TSU quarterback feels right at home — in school, under center

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 9:00pm

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Jeremy Perry possesses the build to be a threat at a variety of positions.

He prefers to stay at just one spot.

“My passion was to play quarterback,” he said.

It has not always been easy to pursue that passion for the fifth-year senior at Tennessee State University. Even when he finally wrestled away the starting position before the Tigers' season-opener last year, the results didn’t live up to his expectations.

In nine starts (he missed two games due to injury), he completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 1,469 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Though those were not awful numbers, they didn’t provide the preferred balance in what became a run-heavy attack.

Plus, Perry was adjusting to a new head coach (Rod Reed), offensive coordinator (Mike Jones) and quarterbacks coach (Jeff Parker) and their pro style offense. As a result, he and the Tigers sputtered to a 3-8 mark and a 0-7 finish in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Being a quarterback, you kind of have to know everything,” Perry said earlier this week at the OVC's media day. “With the new coaching staff, I was kind of sometimes out there kind of guessing what I was supposed to be doing.”

Now with a year of starting experience under his belt, Perry looks to head into the first day of fall practices on Aug. 6 more confident.

“I’ve set higher standards for myself. My coaches have as well,” he said. “But experience and just having a better understanding of our coaching staff, I think, is going to be big this year.”

Perry graduated from Wooddale High School in Memphis after an all-state senior season in which he passed for more than 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns. Despite being recruiting by TSU, he chose to play at Middle Tennessee State.

Wanting to utilize his athletic frame, the Blue Raiders shifted Perry from quarterback to linebacker but most of his action in 10 games in 2007 came on special teams. The following spring, MTSU moved him back to offense ... at wide receiver.

Unhappy that he wasn’t getting a chance to play quarterback, Perry talked to coaches at TSU and realized he would have a chance to start after Antonio Heffner graduated following the 2008 season. So he transferred during the summer, redshirted that fall and hoped to be in the mix the next year.

“Coming out of high school, I never thought I would be at Tennessee State,” Perry said. “I felt wherever I landed is where I would be for four years. One thing you can’t predict is life. I guess life happened to me so I ended up at Tennessee State and I am enjoying it.”

But he was edged out by Calvin McNairl in 2009 and threw just 36 passes in five games — all off the bench.

Perry didn’t waste a fresh opportunity the next summer. He impressed the new coaching regime enough to be named the starter when got the nod over then-senior Dominic Grooms and Michael German, a redshirt freshman and now Perry's backup.

“I think he has grown tremendously,” Reed said of his veteran quarterback. “He is the kind of guy you tell him what you need him to do and he is going to go out and attempt to do it. He has been studying more film. His decision making this spring was a whole lot better. What we have to do is minimize turnovers and that’s his job not to turn the football over. It is also his job to put us in position to make plays, whether that means checking off a play or running what we got called.

“We are going to depend on him and lean on him a lot.”

Now, Perry will try to end his career where he it to begin — at quarterback. He also will attempt to keep the Tigers’ season-ending six-game losing streak from carring over into 2011 when the season kicks off on Sept. 3 with the John Merritt Classic against Southern University at LP Field.

“The hardest thing for me in the summer is having to deal with that last season and that bitter taste,” Perry said. “You kind of have to wait around until that next season to redeem yourself. I think that has kind of driven us this summer and given us the attitude and the mindset to want to get better and get a fresh start.”