MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team is looking to prove doubters that last season’s dynamic defense was hardly a fluke but rather a harsh reality for opposing defenses in the Ohio Valley Conference through Practice #13 of fall camp.
“I thought the defense did an outstanding job today,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “They got after the offense and made some adjustments from yesterday’s practice. As you’re trying to build the foundation of the team we want to make its built on tremendous effort and physicality. We’ve seen that to this point.”
The Skyhawks are coming off a season which saw the team rank second in the OVC in scoring defense (24.0 ppg), total defense (322.4 ypg), rushing defense (128.3 ypg) and pass defense (194.1 ypg) behind nationally ranked Jacksonville State in 2016. The Skyhawks also ranked second in the league with 17 interceptions and 27 sacks. Proving dynamic, the squad led the OVC in turnovers forced with 28 which ranked seventh nationally.
“I think we have proven how physical we are at the point of attack and our conditioning is at its peak,” said the team’s lone returning starter on the defensive line Jay Murphy. “All of these guys since January have been focusing on being the best that we can and not worrying about anybody else.”
Despite the loss of a pair of All-OVC performers on the defensive side, the Skyhawks return a loaded roster which features seven returning starters in Joseph Este, James Gilleylen, Kahlid Hagens, Justin Jackson, Tae Martin, Jay Murphy and Kevin Prather, Jr.
“I think that’s the biggest key when you consider what we lost last year,” said Murphy. “We lost some great All-OVC type players but this year our depth is perfect. We have a lot of guys stepping up with Donald Cofield, Jr. and Mike Turner on the line along with a handful of newcomers. With the depth throughout the defense, we know what we bring to the table. I’ve said it before, winners wear blue and the #Darkside is where it’s at.”
UT Martin will return to the practice grind with Practice #14 on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. The Skyhawks will go again on Friday, Aug. 18 at 7:15 p.m. before rallying for their second scrimmage of camp on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 7:15 p.m.