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2008 Middle Tennessee Preview - Offense
Middle Tennessee RB Desmond Gee
Middle Tennessee RB Desmond Gee
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 2, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Offense

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Preview 200
8 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
The offense hasn't moved the ball in a few years, but it does a great job of taking advantage of every opportunity. It doesn't turn the ball over, usually makes plays when it has to, and tries to balance things out. Now, with massive holes on the line and at receiver, it'll be up to the backfield to save the team. QB Dwight Dasher is one of the Sun Belt's most dangerous players, but he hasn't taken the job by the horns this off-season leaving the door open for Joe Craddock to be the main man. Desmond Gee and Phillip Tanner can fly, but they're hardly workhorse running backs. The tight ends are good and will be used more, and Patrick Honeycutt is a promising wideout, but nothing will happen unless the depleted line restocks in a big hurry.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Dwight Dasher
89-159, 1,148 yds, 9 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Dwight Dasher
121 carries, 530 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Desmond Gee
29 catches, 382 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Dwight Dasher
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Patrick Honeycutt
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman WR Andrew Banks
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Desmond Gee (as a kick returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dasher, 2) Gee, 3) TE Alvin Ingle
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, running back speed
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line, wide receiver

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: All Dwight Dasher did as a true freshman was step in and become the team's main offensive weapon. Showing tremendous poise for his youth, the 5-10, 198-pounder completed 56% of his throws for 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions, and led the team with 530 yards and three scores. He ripped up Memphis for 180 rushing yards and 230 through the air in the win, but soon after he got banged up and had to give way to Joe Craddock. While the quarterback competition is supposedly even, it's Dasher's job if all things are equal.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 200-pound senior Joe Craddock is a veteran playmaker who completed 62% of his throws for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions. While not the runner Dasher is, Craddock is mobile with 122 yards and a score. He has a great arm and is a solid option who can lead the team without a problem. He's just not as flashy as Dasher.

Watch Out For ... Dasher to be the main man. While the two quarterbacks played to a standstill in spring ball, Dasher has the speed and skills to be special. Craddock is hardly a bad No. 2 option.
Strength: Two producers. Dasher and Craddock combined for 21 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. Both players can throw, both can run, and both can lead the team. The coaching staff could even rotate the two if needed.
Weakness
:
Size. Dasher and Craddock are smallish passers who aren't going to see over the line. They have good efficient arms, but they need to be on the move to be the most effective.
Outlook: Not only did the offense not miss longtime starter Clint Marks, but the quarterback situation got even better. There's a bit of a controversy with Craddock and Dasher, but it's not a bad one. Dasher, because of his speed, will be No. 1 and the steady Craddock will be No. 1A. The key will be to keep Dasher healthy. 121 carries might be too many for a player of his size.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Junior Desmond Gee is one of the Sun Belt's most dynamic players when he gets the ball on the move. He's an average kick and punt returner, and he only ran for 162 yards on 39 carries, but he was a dangerous receiver finishing second on the team with 29 grabs for 382 yards and four scores seeing starting time as a wideout. Only 5-8 and 166 pounds, he has to use his speed to become a better back and he has to prove he can carry the ball more then ten times a game.

The Blue Raiders like to use their fullback, and they have a decent one in sophomore Jacob Longoria, a 6-2, 227-pound walk-on who only handled the ball seven times, but became a decent blocker. He started six times last season and will be used more as a power runner.


Projected Top Reserves: Junior Phillip Tanner has tremendous speed and a great high school résumé with 4,725 yards and 76 touchdowns, but he has a hard time staying healthy. When he's right, he can be deadly running for 299 yards and four scores while catching six passes for 119 yards. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he brings more size than Gee.

While there might end up being a logjam at fullback with Marquise Branton and Wesley Hale involved, 5-10, 206-pound senior Spike McDaniel is getting the longest look behind Longoria. He's a decent running prospect who could see a few carries here and there.

Watch Out For ... Tanner to be the main rushing threat as long as he's healthy. Gee is a nice all-around talent, but it's Tanner's ground game if he's 100%.
Strength: Speed. There might be better backs in the Sun Belt, but it would be tough to find a tandem faster than Gee and Tanner. These two can move and can hit the home run from anywhere on the field.
Weakness
:
Production. There isn't a true number one back to count on. If Gee and Tanner can combined for 750 yards, consider the ground game a major success.
Outlook: While there are two nice veterans in Gee and Tanner to work around, the ground game's most effective weapon will be QB Dwight Dasher. Gee and Tanner can't bang the ball, and finding a hard yard or two will be tough, but they'll have a few games when they blow up thanks to a big run or three. Consistency and health will be the keys.
Rating: 5


Receivers


Projected Starters: In desperate need of a steady go-to receiver, MT will hope for 5-9, 170-pound junior Patrick Honeycutt to step up and become the main man. He had a nice first season finishing third on the team with 29 catches for 328 yards and a touchdown, and now he'll have to show he can be a consistent playmaker at the inside Z. He also has to prove he can stay healthy after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury.

