Recently, we sat down with ajthehornplayer over at SBN sister site Underdog Dynasty to chat about our upcoming battle against MTSU. He’s optimistic about the Blue Raiders chances, and given our history with MTSU, I can hardly blame him. No, I didn't ask him about how many men were on the field during that blocked FG when I was a senior.
We appreciate his time in answering our questions, and you can head on over to UD to see how I embarrassed us in answering his questions for us!
Q1: Who's the number one player MTSU is going to miss the most from last year, and how might they cover for his absence? Who's the number one new starter that we should be looking at?
Without a doubt, MTSU will miss l’Tavius Mathers most from the 2016 season. The all-conference back was a huge part of the Blue Raider's success on offense last season by punishing defenses who were keyed in on the passing attack. That, along with his pass catching out of the backfield, not only lead to a record breaking season but also opened up the offense for coordinator Tony Franklin.
This season, expect to see a different person in the back field almost every down. It will take a group effort to replace the production Mathers put up last season. The two-deep depth chart shows that Maurice Gordon will be the number one back for the Blue Raiders this week, but I expect senior Shane Tucker to step up and become a leader for that group this year.
Q2: Brent Stockstill would have easily broken 4,000 yards again last year had it not been for his injury. While he had an impressive game against Hawaii, and has bulked considerably, he's still missed some of camp. Should we expect the same sort of numbers from him, or will MTSU edge towards running more out of the spread no huddle?
I think you can expect about the same amount of production from Brent Stockstill this year, even with the missed time.
He is a student of the game and continued to be very engaged in practices over the course of his recovery time. Stockstill was also in the same position leading up to that Hawaii Bowl game. He missed almost all of bowl practice and was only officially cleared to play the day before the game itself.
Plus, MTSU returns one of the best receiving duos from last year in Richie James and Ty Lee in 2017. That experience from last year will be key in making Brent comfortable again in this offense.
All that being said, you may or may not see some rust from the quarterback on Saturday, but don't expect MTSU to throw the ball any less than they have in recent history.
Q3: There has been the usual heartburn over how MTSU has had to replace the entire left side (and C) of the OL. Even HC Rick Stockstill has acknowledged this as a hurdle about two months ago, particularly at LG. Is there any feeling coming out that these issues have been addressed?
Even up until last week, there has been a huge question mark surrounding that unit. It is the one thing that scares me about this team in 2017. Inconsistency at that position can lead to some serious catastrophes for this offense especially with how much they pass. Expect to see some rotation on the left side of that line in the game especially if someone starts to struggle early in the game.
Q4: How do MTSU fans feel about their new DC, Scott Shafer?
Overall fan reaction is positive about the addition of Scott Shafer at Defensive Coordinator. That mostly has to do with fan perception of former DC Ty Nix and wanting change, but I think people are hopeful Shafer can make a difference.
On top of that, everything I have heard out of camp is that the defense is learning the new system well. Obviously, it will take some time to see if they can actually improve the play on that side of the ball and support the offense better than last year.
Q5: Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
Without a doubt, it will be a close game like their other games in recent history. The offenses will be on full display in this one and I think will become an all out track meet like MTSU's game very Mizzou did last year. That being said, I'm taking the Blue Raiders in a close high scoring affair.
45-38 Blue Raiders