saw action in four games and threw just six passes.
Claiborne, a fifth-year senior, played in one game last year but did not attempt a pass. McKnight transferred from Contra Costa (N.J.) Community College, where he completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards and 11 touchdowns. Butler was in preseason camp last year as a freshman but was academically ineligible.
“We got a good front that will continue to make holes for our run game,” Reed said. “If we can run the ball, it will open up everything else. I do feel like we are very capable on offense. I do feel like the guys we brought in will enhance our offense. We are going to be as balanced as we can be.”
German, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder from Pompano Beach, Fla., was instrumental in leading the Tigers to an 8-3 record. TSU, which is projected to finish third in the league this year, also ranked fourth in the OVC in passing offense (250.5 yards per game) and averaged 28.8 points.
While the Tigers must fill German’s void and replace last year’s OVC rushing leader Trabis Ward, they return a pair of preseason All-OVC offensive linemen in left guard Kadeem Edwards and center Demetrius Rhaney. All-America tight end A.C. Leonard, a former Florida transfer, also returns.
“Mike is a key part of this offense,” Edwards said. “Don’t get me wrong, he is a big addition. But with the caliber of our offensive line, you can put another offensive lineman at quarterback and we’re still going to run the ball and still going to throw it. That is the mentality we have as an offensive line and as an offense. You’ve got to stop us. We’re not going to stop ourselves. We’ve got to take that approach.”