Preview 2008 -
2008 CFN Middle
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2008 MT Offense
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2006 CFN MT
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.
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
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman WR Andrew Banks
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Desmond Gee (as a kick
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dasher, 2) Gee, 3) TE
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, running back speed
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line, wide receiver
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.