College Football Countdown | No. 70: Middle Tennessee State

Rather than put spin pegs into block holes, Middle Tennessee State and Rick Stockstill will tailor this year’s offense to a returning personnel. Take a quarterback position, for example.

Recent MTSU offenses have revolved around a brazen pass: Logan Kilgore, a many new multiple-year starter, left Murfreesboro as a school’s record hilt in touchdown passes (53) and 200-yard games (21), ranking second on a Blue Raiders’ all-time list with 7,849 flitting yards.

But this year’s organisation lacks a Kilgore, radically transitioning from a pocket-passing maestro to a handful of run-first, dual-threat quarterbacks. Again: Stockstill and descent coordinator Buster Faulkner won’t tailor quarterbacks to a offense; a offense will tailor to a quarterback.

So a Blue Raiders will spin some-more run-heavy, adding layers to a using diversion that lacked a change indispensable to mountain a convincing zone-read attack. This places MTSU in proceed contrariety to a primary Conference USA competition, Marshall, that enters 2014 headed by one of a nation’s many electrically prolific flitting games.

It’ll be energy opposite power, merely from opposite viewpoints: MTSU and Marshall will accommodate in Oct with hostile styles, one clinging to a belligerent and a other to a air. To a leader go a spoils, as good as Conference USA’s East Division.

LAST YEAR’S PREDICTION:

The Raiders have a series of gifted options during using behind and receiver; enough, in fact, that one or dual intensity contributors will get squeezed out of touches. The organisation also enters 2013 with a grade of certainty notwithstanding a unsatisfactory proceed final deteriorate ended, with that detriment to Arkansas State. Though 5 wins is a safer bet, don’t be astounded if MTSU gets that sixth feat and lands play eligibility.

2013 RECAP:

In a nutshell: The change in discussion blueprint did small to delayed MTSU’s new surge. The Blue Raiders notched another eight-win season, fasten a program’s final go-round in a Sun Belt Conference, and – this best of all – landed a postseason bid interjection to Conference USA’s resources of play tie-ins. It was a plain deteriorate that incited on a singular game: MTSU 51, Marshall 49. The Blue Raiders entered an Oct. 24 date with a Thundering Herd during 3-4, carrying forsaken 3 in a quarrel to Brigham Young, East Carolina and North Texas; a Blue Raiders exited Oct. 24 during 4-4, won all 4 games in Nov and went into Dec during 8-4, a diversion behind Marshall in a East Division. The year finished poorly, with a 24-7 detriment to Navy tangible by a Blue Raiders’ questionably assertive play, yet it was nonetheless a gratifying season.

High point: Beating Marshall. It should be remarkable that MTSU’s 6 remaining wins contra Football Bowl Subdivision foes – a seventh was Western Carolina – came opposite teams with a sum 57 losses.

Low point: Losses to East Carolina and North Texas.

Tidbit: This competence come as a surprise, yet teams generally play improved in feat than in defeat. Shocking, we know. Take final year’s Blue Raiders, for instance: MTSU scored 39.63 points, authorised 22.75 points, averaged 477.75 yards of offense, notched 47 tackles for detriment and committed 10 turnovers in a 8 wins; in a 5 losses, MTSU scored 12.0 points, authorised 31.8 points, averaged 292.2 yards offense, notched 21 tackles for detriment and committed 12 turnovers.

Tidbit (offense edition): Last year’s offense ranked among a tip 6 in MTSU’s single-season story in 7 vital statistical categories: rushing (sixth), pass attempts (fifth), completions (fifth), plays (third), yards (third), points (fifth) and touchdowns (fourth).

ARBITRARY TOP FIVE LIST:

Middle children

1. Charles Darwin
2. Abraham Lincoln
3. John F. Kennedy
4. Bill Gates
5. Ernest Hemingway

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Offense: Middle Tennessee wants to foreordain a tempo, umpire a upsurge of conflict and control a line of onslaught with a using game. Yeah, they’ve got a weapons to do usually that. MTSU’s biggest descent item is a low and gifted backfield, one that will be put to enormously prolific use during a core of this new, run-based scheme. It’s simply a matter of divvying adult a touches between youth Jordan Parker (731 yards), comparison Reggie Whatley (657 yards), youth Jeremiah Bryson (398 yards) and sophomore Shane Tucker (241 yards), with any choice some-more than able of shouldering an every-down bucket – yet with no one behind stepping to a forefront in a Blue Raiders’ share-the-wealth approach. The best of a garland competence be Tucker, in fact, yet he’ll enter a summer as a fourth of a team’s 4 options. we suppose this party will brew for 2,000 yards on a ground.

