Tusculum enters season with higher
By MATT HILL
TUSCULUM -- The cover of the Tusculum media guide
reads "Air Raid 2001, Reload."
And with Pioneer quarterback Caleb Slover throwing
bombs, the operation should be a success.
Slover threw for over 2,200 yards last season
to lead the Pioneers to a 7-4 mark, a five game improvement
from the year before.
The Pioneers look like South Atlantic Conference
title contenders, but Slover is not looking that far ahead
"We've got to take it one game at a time," Slover
said. "We can't jump too far ahead. We had some good wins
last year, and we had some tough losses last year. We've just
got to come back and rebound, and put all those losses to
together and get those fixed and come out on top of those."
The Pioneers finished fourth last year, and is
picked to be there again this season. Slover is definitely
not satisfied with that.
"Fourth isn't good enough for us," Slover said.
"This is my last run and fourth isn't good enough for the
three seniors that are on this team."
Tusculum head coach and former Furman Paladin
star Frankie DeBusk knows Tusculum won't be sneaking up on
South Atlantic powers Carson-Newman, Catawba and Presbyterian.
"I think our days of surprising anybody is over,"
DeBusk said. "That's actually a little bit of a better taste
in our mouth than what we've dealt with in the past. I'd rather
have some good athletes and have some people expect us to
be a little bit better than we were in the past."
The Pioneers do like to air it out, and one of
the main targets happens to be running back Aaron Claridy.
He was second on the team in receptions last year with 29.
Claridy also rushed for 853 yards.
"I think he's one of the best in the league,"
Tusculum lost its leading receiver from last
year in J.R. Wooten, so Kevin Wolcott, Antwain Glenn and Booby
Thompson will be expected to pick up where he left off.
Also expected to get in the mix at receiver is
ETSU transfer Ricky Nesbitt.
"He's right now a little behind obviously coming
into a new system," DeBusk said. "He needs to get in a little
better shape, but he's definitely athletic enough and talented
enough to do it. He's just got to learn our system a little
The leader of the offensive line will be Alan
The Tusculum defense is loaded with stars. Preseason
All-Conference defensive backs D.J. Starling and Rashaun Strickland
are forces to be reckoned with.
The only returning starter at the linebacker
spot is 2000 SAC Freshman-of-the-Year Craig Pritchett.
"He'll be the leader of the defense," DeBusk
Chris Jackson and Keno Ward are back to man the
On special teams, Tusculum features an All-American
place kicker in Paul Czerniak. He led NCAA Division II football
with 19 converted field goals.
Czerniak believes if Tusculum has a game where
they need him to kick a game-winner, he will be ready.
"That's the time I want to be on the field,"
Czerniak said. "That's my time to play. That's what I love
Also a member of the Tusculum squad is offensive
lineman Joey Falcone, a former Cloudland standout.
Overall, DeBusk is feeling good about how this
young football program is developing.
"It's an amazing feeling to be where we stand
right now as a football team," DeBusk said. "We've got so
many young players that are enthusiastic, and we've got some
really, really good football players. We've got more talent
than we ever had. It's just hard to describe how far I think
we can go."