2008 CFN Middle Tennessee Preview
Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher
Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher
Posted May 2, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Middle Tennessee Preview | 2008 MT Offense
- 2008 MT Defense | 20087 MT Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN MT Preview | 2006 CFN MT Preview 

The program hasn't been able to create that one big break to become the star of the Sun Belt, and now the opportunity, at least for the near future, appears to be gone.

Expected to be the league's best team when it joined the Sun Belt, year after year there have been near-misses and disappointments. The 2006 team was the best in the league, but a late collapse against Troy prevented a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. Last year the Blue Raiders were 5-5 with two games to go and at least a share of the Sun Belt title there for the taking, but a home loss to UL Lafayette and a 45-7 blasting by Troy ended all of that.

Head coach: Rick Stockstill
3rd year: 12-13
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 11, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best MT Players
1. QB Dwight Dasher, Soph.
2. RB/KR Desmond Gee, Jr.
3. FS Jeremy Kellem, Soph.
4. QB Joe Craddock, Sr.
5. RB Phillip Tanner, Jr.
6. LB Danny Carmichael, Jr.
7. CB Alex Suber, Jr.
8. WR Patrick Honeycutt, Jr.
9. P David DeFatta, Jr.
10. TE Alvin Ingle, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 28 Troy
Sept. 6 Maryland
Sept. 13 at Kentucky
Sept. 20 at Arkansas State
Sept. 30 Florida Atlantic
Oct. 11 at FIU
Oct. 18 at Louisville
Oct. 25 at Miss State
Nov. 8 UL Monroe
Nov. 15 at Western Kentucky
Nov. 22 North Texas
Dec. 3 at UL Lafayette

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-

Sept. 1 at Fla Atlantic L 27-14
Sept. 6 at Louisville L 58-42
Sept. 15 at LSU L 44-0
Sept. 20
W. Kentucky L 20-17
Sept. 29 FIU W 47-6
Oct. 6 Virginia L 23-21
Oct. 13 at Memphis W 21-7
Oct. 20
Arkansas State W 24-7
Oct. 27 at North Texas W 48-28
Nov. 3 at UL Monroe W 43-40
Nov. 10 UL Lafayette L 34-24
Nov. 20 at Troy L 45-7

After no one apparently went to class a few years ago, the program's APR stunk and scholarships were taken away. The last thing a short-handed team needed was a problem with injuries, and Middle Tennessee got hammered by them with bumps and bruises all across the board. Those can't happen this year.
The starting 22 should be fine, and there's a little bit of depth, but there's little overall margin for error and there are major holes to fill. The receiving corps is a big-time question mark, the offensive line could be a disaster, and the ends need to come through to replace top producers Erik Walden and Tavares Jones.
For the first time in a while the expectations are generally low. This is a young team, very young, and it'll have to fight through some inconsistencies and mistakes to become a factor in the Sun Belt. This isn't a title contender, but that's okay. Maybe the team needs to be in the underdog role to finally reach its potential.

What to watch for on offense: The line. With Franklin Dunbar leaving early for the NFL and Mark Fisher and Jamal Lewis both hurt, three key starters from last year are gone. Junior OT Mark Thompson is fine, but he's not a superstar to revolve an entire line around. That's what MT will have to do as three redshirt freshmen and an untested sophomore will likely fill out the rest of the front five.

What to watch for on defense: A better linebacking corps. Last year the line took care of everything and the linebackers were mostly along for the ride. Now the veterans like Danny Carmichael and Lonnie Clemons lead a promising group that should be able to do more. At the very least they'll be in on more tackles.

The team will be far better if … the D can slow down the run. There were several big plays allowed and things got worse and worse as the year went on. After doing a phenomenal job of shutting down Arkansas State in mid-October, the run defense went bye-bye in November allowing 360 yards to UM, 376 to UL Lafayette and 263 to Troy allowing 12 touchdowns in the final four games. You can't win the Sun Belt without being at least average against the run.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule is sneaky-tough playing Maryland, at Kentucky, at Louisville, at Mississippi State, and at Western Kentucky. Even the battle with the Hilltoppers will be tough. If the Blue Raiders can win two of those, Merry Christmas. October starts out with an off-week, three games are on the road, and then ends with an off-week. On the plus side, one of the Sun Belt road trips is at FIU and the league's two best teams, Troy and Florida Atlantic, have to come to Murfreesboro.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Dwight Dasher. While Dasher is in a dead-heat with Joe Craddock for the starting job, he's the face of the program for the next three years and the one guy who can carry the team from 5-7 good to a potential Sun Belt champion. He didn't take the gig by the horns this spring and now he has to show more this fall.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore FS Jeremy Kellem. LB Danny Carmichael might turn out to be the team's leading tackler and CB Alex Suber will likely be the best defensive player out of the gate, but Kellem is a fantastic all-around playmaker who should grow into the main man the secondary will work around. With his range he'll be all over the field.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Brandon Perry. While not even considered a starter going into the fall, the 327-pounder will be in the rotation early on and will have to use his big body to start clogging things up. The D was killed by teams that could effectively run inside, and Perry has to be the one who puts an end to that. If the run defense is better, the team has a shot at a big season.

The season will be a success if ... the Blue Raiders win five Sun Belt games. The non-conference schedule could be a total wash, and there are too many holes to ask for a Sun Belt title, but there's no reason the Blue Raiders can't come up with a big game and split with Troy and Florida Atlantic at home and go on to finish 5-2 in league play. That would be the bridge-the-gap season to what should be a far better 2009.

Key game: Aug. 28 vs. Troy. This is the statement game for the Blue Raiders after losing to the Trojans three of the last four years. With at Arkansas State and a home game against Florida Atlantic to follow in Sun Belt play, a loss could mean an ugly 0-3 conference start and an even worse 0-5 beginning before an off-week and three straight road games.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Middle Tennessee 2nd quarter scoring: 112 – Middle Tennessee 3rd quarter scoring: 30
- Yards per carry: Opponents 4.9 – Middle Tennessee 3.5
- Red zone score: Opponents 45 of 49 (92%) – Middle Tennessee 24 of 32 (75%)