Wisely, MTSU done a graphic bid to get 3 freshmen into a brew along a interior of final year’s line. A year later, these sophomores seem improved versed to hoop a bucket than your standard second-year contributors; there will be a slight training bend in a pierce from 3 comparison starters, as we competence expect, yet we consider these youngsters are somewhat forward of a curve. Unsurprisingly, any simply takes a step adult a two-deep: Adam Stickel replaces Josh Walker during left guard, Josh Chester replaces Nick Nunez during core and Daniel Stephens stairs in for Jadareius Hamlin during right guard. If struggles come early, demeanour for this interior to rise easily during a march of a unchanging season. They’ll be flanked by a dual returning starters, with youth Darius Johnson on a left side and comparison Isaiah Anderson on a right. Remember: Stickel, Chester and Stephens are young, yet a earthy using diversion would play to their strengths. Besides, MTSU could also spin to incoming JUCO transfers David Adams and Maurquice Shakir.

The Blue Raiders’ returning knowledge during receiver will be negated by a change during quarterback, given zero of a 3 options underneath core possess a skills and intrepidity indispensable to take advantage of any weapons in a flitting game. But this organisation is there if needed, and in returnees like comparison Devin Clarke (18 receptions for 318 yards) has a ability to dilate a margin opposite creeping-up defenses. Look for Clarke, comparison Marcus Henry (38 for 549), youth Christian Collis (18 for 228) and youth Ed’Marques Batties to start, with comparison Chris Perkins (13 for 123) and sophomores Terry Pettis and Demetrius Frazier a tip reserves. MTSU hasn’t relied heavily on a parsimonious end, yet we consternation if redshirt beginner Lucas Hamilton and JUCO send Tyler Barron – and a reduction pocket-savvy quarterback – could dilate a position’s purpose in a flitting game.

Defense: It’ll be tough to take Middle Tennessee’s invulnerability severely until a Blue Raiders stop a run with a larger grade of consistency. As such, a responsibility for alleviation stands with this defensive front: MTSU earnings dual starters and a infancy of a rotation, losing one writer during finish and another during tackle, definition it’s mostly a same expel behind final year’s intermediate performance. The pivotal competence be during tackle, where a Blue Raiders wish sophomore Shaquille Huff (28 tackles, 7.5 for loss) can be an every-down threat alongside comparison Patrick McNeil (35 tackles), a returning starter. If zero else, Huff brings some-more disruptiveness to a list than his predecessor, Jimmy Staten. MTSU will hurl with a starting finish twin of comparison Shubert Bastien and youth Alexandro Antoine (30 tackles), yet keep an eye on how co-coordinators Tyrone Nix and Steve Ellis and line manager Tommy West implement rapid redshirt freshmen Jahmal Jones and Todney Evans on flitting downs.

Three JUCO transfers join a brew during linebacker, yet open spots in a starting lineup will be tough to find. There’s positively no foe on a diseased side, where youth T.T. Barber (119 tackles, 11.5 for loss) earnings as one of a premier defenders in Conference USA. If a Blue Raiders do surpass expectations – say, commanding Marshall to take a East Division – Barber will be in line for some vital postseason hardware. His prolongation overshadows that of another all-conference contender, comparison center linebacker Christian Henry (79 tackles), who needs assistance adult front from block-occupying interior linemen to purify adult plays in space. There competence be a mark for a visitor on a clever side, yet usually if one of a transfers can pierce forward of youth James Roberson (35 tackles), a successor apparent to Stephen Roberts.

The delegate aims to keep final year’s opportunistic genius while sewing adult a small things, such as a gusto for wilting in a fourth entertain opposite high-octane flitting attacks. The Blue Raiders will do so with a new expel during cornerback: MTSU will reinstate a span of over contributors with comparison Khari Burke, youth Jared Singletary (33 tackles) and comparison Chris Sharpe, with Burke sealed into a starting purpose on a left side while a latter span dukes it out on a right. I’d play on Singletary, who done 8 starts a deteriorate ago, yet it’s transparent that MTSU skeleton to use all 3 in complicated doses as a tip cornerbacks – saying that abyss outward this lead trio comes essentially in redshirt freshmen and JUCO transfers. Two of those JUCO additions, Jamarcus Howard and Jordan Frost-Dixon, could feasible acquire increasing personification time as they squeeze a firmer reason of a defense. There are no concerns about reserve play, not when MTSU brings behind one of Conference USA’s best in youth Kevin Byard (106 tackles, 5 interceptions) and a associate returning starter in youth Xavier Walker (54 tackles). This span has been intensely effective in patrolling a behind finish and tying big-play potential.

