By JOE CANNON
Bradley Central is no stranger to excitement on National Signing Day, but having eight Bear football players confirm there college choices Wednesday is a school record.“This is a really good group, …
Bradley Central is no stranger to excitement on National Signing Day, but having eight Bear football players confirm their college choices Wednesday is a school record.
“This is a really good group, the most I’ve ever been a part of at one time to get to continue playing,” remarked longtime Bradley head coach Damon Floyd, who also revealed two more Bear players are still contemplating offers as well.
“The thing as a coach is the fact they want to keep playing makes you proud. They obviously enjoyed their time here. They worked hard and had great success.
“To be a part of having this many to go on to play college ball at one time is something special,” he added.
A trio of Black-and-Gold standouts — Lameric Tucker (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), Jay Person (Appalachian State) and Chris Cash (Air Force) — took care of signing their National Letters of Intent during the NCAA’s early signing period in December, but joined five of their teammates’ for the celebration.
A pair of “Black Hole Defense” stars — Jeffrey Brewer and Jordan McIllwain — are heading to Georgia to play for Shorter University in the NCAA D-II Gulf South Conference, while three other Bears — Kevin Gentry (Maryville College), Adam Mullis (Maryville College) and Tyler Collier (Thomas More College) — are heading the NCAA D-III route.
Jake Presley and Stephen Muhonen are the Bradley players expected to make their decisions soon.
“JP (Presley) is trying to decide between signing for football or track, while Muhonen has an offer from Cumberland, but may decide to try to go somewhere and walk on,” related Coach Floyd.
“These guys, as a collective group, were great not only on the field, but off as well.
“They did a great job of getting their grades in order and being able to continue playing football and getting their education at the next level,” the “Papa Bear” commented.
Having been the top Bear since 2006, Floyd stated, “This group is special to me. They are the same age as my son (Damon “Deuce” Floyd). I’ve watched them grow up and have gotten really close to them.
“They are a really close group and have had a huge impact on our program,” he said in reference to them going 26-10 the past three seasons, including a 10-3 mark this past fall and advancing to the TSSAA State Quarterfinals for the first time since 1980.
“The younger guys look at this group as the ones to be the measuring stick.
“They have a lot of perseverance. They had a goal and they worked very hard for it not only in the field, but in the classroom as well,” stated Coach Floyd.
“I think having been in the Super 32 and playing at the 6A level has helped our program and these guys to get the offers they have gotten. Playing that type of competition and doing well gets college coaches’ attention.”
A dynamic, speedy receiver with a tremendous 40-inch vertical leaping ability, Tucker got plenty of attention as he set the 101-year-old program’s records in almost every receiving category.
Joining Cole Copeland and James Stovall as the third Bradley player in the last five years to become a two-time all-stater, Tucker wrapped up his Black-and-Gold career also owning Top 10 state marks in four receiving categories.
A three-year starter, he finished with career with 5,154 total offensive yards, which is No. 1 in TSSAASports.com records.
His 266 catches are second on the same list, while his 28 receiving TDs are near the Top 10.
Tucker also holds the eighth (1,604) and 10th (1,452) best single season receiving marks in TSSAA history.
He is also seventh (91) and 11th (78) in total receptions in a season.
This past campaign, the 6-foot, 170-pounder pulled in 78 catches for 1,604 yards (20th in the country) and found the end zone 12 times.
The UTC signee also carried the ball 35 times for 137 yards (3.9 ypc), scoring four more touchdowns.
The 4.5 speedster also averaged 26 yards on 16 kick returns, with a long return of 65 yards, allowing him to finish with 2,199 all-purpose yards and 16 TDs.
A three-year Bear starter, Person had four double-digit tackle performances this past season, including a four-sack game against Rhea County.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker put together a career best of 107 tackles, 14 sacks and 25 tackles for loss to be named the Region 2 Defensive Player of the Year this past fall.
Person finished his career with 270 tackles (54 TFL), 24 sacks and 11 takeaways.
Choosing to go play for Appy State, Person will be coached by former Bradley and Tennessee All-American linebacker Dale Jones.
With Cash (6-foot-6, 300) at right tackle and Collier (6-foot-4, 285) at left guard leading the way up front, the potent Bear offense scored 419 points (32.2 per game) and averaged 248 passing and 156 rushing yards per game for 5,093 total yards this past season.
With the pair providing the protection for the past three seasons, Bradley quarterbacks have completed 69.5 percent through the air and scored 111 total touchdowns (Cole Copeland 73, Dylan Standifer 37, Tucker Pope 1).
Mullis benefitted from the duo’s blocking, rushing for 860 yards on 153 carries (5.6 ypc) in 2017.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound bulldog gained 2,082 career yards and scored 16 times on 414 rushes and four receptions, three of which found the end zone.
Brewer and McIllwain, both cornerbacks, had very similar numbers this past season.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Brewer made 33 solo tackles, plus was in on 21 others, broke up nine passes, had two forced fumbles and an interception, which he returned for 32 yards.
After being in on 16 tackles his junior season, plus having a takeaway, the 6-foot, 180-pound McIllwain posted 28 solo tackles and 31 assists, with five tackles for loss and a QB sack, plus pair of pass break ups in 2017.
An undersized defensive lineman at 5-foot-11, 195, Gentry powered his way to 59 tackles, including 20 solos, 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and posted 6.5 sacks after switching over from the offensive line last season. He also had a pair of QB hurries, a forced fumble and a recovery.
“These young men are going to continue to be a success where they are going and beyond,” proclaimed a proud Coach Floyd.
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