By Ryan Alves
Eastern football players are looking to avoid a 0-3 start for the first time since 2005, when they travel south to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Colonels, coming off a 10-point loss to Louisville last week, may or may not have their starting quarterback T.J. Pryor available at game time. Pryor, who’s still listed as questionable, was sidelined early in the third quarter against the Cardinals for a strained groin.
“Everybody on our training staff is doing a great job with him,” Coach Dean Hood said. “They feel like they’re going to have him ready for the game, but the big question for us is how much practice time he’s going to get. What things are we going to be able to do with him? It’s going to be a day-by-day thing.”
But Hood and his team is confident in the back-up Brendon Gregory, should Pryor not be available. Gregory led Eastern on its only offensive touchdown drive of the season against the Cardinals, finishing the game 4-for-9 passing.
“Brendon is a tough kid, a bigger kid, and brings some different things to the table than what T.J does,” Hood said. “Our guys are always behind him.he’s a guy who can go out there and do some things for us.”
Wide receiver Orlandus Harris gave Gregory some advice as he stepped on the field.
“When Brendon came in I just told him on the sidelines to keep his head up and it was his time to step up,” Harris said. “We’re going to be alright with him.”
After Gregory, the Colonels are thin at the quarterback position, and if the situation arose, Hood would have to make the decision to go with red-shirt freshmen Jacob Russell or Alex Conley.
“We have two redshirt freshmen and we love them both,” Hood said. “But we hope to keep it that way.”
Offensively the Colonels look to tackle some of the big issues they need to correct in order to put a halt to the losing skid.
“We’re not putting up points like we should,” Harris said. “We have to get our defense has to get off the field. They are playing good for us.”
The Mocs of UTC (0-2) are out of the Southern Conference and pose as another challenge for the Colonels. UTC lost to Appalachian State in their opener 41-42 and last week lost another close game to Jacksonville State 21-17.
“They are for real,” Hood said. “I think they are a lot like Missouri State, a 5-6 team that has a lot of people coming back. We looked at their film from a year ago and they are playing everyone in the Southern Conference very tough. And they played arguably the best team in our conference on paper pretty tough.”
UTC will start a big-time quarterback against the Colonels. BJ Coleman, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, has thrown for more than 400 yards this season and four touchdowns. Coleman has also rushed for two touchdowns.
Jacksonville State Head Coach Jack Crowe was said he was the best quarterback his team would face all season and didn’t know why he wasn’t playing at Tennessee.
The Mocs also boast a strong rushing attack from Sophomore Brian Sutherland and Senior Erroll Wynn. Both have rushed for more than 100 yards this season.
The Colonels are looking to jumpstart its rushing attack, and may see some more game action from Matt Denham, who had a pivotal run of 41 yards against Louisville that put them into scoring position.
“Yeah, we have four guys who are doing a good job in the running game,” Hood said. “But no one has really jumped up and said ‘this is my job. You better play me.’ Matt may have done that Saturday.”
This week, against UTC, the Colonels have several players who are going to their home areas to play in front of fans, families, coaches and friends.
“We have several kids from the Chattanooga area and a lot of kids from the Georgia area also,” Hood said. “From Atlanta up it’s been a real good recruiting area for us.”
One of those players is Harris, whose is from Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. Another from the Georgia area is Senior Defensive Tackle Andrew Soucy.
“I’ve got about 15 to 20 people coming,” Soucy said. “It’s only about an hour from my house in Woodstock, and for the first time I am having some of my high school coaches come and watch me. It’s my last chance to play in front of them.”
This is the fourth time these two teams have met, the last dating back to 1987. Eastern leads the series 2-1-1.