Special teams: Sophomore Cody Clark earnings during kicker after creation 12-of-16 attempts as a rookie. At punter, meanwhile, MTSU will reinstate Josh Davis with possibly youth Zachary Lopez or loyal beginner A.J. Wells, a latter an on-scholarship member of February’s recruiting class. In a lapse game, demeanour for Whatley, Bryson and Singletary to do a complicated lifting on kickoffs and punts.

POSITION(S) TO WATCH:

Quarterback: The Blue Raiders will conduct into tumble stay with a three-way tie during a quarterback position: sophomore Austin Grammer is tied with loyal beginner Brent Stockstill, a coach’s son, who is tied with redshirt beginner A.J. Erdley, who is therefore tied with Grammer, who is tied with Stockstill, and there we go. All 3 options are runners initial – during this theatre in their careers, during slightest – that has, as noted, impacted a staff’s proceed to a descent side of a ball.

You have to give an early corner to Grammer, who spelled Kilgore a deteriorate ago as a Blue Raiders’ primary backup; he struggled immensely as a passer yet did supplement a run-game dimension to a position. He hasn’t done conspicuous course as a thrower given a finish of final season, a disastrous expansion that has authorised both Erdley and Stockstill to jump feet-first into this competition. In terms of a intensity for an evident impact,

Grammer still seems like MTSU’s best choice as a opening-day starter. In terms of long-range growth, however, Stockstill’s pedigree, athleticism and hold as a passer creates him a many intriguing choice of a bunch. I’d play on Grammer removing a nod, yet don’t nap on a rookie’s chances of earning a start before midseason. At a really least, MTSU’s using diversion should develop with a change in ubiquitous descent philosophy.

GAME(S) TO WATCH:

Marshall: It won’t make or mangle a Blue Raiders’ season, that can still be termed a success even though an East Division title. But a multiplication – and a discussion as a whole – will go by Marshall, a organisation and module eyeballing a vital breakthrough behind a glorious offense and several headlining comparison contributors. The good news: MTSU competence not win that one, yet a report is distant from intimidating. That should concede for another postseason bid, yet creation some sound outward a East final one win from Minnesota, Marshall and Brigham Young.

SEASON BREAKDOWN PREDICTION:

In a nutshell: Much depends on how good Middle Tennessee’s offense takes to a change in style; in turn, how good a offense takes to a change in character hinges in poignant partial on what arrange of prolongation a Blue Raiders land from a quarterback position. One could make a box that a Blue Raiders’ deteriorate lies wholly on quarterback play: MTSU needs run-game prolongation from a quarterback, that shouldn’t be an issue, yet to contend that this offense can attain though a clarity of change is stupid – Middle Tennessee still needs to dilate a margin by a atmosphere to keep defenses honest, not to discuss to keep gait with Marshall and others, and we consternation how capably Grammer, Stockstill or Erdley would transport as throwers.

That’s a concern, yet it shouldn’t stop Middle Tennessee from reaching another play game. The using diversion will hum, for starters, behind a rock-solid backfield and a better-than-at-first-glance descent front. Yeah, a interior is young, and that can’t be overlooked. But we like a makeup of a line as a whole, from tackle to tackle, and trust a front will take caring of business on early downs. Defensively, a Blue Raiders are plain along a front seven, utterly during linebacker, and have adequate abyss in a delegate to run out a able revolution opposite a Thundering Herd’s near-unstoppable flitting attack. Based on all this organisation has, it’s not absurd to consider MTSU can compare final year’s win total.

Not that it’d be an overly considerable eight-win finish. MTSU will remove to Marshall, in my opinion, and should remove to Minnesota and BYU. There are also toss-up games opposite Western Kentucky, Memphis and Florida Atlantic. But it’s a well-spoken slate, by and large, and we prognosticate during slightest 6 and as many as 8 wins during a unchanging season. When given a issues with descent imbalance and a questions during quarterback, a lapse to a postseason would be a worthy feat for Stockstill and his staff.

Dream season: MTSU doesn’t utterly hide past Marshall, yet a Blue Raiders interest explain to a second mark in Conference USA with a nine-win unchanging season.

Nightmare season: The Blue Raiders onslaught in a transition on offense, ensuing in a losing finish for a initial time in 3 seasons.

UP NEXT:

Who’s No. 69? This program’s final discussion pretension came in a same year that a former Pac-12 manager who played underneath 3 opposite conduct coaches as a collegiate descent lineman was born.

RANKING EVERY FBS TEAM FOR 2014


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