Tennessee State’s offense will operate differently this fall – that much is certain.
It remains to be seen whether the job of the scoreboard operators throughout the Ohio Valley Conference will be affected.
“We scored 30-some points per game last season so the system works, but you can’t put a square peg into a round hole,” Tigers’ coach James Webster said Tuesday morning on the OVC coaches’ preseason conference call. “You have to play to the strengths of your personnel.
“We will be doing some things differently. We’ve made some changes, we don’t have the same personnel and we have some new coaches who have brought new input and new ideas.”
TSU (8-4, 5-3 in the OVC in 2008) will have as many as nine new starters on offense this fall. That will make it a challenge for the Tigers to repeat its performance of a year ago when it averaged 31.2 points and more than 400 yards of total offense per game.
Among those who must be replaced are quarterback Antonio Heffner and All-American running back Javarris Williams.
Webster said junior Dominique Grooms currently is the leader among three candidates to replace Heffner under center. He is not likely to replace Heffner on the stat sheet, however.
Heffner rushed for 503 yards and four touchdowns in addition to his 2,239 yards and 15 touchdowns passing.
“I don’t see (Grooms) doing the same things Heffner did,” Webster said. “(Grooms) is going to hurt you running the ball, but Heffner could beat you.”
Webster added that it is likely two or three running backs will be needed to match the 1,037 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns Williams produced in just 10 games last fall.
“If something happens to the guy who turns out to be our starting running back, we are going to have at least two guys who will be able to step up,” Webster said.
That was not the case in 2008 when Williams missed the last two games with injuries.
The Tigers lost both, which cost them a shot at the OVC championship and a berth in the playoffs.
They scored a total of 38 points in those final two games. That was in stark contrast to the opening of the season when they scored 34 in each of the first contests.
This time, TSU expects the offense will save its best for last.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill,” Webster said. “I really believe our defense and special teams are going to have to carry us early before our offense gels.”