JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the fourth part in an 11-part series breaking down all of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2017 season. This feature analyzes the Eagles' week-five opponent, the Catawba College Catawba Indians.
The Indians are coming off a bit of a disappointing 2016. Aspirations were high for Curtis Walker's group following a SAC title and NCAA playoff appearance in 2015. The next season, the Indians were tabbed to win the league before injuries ramped up the difficulty level and Catawba sputtered to a 5-6 record (albeit a 5-2 mark in conference play).
The league's coaches picked Catawba fourth in this year's preseason poll in spite of a whopping 12 All-SAC selections for the preseason.
If Catawba will do damage in 2017, it will do so with its defense. The Indians have multiple all-league choices at every position.
The defense will be led by ed by preseason All-American linebacker Kyle Kitchens. Joining Kitchens on the first team is fellow linebacker Trey Evans, lineman Jordan Hemingway and cornerback Cris Page.
Kitchens posted 49 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery last year. Evans tied for tops for the Catawba Indians with 73 tackles. He also chipped in 12.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, two sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.
Hemingway turned in 34 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and one sack with Page posting 31 tackles, three interceptions, 10 break ups, 3.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and one interception.
Then on the second team toss in defensive lineman Trevor Bembry, linebacker Michael Peppers and safety Jeremy Addison. Bembry recorded 14 tackles with a pair of sacks and four stops for losses. Peppers shared the team lead with 73 tackles, while adding an interception and eight tackles for a loss. Adison made 50 tackles and broke up six passes.
Together, they form a defensive unit that only allowed 322 yards of total offense per game and picked off 14 passes.
While the defense is stout, Catawba's offense will need to be vastly improved. The Indians took a major hit last year when quarterback Mike Sheehan was sidelined for his senior season with an injury.
Reid Carlton took over the offense in week five and wound up completing 47 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Carlton will have weapons around him. Eamon Smart earned all-conference honors at running back following a 571-yard, two-touchdown campaign. Sam Mobley snagged accolades at wideout with 663 yards receiving and four scores.
The Better Know the Opponent Series continues August 7 with Limestone.