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CU promotes Suber to head football coach
Jan 29, 2013 4:15 pm
Alexander leaves for position on Tech staff
Longtime Cumberland assistant football coach Donnie Suber was promoted to head coach following the resignation of Dewayne Alexander on Monday.
Alexander announced his resignation Monday to take a position on the staff at Tennessee Tech, his alma mater, where he will coach the offensive line under Watson Brown.
The Bulldogs posted a 41-33 record in seven seasons under Alexander, including 23-16 in Mid-South Conference action with 44 All-Conference honorees and 101 Conference Scholar-Athletes. Cumberland tied for the Mid-South Conference West Division championship in 2008 and played for the conference title in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well. Thirty-nine players have been named NAIA National Scholar-Athletes, while 20 have garnered Conference Player of the Week accolades and five NAIA National Players of the Week.
“We are forever indebted to Coach Alexander for taking our program to the level where it is today – competing for conference championships but also an even greater amount of success in the classroom. He set out to build a program from the ground up and did that with a methodical approach, recruiting the kind of student-athlete we want at Cumberland in all sports – one who excels in the classroom and on the playing field.”
“We’re excited about getting Dewayne on our staff,” Brown said. “He brings a lot of experience, he’s well-known in the state of Tennessee and as a Tennessee Tech graduate. I think he’s going to be a really outstanding addition to the Golden Eagle program.”
Alexander, 48, earned two degrees from Tech and was a four-year member of the football team and a three-year letterwinner. He has also been back at Tech twice as an assistant coach.
“I’m excited to be coming back to Tennessee Tech. It’s my alma mater. I played there, I’ve coached there two different times. This just seems to be the right time for me and my family,” Alexander said on that school's website. “I’m excited about what’s going on at Tennessee Tech. Coach Brown has generated excitement around the program, with the team and with improvements to the facilities.”
His move to Tech comes after seven successful seasons at Cumberland, which, ironically will open the 2013 season in Cookeville against the Golden Eagles.
“Any time you’ve been somewhere seven years, it’s tough to leave,” he said. “ You’ve invested time with your players and your coaching staff. The program was in tough times when I got here, and we worked hard to build the program, the facilities, the morale. The university and the people here have been fantastic to me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve as head coach here.
“Looking at the big picture, I’m going to a place that I care a lot about,” he added. “When I reflect back to the time I spent at TTU, both as a player and a coach, I’m grateful to all the other coaches and professors who invested in me. It’s a very special place. My mixed emotions about leaving are offset by the fact that I’m going back to a place that I care very much about.”
Alexander took over a program in 2006 that had won just two games the previous two seasons. The Bulldogs posted four victories in his first campaign but struggled in 2007 before winning two of the last three contests of the year.
CU started slow again in 2008 but closed with victories in five of the last seven games, including a 29-26 triumph over 11th-ranked Lambuth in the season finale. It was the program’s first winning season since 2002. Cumberland suffered through numerous injuries in 2009, especially at quarterback, finishing the year 5-6 but with three one-point defeats.
Cumberland posted an 8-3 record in 2010, just the third eight-win campaign in school history since the program was revived in 1990. The Bulldogs were ranked in the NAIA Top 25 in eight of the 10 regular season polls, reaching as high as 16th in the nation. CU won eight of nine games with only an overtime loss before falling in the season finale and just missing the NAIA playoffs. Alexander was named the NAIA Region I Coach of the Year and also the Tennessee Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year.
In 2011 CU won six straight and was ranked as high as 14th nationally before dropping the last two games of the year and just missing the NAIA playoffs for the second straight season. The team finished with seven victories, setting the mark for the most victories in a two-year span (15) and tying the record for wins during a four-year period (26) in program history.
The Bulldogs again registered an 8-3 mark in 2012, ranking as high as No. 16 in the nation. The squad tied for the second most wins in a season and set records for most victories in a three-year (23) and four-year span (28). Lemeco Miller set single-season records for rushing touchdowns (19) and total touchdowns (21), with Cumberland ranking fourth nationally in rushing offense per game (269.7).
A 1988 Tech graduate, the Hendersonville native coached at several high schools before coming to Wilson County in 2003 to take over the Wilson Central program. The Wildcats had never won a game in two seasons since opening in 2001.
Alexander led them to victory in Week 5 that year against an undefeated Coffee County team. He took the Wildcats to the playoffs in 2004 and '05, going 10-2 in his final season for a three-year mark of 19-14.
Suber just finished his fifth season in his third stint at Cumberland, serving as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. He has worked as an assistant coach at the collegiate level for the past 20 years.
“Coach Suber has been an integral part of the Cumberland program for many years and the architect of some great defenses, helping the program to its current run of success, the best stretch of wins in school history,” CU athletic director Ron Pavan said. “He has experience on nearly every level of college football and we look forward to his leadership and vision pushing the Bulldogs to great achievement, both on and off the field.”
Cumberland's defense has made significant improvements in Suber’s five years leading the unit. The Bulldogs were ranked 47th or lower in every defensive statistical category in Suber's first season as coordinator in 2008 but improved to 16th nationally in scoring defense along with eighth in pass defense, 21st in opponent first downs and 28th in total defense in 2009.
Cumberland led the Mid-South Conference in almost every defensive category in 2010 and ranked in the Top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense, pass defense, sacks, third down conversions and opponent first downs, leading the nation in opponent third down conversions (.277).
The unit forced 32 turnovers in 2009 and 2011 and 29 in 2010, a big jump over the 19 opponent miscues in his first year back at CU. The unit racked up 52 interceptions during that span, including 18 in 2009, 15 in 2010 and 19 in 2011. The defense played a major role in the team’s offensive production in 2011 as well, with the Bulldogs scoring 120 points (17 touchdowns, 1 field goal) off opponent miscues. Cumberland scored off an opponent turnover in 16 straight games from Oct. 23, 2010, at Bethel until Sept. 22, 2012, at Virginia-Wise. From 2008-11, Cumberland posted 95 total sacks, including 32 in 2010 and 24 in 2009.
Cumberland has scored 16 defensive touchdowns, forced five safeties and blocked two punts recovered for touchdowns during Suber's tenure. Twenty-five Bulldogs have earned All-Mid-South Conference honors during Suber’s five seasons as well, including two National Defensive Players of the Week, defensive backs Chris Simpson and Allanté McLemore in 2010.
Suber earned his bachelor's in Recreation and Hotel Management from Georgia Southern in 1990 and played on NCAA Division I-AA national championship teams as a defensive back in 1986, 1989 and 1990.
His first coaching position was at Cumberland as the defensive backs coach and strength coach as a graduate assistant. Suber earned his master's from Cumberland in Organizational Behavior in 1993.
He returned to his alma mater in 1994 as the restricted earnings coach in charge of defensive backs before coming back to Cumberland for two years in 1995-96 as defensive backs coach and men’s and women’s golf coach. The Columbia, S.C., native then spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Newberry College.
In 2001 he held the same positions at Benedict College before serving as the linebackers coach in 2002 and then the receivers coach from 2003-06 at Presbyterian College.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com