#94 Middle Tennessee Football 2016 Preview

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Overall Rank: #94
#6 C-USA
Middle Tennessee had a great year in 2015. None of their losses were bad since they played Alabama, Illinois and Vanderbilt in nonconference play. They looked pretty good against the Crimson Tide and lost to Illinois and Vanderbilt by a combined six points. Their two conference losses came at Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. There is certainly no shame in that. And those games were all pretty early in the season. The Blue Raiders won their last four regular season games before falling to Western Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl.
2015 Record: 7-6, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Bahamas Bowl vs. Western Michigan (L 31-45)
Coach: Rick Stockstill (64-61 at Middle Tennessee, 64-61 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Franklin
Defensive Coordinator: Tyrone Nix
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shane Tucker, WR, 413 yards
Passing: Brent Stockstill, QB, 4,005 yards
Receiving: Richie James, WR, 1,346 yards
Tackles: Michael Minter, CB, 55
Sacks: Chris Hale, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Jeremy Cutrer, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Terry Pettis, OL Maurquice Shakir
Key Losses: RB Jordan Parker, WR Ed Batties, OL Jaylen Hunter, S Kevin Byard, LB T.T. Barber, LB Cavellis Luckett, S Quay Watt
The thing that really turned around the season was the play of quarterback Brent Stockstill. It was a risky move for Coach Rick Stockstill to start his son as a redshirt freshman, but the younger Stockstill did not disappoint. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 4,005 yards and 30 touchdowns. And that was in 11 games as a freshman. With the year of experience under his belt, the expectations are very high for the offense. Receiver Richie James is back too after catching 108 passes for 1,346 yards and eight touchdowns. Replacing Ed Batties and his 13 touchdowns will not be easy, but Rod Ducksworth, Demetrius Frazier and Terry Pettis are all experienced options and redshirt freshman Jocquez Bruce is a big time playmaker. Also keep an eye on former running back Shane Tucker, who is making the move to wideout for his senior season. In the end, not having Batties around may help Stockstill spread the ball around a little bit more. James and Batties accounted for 190 of the team’s 334 total receptions last season. With three starters back on the line, led by Maurquice Shakir, the offense should be one of the better passing teams in Conference USA. With Tucker moving to wide receiver and Jordan Parker gone, the running game will fall on the shoulders of I’Tavius Mathers, a transfer from Ole Miss, Kamani Thomas and Desmond Anderson.
The defense has more rebuilding to do. Getting to the quarterback was a problem last year, but the line returns virtually intact. Chris Hale, Shaquille Huff and Steven Rhodes are all returning starters and it is Hale who many expect to turn into the consistent pass rusher this team needs. The situation at linebacker is a bit more precarious. T.T. Barber, Cavellis Luckett and Trey Wafford were big time playmakers for the Blue Raiders defense last year. DJ Sanders figures to be the new leader of the unit after recording 44 tackles in 2015 as a sophomore. Sophomores Chris Melton and Darius Harris have a lot of potential, but they need to start turning that potential into production in 2016. Cornerbacks Michael Minter and Jeremy Cutrer will anchor the secondary, but there is not much experience at the safety spots. Jovante Moffatt is brimming with potential and Alex Dale made some big plays in limited action, but it remains to be seen if they can be consistent players.
The Bottom Line:
The nice thing about the schedule is that Middle Tennessee gets both Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky at home. They do have to go to Huntington though. But if everything falls right, this is a Blue Raiders team that can make some serious noise in Conference USA if they can get past those early road games against the Bulldogs and Hilltoppers. That certainly will not be easy, but two wins there and MTSU will be in the driver’s seat of the East Division until their November 12th showdown at Marshall.
Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 145.7 (98th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 311.7 (15, 4)
Total Offense: 457.4 (32, 4)
Scoring Offense: 34.0 (35, 4)
Rushing Defense: 152.2 (48, 3)
Pass Defense: 253.5 (95, 7)
Total Defense: 405.6 (74, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.6 (60, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.31 (92, 9)
Sacks: 1.77 (88, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (22, 3)


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