Rod Reed knows the possibilities for a Tennessee State football player and coach.
As a Tigers’ linebacker from 1984-88 he set the school’s single-season record for tackles (197) and earned Sheridan All-America honors as a senior. He played on a team that reached the second round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs and twice was TSU’s most valuable defensive player.
As an assistant coach since 2003, he proved that it still is possible to attract NFL talent to the west side of town. Among players he brought to campus were Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Javarris Williams, who were drafted in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Now that he’s head coach he – predictably – has set some lofty goals.
“The long term vision is to win a national championship,” he said. “But our first goal is to graduate our student-athletes and develop these young men spiritually and mentally.”
The Blue and White Game, which takes place Saturday, will be the first public opportunity for the coach and the entire TSU community to gauge the early progress. The intra-squad scrimmage will start at 2 p.m. and will be preceded by a TSU legends flag football game.
Spring workouts, which have been saturated with hard-nosed, fundamental drills, have looked promising to Reed. He said players are buying into his coaching style and making consistent progress.
The first-time head coach has taken an old-school approach, one matching his pedigree, to instill his attitude onto players. A heavy emphasis has been placed on fundamentals.
“We are going to hang our hat on being able to run the football,” Reed said. “We’ll throw it efficiently, but we have got to be able to control the clock on the ground.”
Reed was promoted from associate head coach/defensive coordinator back on Dec. 18 to replace James Webster, who was let go following a 4-7 season (3-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference). Among last season’s victories were ones over Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois, both of which were ranked at the time.
“People think when you get rid of a coach, or get a new coach, it reflects on the team,” Reed said. “I want to stress that (these) guys aren’t losers. (They) beat the No. 16 and No. 13 teams in the country last year.
“They know how to win. We just have to stay at that level every game,”
As for himself, Reed feels comfortable now that he’s at the highest level of the coaching staff.
“In every job you have you look at all aspects of the program – things to do things not to do – and you have to piece it all together when you get your own opportunity,” he said. “You have to take notes as you climb the ladder and apply things you learned as a young coach to what you do now.”