2012 Middle Tennessee Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Offense
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Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: New offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner isn't going to change too much. The offense will still rely on the passing game, and it should with a veteran quarterback in Logan Kilgore and with a solid receiving corps to work with. The running backs are quick and athletic, but they need a little more room to move and they have to break off more big plays. That could be a bit of a problem behind a line that needs to replace three starters and could use some major retooling. The passing attack has to be more efficient and needs to come up with more home runs, while the ground game has to average more than 4.1 yards per carry.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Logan Kilgore
Passing: Logan Kilgore
214-365, 2,231 yds, 18 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Bennie Cunningham
115 carries, 501 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Tavarres Jefferson
51 catches, 398 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior C Micah James
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman WR Christian Collis
Best pro prospect: James (as a guard)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kilgore, 2) RB Benny Cunningham, 3) OT Darius Johnson
Strength of the offense: Passing Game, Pass Protection
Weakness of the offense: Line Experience, Interceptions
The passing offense was more than fine yardage-wise, but it struggled with its efficiency. With a year of starting experience under his belt, junior Logan Kilgore should be ready to do far more after completing 59% of his passes for 2,231 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 picks. At 6-3 and 185 pounds he's a tall, thin passer who won't run much, but managed 106 yards and a score. The problem is his picks, throwing at least one in each of the first nine games before sitting down for the Arkansas State game. He was able to bomb away for 415 yards and five scores against Troy and has proven he can push the ball all over the field, but he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum. With time spent at Bakersfield College before joining the Blue Raiders he has a ton of experience. Now he has to be better.
6-0, 204-pound senior Jeff Murphy has seen time and got his chance over the second half of last year, but he wasn't able to provide the spark needed. A much better runner than Kilgore, he finished with 106 yards in his limited time while also completing 60% of his passes for 794 yards and three scores with three picks. He's a proven backup who could still take over the starting job if he goes lights out this summer.
Looking to find his way into the mix is redshirt freshman Shaun White, the best running option in the mix with a live arm and phenomenal upside. At 5-11 and 210 pounds he's not all that big, but he's a great talent who's extremely strong and could take over the backup job with an eye on being the possible star next year.
Watch Out For … the depth chart to be written in pencil. Kilgore has the passing skills, and it wasn't his fault that the team stunk last season, but the coaching staff will try to find production from anyone who can bring it.
Strength: Veterans. Murphy is experienced and can step in at any time and be fine, while Kilgore has been around long enough to know what he's doing. The Blue Raiders will get passing yards with any of the options under center.
Weakness: Interceptions. Kilgore and Murphy combined for 21 touchdowns but they also threw 15 picks. The downfield plays weren't there with the passing attack only averaging 10.2 yards per completion.
Outlook: The Blue Raider passing game will be productive no matter who's under center, but the interceptions have to stop and the quarterbacks have to start being more careful with the ball and have to be more effective. There's enough experience to be solid, but one of the options has to step up and be sensational.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Veteran Benny Cunningham was on his way to having a big season but got hurt in the middle of the year with a foot injury missing four games and needing a while to get back into the swing of things. At 5-10 and 205 pounds the senior has decent size and can fly, clocking in with a 4.39 in the 40. He didn't hit any home runs last year and he needs to average more than 4.4 yards per carry, but he ran for 501 yards with 117 against Troy with a team-leading four touchdowns. He can also catch with 17 grabs for 187 yards and a score, but he has to stay healthy to be the main man for the offense to work around.
With Cunningham hurt, junior William Pratcher stepped in and turned into the team's leading rusher with 585 yards and two scores helped by back-to-back 100-yard days against WKU and Florida Atlantic. At 5-7 and 198 pounds he's a smallish, quick back who can tear off yards in chunks, but he's not the receiver that Cunningham is with six catches for 67 yards last season.
Ready to blossom is LSU transfer Drayton Calhoun, a star recruit for the Tigers who's now ready to roll after sitting out last season. The 5-11, 184-pound junior was a four-star prospect who's a huge get for Middle Tennessee. With speed and a slippery running style he fits exactly what the offense is looking for.
Watch Out For … Calhoun. Cunningham is the main man for the ground attack as long as he's 100%, but he'll never be a 25-carry runner. Calhoun has the talent and the skill to quickly be the team's most dangerous option with the talent and ability to make one cut and fly.
Strength: Speed and quickness. Cunningham can fly, Pratcher is quick, and Calhoun can move. The athletes are there to form a great rotation to bring more from the ground game.
Weakness: Home runs. Considering there's so much speed and so many good runners, there needs to be more big plays. The line didn't allow enough sacks to bring the rushing average down, but the Blue Raider runners only average 4.1 yards per carry.
Outlook: This should be a major strength with three fast, talented backs who need just a little bit of room to roll. Cunningham took to the bigger role in the attack, while Pratcher proved he could produce. Calhoun might be the most talented player on the offense, and he'll get his chances to show why.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Senior Tavarres Jefferson didn't come up with many big plays averaging a paltry 7.8 yards per catch, but he was a steady, reliable target who led the team with 51 catches for 398 yards with a touchdown. He didn't use his tremendous quickness to do much after the catch, and at 5-9 and 191 pounds he's not going to break through many tackles. He'll be backed up by 5-11, 187-pound senior Vincent Van Horn, a former JUCO transfer from Bakersfield College who missed all of last year with a knee injury.
