ROCK HILL, S.C.—The Tusculum University football team has been picked to finish fourth in the South Atlantic Conference with the release of the 2021 SAC Coaches’ Poll.
The Pioneers received 52 total points including two first place votes in a poll of the league’s head football coaches. Tusculum is coming off an impressive spring season where the Pioneers went 4-1 including a 28-23 win over Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC Championship Game in April.
Tusculum boasted the No. 2 defense in the SAC as the Black and Orange allowed just 17.6 points per game, along with 311.2 total yards per contest. Offensively, the Pioneers put up 37.6 points per game in the spring, including a SAC-best 1,971 passing yards.
Lenoir-Rhyne is the favorite to win the SAC title this fall as the Bears collected 69 points and five first-place votes. Wingate is picked second with 63 points and one first place nod, while Newberry comes in third with 58 points and one first place vote.
After Tusculum, Carson-Newman is fifth with 46 points, followed by Limestone (32), Mars Hill (29), UVA Wise (24) and Catawba (23).
The conference also released its 2021 SAC Football Players to Watch List which includes TU representatives: Justice Parham, Derrick Wright, Ivan Corbin, Craig Watts, Nelson Louis, Jermaine Witherspoon, Andrew Cantrell, Tyler Burke and Jarvis Jones.
Parham, a 6-0, 190-pound junior from Tarpon Springs, Florida, was the Pioneers top receiver in the spring. He led the league with 364 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, while his 20 receptions were the second-most in the conference. He notched six grabs for 114 yards against Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC title game, including a 78-yard TD score, which is the 14th-longest catch in school history.
Wright, a 6-0, 195-pound senior receiver from Pembroke Pines, Florida, accounted for nine receptions for 102 yards and three touchdowns last spring, with two of his scores coming in the SAC Championship game.
Corbin, a 6-1, 200-pound quarterback from Warner Robins, Georgia, did not play last spring after transferring from NCAA-FBS Georgia Southern University. Corbin logged two years of South Atlantic Conference experience as the starting signal caller at Limestone University. In his 17 game-career with the Saints, he passed for over 2,400 yards with 22 touchdowns, while also rushing for six touchdowns.
Watts, a 6-0, 195-pound linebacker from St. Petersburg, Florida, recorded 17 tackles including three for loss in his five games last spring for the Pioneers. Watts previously played at Valdosta State where he was a member of the Blazers’ 2018 NCAA Division II National Championship team. In that 2018 campaign, he recorded 70 tackles with an interception.
Louis, a 6-2, 255-pound defensive lineman from Moultrie, Georgia, accounted for 11 total tackles in his four games last spring. He made seven tackles for loss including three sacks in the spring. Louis was the 2018 SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year where he led the Pioneers with 17 tackles for loss and tallied 53 total tackles and made a team-best 12 quarterback hurries.
Witherspoon, a 6-0, 165-pound sophomore from Miami, Florida, emerged as a starter in the defensive secondary for the Pioneers last spring. He finished with 14 tackles to go along with a pair of interceptions and four passes defended.
Cantrell, a 5-11, 175-pound senior from Sparta, Tennessee, has been Tusculum starting punter for the past three seasons. During his 26-game career, he is fourth in program history with 140 punts and third with 5,287 punting yards. His 37.8 career punting average is ninth in TU history, while his 40 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yardline are third-most by a Pioneer punter. Last spring, he averaged 39 yards per punt and led the conference with 26 punts down inside the 20. Earlier this spring, he was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America second team.
Jones, a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore from Fort Myers, Florida, averaged 20.5 yards per kickoff return in the spring. He also made two receptions for 64 yards and was credited with a 38-yard carry.
Burke, a 5-6, 150-pound true freshman from Delray Beach, Florida is expected to make an immediate impact on TU’s special teams. The Atlantic High School graduate was named to three All-Star teams, while posting 29 receptions for 529 yards and eight touchdowns last fall.
The Pioneers will open the 2021 fall campaign next Saturday (Sep. 4) when they travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for their inaugural encounter with St. Augustine’s University. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. from the Williams Athletic Complex.