Quarterback Draylen Ellis, right, and safety Josh Green speak with media after Tennessee State’s 41-17 win over Bethune-Cookman. Photo by Mike Patton

By Mike Patton

NASHVILLE, TN — Going into his second season at Tennessee State University, head coach Eddie George reloaded the team with infusions of talent from incoming freshmen to the transfer portal.

One of those players brought to the program was Draylen Ellis. The junior quarterback, who transferred in from Austin Peay won the starting competition this preseason in a quarterback competition. He came out of the blocks smoking during the first game versus nationally-ranked Eastern Washington, throwing for 257 yards and rushing for 119 yards and having three total touchdowns in a close loss. 

The offense stalled versus Jackson State and Middle Tennessee State University, as the Tigers scored a total of nine points in those games, but what hurt most is Ellis injured his ankle in the first half against the Blue Raiders of MTSU. The injury would be something that would hurt the Tigers in their next game against Division II Lane College.

The Tigers would lose to Lane College 28-27 and in doing so, it just seemed the offense was not the same. Besides running the football, it seemed there were no consistent explosive plays within the offense and it made things easier to key on for the Lane College Dragons.

With Ellis back for the TSU Homecoming game versus the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, Ellis was back and not only did the fans notice the difference with the 41-17 win the Tigers achieved, but Tigers head coach Eddie George could tell a difference with Ellis back in there. 

“I think you can see the difference that he makes. He gets the ball out fast. He makes great decisions. He is a problem when he gets going.”

Ellis, for his part, was happy to be back on the field with his teammates. 

“It’s been a long time. I have been trying to get my ankle right to help my team get a win.”

The difference is totally evident in the energy Ellis brings whether it is using a spin move to evade a free rusher and throwing a dart for a big pass play or slicing through the defense and showing off his wheels for a big touchdown run. 

Ellis wasn’t the only piece to the puzzle back for the Bethune-Cookman game, but he was a very important one and going into Ohio Valley Conference play, he is going to be a key piece if the Tigers are to make a run towards the FCS playoffs and an OVC title. That journey starts Saturday as the Tigers head to Cookeville, Tennessee to take on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.