Back at a starting spot after holding down a job over the first part of the season is 5-11, 181-pound junior Anthony Amos after catching 27 passes for 379 yards and three scores. While his biggest play was just 34 yards, he led the team with 14 yards per catch. Adding more size to the inside Z position is Arthur Williams, a 6-2, 190-pound junior who spent most of 2010 on special teams but missed almost all of last year with a knee injury.
Taking over at the H is 5-10, 193-pound junior Kyle Griswould after finishing fourth on the team with 31 catches for 391 yards and a score. He got a little bit of starting time late in the year and cranked out 104 yards on four catches against FIU. Also a good runner, he was moved to running back for a time finishing with 86 yards and two scores. 5-7, 173-pound sophomore Reggie Whatley is a smallish, quick option at the H making 17 catches for 105 yards and a score in his limited time.
The offense needs more big plays and needs more deep plays, and that means 6-0, 204-pound redshirt freshman Christian Collis has to shine at the X. A great recruit for the program last year, he's a phenomenal athlete for his size with Alabama all-state track skills as a triple jumper. He needs to be the breakout star of the attack to open things up, while 5-8, 176-pound senior Harold Turner will see time if he can stay healthy. He wasn't able to build on a promising freshman season with a hand injury early and an ankle problem last year.
Watch Out For … Collis. There's good speed in the Blue Raider receiving corps, but Collis has the athleticism and the size to become a special threat. The team needs a gamebreaker, and he might be it.
Strength: Options. There are enough decent pass-catchers to work the rotation and find the right guys for the right spots. The Blue Raiders spread the ball around with 15 players catching passes and ten catching ten or more. If you're on the field for Middle Tennessee, you'll catch a pass.
Weakness: Big plays. It's not a plus when the team's leading receiver is averaging under eight yards per catch and the passing game is coming up with 10.2 yards per play. The field needs to start being stretched.
Outlook: There are several nice receivers and enough veterans for the receiving corps to be fine, but it'll be a must for Collis to play up to his potential and upside. There's good depth, the athleticism to do more, and with veteran quarterbacks to work with, more production should come.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The offensive line was a major plus last season, but that was with a veteran group that knew what it was doing. There's a big overhaul needing to be done up front but 6-5, 304-pound junior Josh Walker is back after spending most of his season at right guard. A great recruit when he came to the program, he got in better shape and now will work on the left side, but he could kick out to right tackle if needed.
With Walker moving over, 6-2, 268-pound junior Jadareius Hamlin will take over on the right side after seeing time in almost every game last year and getting the start in the season opener against Purdue at right tackle. He suffered an ankle injury early on after spending 2010 hurting with a knee injury, but the former defensive lineman is tough and versatile.
6-2, 288-pound senior Alex Stuart started almost every game last year at right tackle but started the year off at center. Versatile and experienced, he'll potentially be needed in a variety of roles but will start out the season at tackle. Now fully past a knee injury that cost him the 2010 season, he'll be a key part of the equation, but 6-4, 266-pound sophomore Isaiah Anderson might hold down the right tackle job after getting the starting nod over the final two games of last year. While he's not all that big, he's very quick and very strong for his size.
Taking over for Mike Williams at left tackle will be redshirt freshman Darius Johnson, a nice recruit for the program last year with the potential to be the star of the front five for the next four years. At 6-3 and 276 pounds he's not huge, but he's a blaster with great feet and a world of upside.
Colin Boss turned into a rock last year at center, but he's gone meaning 6-3, 320-pound junior Micah James will have to be a rock in the middle. Coming in after spending last year at the Georgia Military Academy, he'll spent past year as a key reserve and got two starts at left guard at the end of the season. With his size he needs to be a blaster of a blocker, while 6-4, 305-pound junior Nick Nunez is a key JUCO transfer with great size and the ability to start right away. He'll be a center, but he could end up as a guard.
Watch Out For … Johnson. The Blue Raiders got a huge year out of Williams at left tackle helping the O line in pass protection, and now Johnson has to be a rock on the outside. He's not huge, but he moves well and is a great talent who should be able to hold down the job and grow into the role.
Strength: Quickness. Middle Tennessee recruits to a type, and while there's a lot of turnover, the Blue Raider linemen can move. This might not be a blasting line, but it's great in pass protection – allowing just eight sacks last year – and it'll be effective.
Weakness: Raw bulk. The Blue Raiders have a slew of speedy and quick backs, but they weren't able to bust out last year even with an air-tight line up front. This year's group won't flatten many lines and it's a finesse group.
Outlook: With one of the best lines in the Sun Belt over the last several years because it knows what it's doing. It'll be fine in time and it'll end up being good in pass protection, but can it crank out big rushing yards? Even with three new starters to the equation, there's depth and there's promise.
Unit Rating: 5
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