2009 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 3-4)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Rick Stockstill (17-20 at Middle Tennessee State, 17-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Franklin
Defensive Coordinator: Manny Diaz
Other Key Returnees: WR Malcolm Beyah, S Kevin Brown, WR Wes Caldwell, OT Mark Fisher, RB Desmond Gee, G Brandon McElroy, WR Patrick Honeycutt, G Jamal Lewis, DE Emmanuel Perez, DT Dwight Smith, C Mark Thompson, OT Mike Williams
Key Losses: LB Lonnie Clemons, QB Joe Craddock, S Anthony Glover, LB Andrew Harrington, LB Ivon Hickman, DE Wes Hofacker, DT Trevor Jenkins, CB Ted Riley
Middle Tennessee State has failed to reach a bowl game since the 2006 season when they lost to Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. Since then the Blue Raiders have been painfully close to another bowl berth, but have fallen short in both 2007 and 2008. This could be the year when Coach Rick Stockstill takes his team back to a bowl game.
Middle Tennessee State's Strengths:
The optimism is due to the return of ten starters on the offensive side of the ball. The lone starter not returning is quarterback Joe Craddock. Craddock threw for 2,677 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior campaign, but he is replaceable since Dwight Dasher is ready to take over the starting role. Dasher could be just as productive as Craddock with the return of all five starting offensive linemen. The group only gave up 15 sacks all of last season and Dasher is an elusive quarterback who will avoid sacks just as well as Craddock did in 2008. However, for the offense to be really good, Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee need to get the ground game moving. The team ranked second to last in the conference last year rushing for just 106.92 per game. Tanner should have a big year now that the line is more experienced and Gee is a fine option for a change of pace back.
Middle Tennessee State's Weaknesses:
The defense was pretty strong last year, but now they have to replace quite a few starters. The unit ranked third in the conference in sacks per game, but there was not one or two players who got into the backfield…it was a team effort. And with ends Emmanuel Perez and Jamari Lattimore returning, the front four should get more pressure on their own without having to rely on blitzes from the back seven. In fact, Lattimore was the star of the spring game, tallying three sacks, four tackles-for-loss and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown. If he can keep that momentum going into the regular season, the front four will be in great shape. That will allow the linebackers to have more versatility and not be forced to blitz as often. Michael Carmichael is the star of the unit after leading the team with 75.5 tackles a year ago.
The Bottom Line for the MTSU Blue Raiders:
Non-conference games against Clemson, Maryland and Mississippi State are not going to help the Blue Raiders become bowl eligible, but this is a team that has enough talent to win quite a few Sun Belt Conference games and maybe even give one of the big guys a scare early in the season.
By Joel Welser
Check out all of the 2009 college football previews online through College Sports Fans.
Copyright 2005-2009, CollegeSports-fans.com and the Dash Fans Network of Independent College Sports Fan Sites.