Saturday, August 28, 2010
Sun Belt 2010-Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
2009 Record: 10-3 (7-1)
Head Coach: Rick Stockstill (5th season, 27-23)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Schultz (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Randall McCray (1st season)
2009 Bowl Game: New Orleans Bowl, defeated Southern Mississippi 42-32
Offense: The Apocalypse has taken place. QB Dwight Dasher was to be the focal point of the Middle Tennessee offense, but now has been suspended indefinitely after being investigated for taking a loan from an 80 year old hospital patient in Murfreesboro. Apparently he never payed back the money, which is also a violation of NCAA rules. Dasher could be gone for anywhere from 3 games to being done for the season. Stay tuned for more news. JC transfer Logan Kilgore looks to replace Dasher for the time being. Kilgore got most of the snaps in the spring in order to protect Dasher from unnecessary injury risks, so at least he has had some time to prepare for what's coming at him. WRs Shane Blissard and Garrett Andrews return as starters, but several players, including JC transfer Tyler Mason, and sophomore Tavares Jefferson are working their way in to the rotation. MTSU uses 4 receivers at all times. DD Kyles had a solid season in 2009, and Phillip Tanner returns from an injury that cost him almost all of last season, so RB won't be an issue. 4 starters return on the line, but the center position is open. Schultz will be the new OC, but is not expected to institute too many changes.
Defense: Manny Diaz was stolen away as DC by Mississippi State, so Randall McCray will take over. As with the offense, the philosophy won't change, with the Raiders sticking to a 4-3 set, with an attacking mindset. Kevin Brown and Jeremy Kellern both return at the safety spots, and Rod Isaac will be the lone returnee at CB. Marquisse Dixon is firmly in the lead to handle the other CB spot. LB Antwan Davis is the lone returnee in that group, and there is not a bunch of experience or depth to be found. Jamari Lattimore returns at DE, and DT Dwight Smith is back as well, but there will be new starters at the other DE and DT position. The good news is that there is some experience in the candidates, with DT Gary Tucker and DE Emannual Perez both being seniors.
Special Teams: Nobody worries when Alan Gandreau trots out to attempt a FG, as he was 18 of 22 last season on his attempts. Nathaniel Toulson will likely be the new punter, with 1 punt for 52 yards benig his only experience.
Wins: 9/11 Austin Peay, 9/18 @ Memphis, 9/25 @ Louisiana-Lafayette, 10/23 Louisiana-Monroe, 11/13 North Texas, 11/20 @ Western Kentucky, 11/27 Florida Atlantic, 12/4 @ Florida International
Toss Up Games: 9/2 Minnesota, 10/5 Troy, 10/16, 11/2 @ Arkansas State
Losses: 10/16 @ Georgia Tech
The Dasher situation changes a few things. All three of the toss games probably would have been in the win column before, but now I am not so sure. The earliest that one could expect Dasher to be brought back would be 9/25 aganist ULL. I would probably even have given the Blue Raiders a 50-50 chance of knocking off Georgia Tech before, but if Dasher returns, that's still possible. If Dasher comes back, look for a solid shot at repeating 10 wins. If he does not, there is enough left in the tank to realistically win 8, unless Kilgore is not ready and the wheels come off of the wagon.
Outlook: This Dasher thing really screws up the forecast. Virtually nothing is known about Kilgore and how he will respond in a game situation. He probably is not the athlete that Dasher is, as Dasher ran for 1154 yards last season. Don't expect that at all out of Kilgore. There was some good news as Stockstill stayed at MTSU, resisting several very nice opportunities to bail out, which most people would have done. He is committed to creating a monster here, and there is no reason to doubt that he will. Dasher is a setback, but I am sure there will be a way around it.