By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, TN – After one of the best seasons in recent program history and putting together the second-best turnaround in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, it isn’t surprising to see a few Tennessee Tech players on the Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference team as the league released its 2020 preseason squad on Monday morning.
The Golden Eagles garnered five preseason picks: junior quarterback Bailey Fisher and senior offensive lineman Mike Rhoades on offense, senior defensive end Chris Tucker and junior outside linebacker Tai Carter on defense and sophomore receiver/kick return specialist Metrius Fleming on special teams. It is the most preseason roster spots for the Golden Eagles since the 2001 team.
The OVC preseason polls – both the media and coach/SID projections – will be announced at a later date.
Fisher rewrote the Tennessee Tech single-season record books in 2019 as he set new marks in passing attempts (375), completions (231), passing yardage (2,643), touchdown passes (21), total offensive plays (541), total offensive yards (3,132) and combined rushing and passing touchdowns (32). He also set the single-game record for touchdown passes and touchdowns responsible for with six TDs against Eastern Illinois last season.
Last season, Fisher was a three-time OVC Offensive Player of the Week, a two-time College Sports Madness OVC Offensive Player of the Week, a three-time Tennessee Sports Writers Association Offensive Player of the Week, a College Sports Madness FCS National Player of the Week and a STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week. He was a second-team all-OVC selection, a third-team Phil Steele All-OVC pick and was named a first-team Sophomore All-American by HERO Sports.
Mike Rhoades was a huge part of that offensive success, protecting the skill players behind him. Through his efforts, the Golden Eagles set four single-season team offensive records, including most passing completions (252), most total offensive plays (893), most first downs (249) and most passing first downs (120).
Rhoades was a second-team All-OVC pick after the 2019 campaign and was named to the Phil Steele All-OVC third team.
Tucker anchored a much-improved Golden Eagle defensive line and put up incredible numbers in 2019. He recorded 56 total tackles – 23 solo and 33 assisted – with a team-high 13.5 for 47 total yards, including 5.5 sacks for 27 yards. He also recovered three fumbles and recorded four quarterback hurries. He set a career-high in tackles twice last season with eight against UT Martin and Austin Peay.
Tucker was the Golden Eagles’ lone first-team selection last season on the All-OVC roster, while earning second-team honors on the Phil Steele OVC list. Tucker was also a preseason team selection from HERO Sports.
Carter delivered in the nickel role last season as he recorded 38 total tackles – 24 solo and 14 assisted – with a sack and 4.5 tackles-for-loss for 17 yards. He also forced a fumble and recovered two, while also intercepting a pass and breaking up five passes.
Fleming certainly made a case for himself as a wide receiver but shined on the special teams unit as he returned 18 kicks for 477 yards, an average of 26.5 yards per return, including a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown against Virginia-Wise. Fleming also caught 47 passes for 629 yards and three touchdowns, including a career day with 165 receiving yards on seven catches at Western Illinois and a career-long of 40 yards.
He won four OVC Newcomer of the Week honors last season and was a second-team All-OVC selection and an All-Newcomer team pick. Phil Steele’s All-OVC list pegged him on the first team, while he was also a preseason pick by HERO Sports. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/22/2020-1PM)