Working at the outside X, the speed position, will be 5-10, 185-pound junior Michael Cannon. While he's a blazing option, he didn't do enough to stretch the field catching 15 passes for 157 yards, with 49 of the yards coming on one play. Mostly a star special teamer, it'll be up to him to make a few big plays here and there.

6-2, 178-pound sophomore Wes Caldwell saw time in six games as  true freshman and caught just one pass for 19 yards. While he'll have to fight to earn and keep a spot, he has great potential, nice hands, and tremendous upside at the B position.

Taking over at tight end will be 6-2, 231-pound sophomore Alvin Ingle, a promising young player who caught seven passes for 77 yards and a score. A tremendous athlete, he has the wheels to make plays deep down the field and grow into a steady target. Now he has to learn how to block someone.

Projected Top Reserves: One of the stars of spring ball was true freshman Andrew Banks, a 5-9, 148-pound wisp of a quarterback who was a winning leader in high school and now appears to be a natural receiver. With his quickness, he was all but uncoverable at times this off-season.

On the way is Anthony Jones, a 6-1, 180-pound JUCO transfer who was a star last year at
NE Mississippi JC. Originally an Oklahoma State Cowboy, he went the JUCO route and should quickly find his way into one of the starting spots, most likely at the B in place of Caldwell.

Junior
Gene Delle Donne was supposed to be a key quarterback prospect with good size and a live arm, but the 6-5, 256-pounder has now found a home at tight end and became a good blocker in his limited work. While there are better receiving options Delle Donne has the skills to be a decent target.

Watch Out For ... the new guys. From Banks to JUCO signee Eldred King, the coaching staff is looking for someone, anyone to make a difference at wide receiver. There will be more new options in the mix later this fall with at least one more new recruit to be a receiver.
Strength: Tight end. Even after losing Stephen Chicola and Clinton Corder, the tight end situation is a plus with Ingle about to come into his own and Delle Donne improving.
Weakness
:
Talent. Honeycutt had a nice spring game and appears to be a keeper, but there's a whole bunch of worry about a number two spot.
Outlook: This could be the team's biggest issue. The tight ends will be a bigger part of the offense by necessity; the wideouts just aren't there. Losing Taron Henry and Bobby Williams isn't a plus, but they're hardly irreplaceable. It'll be up to a few newcomers, and a few career backups, to become factors. It might take a little while.
Rating: 4

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The biggest hole to fill will be at left tackle where Franklin Dunbar left early for the NFL. 6-3, 265-pound redshirt freshman Mike Williams isn't a lock to hold down the job, but he's the first option coming out of spring ball. Physical for his size and athletic, he's not going to bowl over anyone but he'll protect the passer.

With Mark Fisher out for the year at right tackle, it'll be up to 6-4, 300-pound junior Mark Thompson to take over after starting 11 games last year at center. A good recruit who became a solid interior blocker, he could end up starting at either tackle spot or be moved to guard if needed. He needs to stay healthy and he needs to be a rock as one of the team's only experienced linemen.

Losing starting left guard Jamal Lewis for the year with an injury was a blow, and now it'll likely be up to redshirt freshman Colin Boss to grow up in a hurry. While Boss doesn't have any experience, he's a massive 6-4 and 326 pounds and should be decent for the ground game.

Redshirt freshman Jake Padrick must hold his own at center to keep Thompson at tackle. The 6-0, 290-pounder is a great prospect with good leverage and excellent strength, but he's coming off a shoulder problem that cost him all of last year. He could quickly grow into a star.

6-3, 285-pound sophomore Chris Hawkins saw time last season a a backup center before getting hurt, and now he'll get the first look at right guard. A high-riser who never got a real shot to do anything, he could surprise and be a rock from day one.

Projected Top Reserves: There's a great chance that 6-6, 300-pound sophomore J.C. Moore ends up starting at right tackle and Thompson moves to the left side. He has great size and excellent reach to keep pass rushers at back, but he doesn't have any real experience, seeing minimal time in one game, and he could end up moving to guard.

6-4, 293-pound sophomore Evan Lettsome got in a little work in his first season playing in two games, and now he's almost neck-and-neck with Hawkins for the starting right guard job. Hawkins could move to the left side and Lettsome could quickly step in on the right to get his size and strength on the field.

Watch Out For ... movement, and lots of it. There will be plenty of shuffling on the depth chart before the opener against Troy, and the changes might not stop there.
Strength: Youth. That might sound like a weak strength, but there's not too much else to get excited about. The pieces are there for this to grow into a killer unit ... by 2010. Too many underclassmen have to play huge roles, but at least most of them are big.
Weakness
:
Veterans. This could have been one of the Sun Belt's best lines if Dunbar, who wasn't drafted, didn't leave early and if Fisher and Lewis didn't get hurt. Now it's Thompson and a whole bunch of unknowns.
Outlook: The line was solid in pass protection and struggled in the running game. Now it's starting from almost scratch with four brand new starters, little depth, and plenty of concerns. However, there are versatile blockers to move around where needed, and Thompson is a decent veteran to work around.
Rating: 4