#95 Middle Tennessee Football 2015 Preview

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Overall Rank: #95
#5 C-USA

Middle Tennessee Team Page#95 Middle Tennessee Football 2015 PreviewBuy Middle Tennessee Football Tickets

Once again Middle Tennessee was bowl eligible, but left out of the bowl picture. With two new bowls, another six win season for the Blue Raiders in 2015 should be enough for them to earn a bowl trip. With eight starters back on each side of the ball, Coach Rick Stockstill has the pieces in place to not just go bowling, but win the Conference USA East.

2014 Record: 6-6, 5-3
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Rick Stockstill (57-55 at Middle Tennessee, 57-55 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Buster Faulkner
Defensive Coordinator: Tyrone Nix

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Parker, RB, 546 yards
Passing: Austin Grammer, QB, 2,557 yards
Receiving: Ed’Marques Batties, WR, 474 yards
Tackles: T.T. Barber, LB, 72
Sacks: Jimal McBride, DT, 2.5
Interceptions: Keith Byard, S, 6

Other Key Returnees: WR Terry Pettis, OL Darius Johnson, S Xavier Walker, LB Cavellis Luckett

Key Losses: RB Reggie Whatley, WR Marcus Henry, WR Devin Clarke, RT Isaiah Anderson, DE Shubert Bastien, LB Christian Henry, CB Khari Burke, P Sean O’Kane

Even without Reggie Whatley, who rushed for 767 yards and seven touchdowns, Middle Tennessee figures to have a very strong ground attack again this season. Jordan Parker is the top returning rusher, gaining 546 yards last year, but Shane Tucker is the more explosive option. Despite being the third back on the depth chart in 2014, he did rush 97 times for 486 yards and eight scores. He also caught 25 passes for 351 yards and four more touchdowns. With four starting offensive linemen back in the mix, led by guard Darius Johnson, this should be one of the best, if not the best, rushing teams in the conference. Quarterback Austin Grammer had a solid sophomore season, throwing for 2,557 yards and 17 touchdowns. Turnovers, both in the form of interceptions and fumbles, were a problem, but the year of starting experience should help with his decision making. Ed’Marques Batties and Terry Pettis figure to be his top targets.

The defense took a pretty big step back last season, ranking 105th in the nation in yards allowed per game. Eight starters may be back, including star linebacker T.T. Barber, but the loss of Leighton Gasque and Shubert Bastien leaves a big hole in the pass rushing department. If Coach Stockstill and company fail to find a consistent pass rush, the secondary will again be torched. Players like safety Keith Byard can make plenty of big plays, but the secondary will also give up plenty of big plays.  

The Bottom Line:
The offense is not good enough for the defense to be as bad as they were a year ago. In Conference USA, a non-existent pass rush and a poor secondary is a recipe for disaster and it is quite possible that this team will have both. However, the defense is much more experienced now and they could be a pleasant surprise. If the defense is improved, reaching six wins and going to a bowl, despite games against Alabama, Illinois and Vanderbilt, will not be a problem.

Projected Bowl: Bahamas Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 213.8 (30th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 217.5 (74, 7)
Total Offense: 431.3 (43, 4)
Scoring Offense: 31.6 (46, 5)
Rushing Defense: 182.6 (80, 9)
Pass Defense: 269.7 (111, 11)
Total Defense: 452.3 (105, 10)
Scoring Defense: 31.5 (94, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.33 (92, 11)
Sacks: 2.08 (66, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (76, 8)


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