|Rising junior Justin Nared will likely take on a bigger role with the departure of Derrick Washington. (Tuskegee Photo)|
What happened in 2012: Tuskegee finished 10-2, with its only losses coming against Division I Alabama A&M and CIAA runner-up Elizabeth City State. The Golden Tigers had their way with SIAC opponents, winning the program’s 26th conference title. They also defeated Divsion I rival Alabama State in the 89th Annual Turkey Day Classic.
Who Won’t Be Back: Running back Derrick Washington and pretty much the entire defensive backfield. Williams was the focal point of the Golden Tigers’ offense, rushing for 1,679 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season. As productive as Williams was, Tuskegee probably lost more defensively from last year’s team, as senior defensive backs Adam Lucas, William Buford, Jamar Hornsby and Kevin Phinazee combined for 18 interceptions on a defense that allowed just 10 passing touchdowns in 12 games.
Who Will Need To Step Up: Quarterback Justin Nared was solid as a sophomore, completing 88 of 165 passes (54 percent) for 1,347 yards, and throwing just five interceptions in 10 starts. But with Washington gone, his eight touchdown passes will probably need to increase for Tuskegee to win another SIAC title. More will also be required of tailback Michael J. Thorton, who ran for 439 yards and 8 touchdowns with limited carries. The defense will be led by linebacker Quavon Taylor, who led the team with 117 total tackles as a sophomore.
Who They’ll Play: Tuksegee will open with Division I opponent Alabama A&M, who defeated TU 7-6 in last season’s opener. Another interesting non-conference matchup will come on Sept. 21 when TU takes on national runner-up, Winston-Salem State. TU will take on new SIAC member Central State for homecoming on Nov. 2.
What To Expect: In a controversial move, Tuskegee has parted ways with the annual Turkey Day Classic in favor of participating in the Division II playoffs. It was a risky move, as some question whether giving up a guaranteed high payoff in the TDC for a possible spot in the playoffs will be worth it to Tuskegee’s bottom line. If the team flutters early, look for the Monday Morning QBs to be out in full force.
What do you think? Does Tuskegee have enough talent in its ranks to combat the loss of Washington and its defensive backfield. Will their playoff push pay off?
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The second annual Deacon Jones Trophy will be awarded in Feb. 2018.