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2009 CFN Middle
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2009 MT Offense
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What you need to know:
While this won’t be the Sun Belt’s best
defense, it should finish in the top three. The defense was able
to reload on the front to come up with a good getting into the
backfield. Now the line will be a strength, while the secondary
is loaded up with starters and veterans led by corner Alex Suber
and safety Jeremy Kellem. The pass defense will be among the
best in the Sun Belt, and there will be plenty of tackles for
loss and a good pass rush, but the concern will be at linebacker
where new outside defenders are needed to flank star tackler
Danny Carmichael in the middle. Power running teams should be
able to produce, but spread offense might have problems with the
Blue Raider quickness.
Danny Carmichael, 89
Sacks; Danny Carmichael, Chris
Interceptions: Jeremy Kelle, Alex Suber, 2
Star of the defense: Junior FS
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Junior LB Antwan Davis
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore LB Gorby Loreus
Best pro prospect: Kellem
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kellem, 2) LB Danny
Carmichael, 3) CB Alex Suber
Strength of the defense:
Pass rush, experience
Weakness of the defense: Size,
experienced outside linebacker
Projected Starters: Expected to be a key starter last
year, senior Chris McCoy
will now be one after spending last year as a backup on the
end making 25 tackles, three sacks, and five tackles for loss.
He’s a 6-4, 252-pound run stopper with great strength and a
decent burst into the backfield. However, he hasn’t been able to
put it all together to be a consistent playmaker. That should
change now that he’s getting the start on the right side.
The star of the
line will be Dwight Smith,
a 6-2, 263-pound junior who came up with 30 tackles, a sack, and
7.5 tackles for loss from his right tackle spot. An emerging
interior pass rusher, he’s still getting better after being
thrown to the wolves as a freshman and making 15 tackles. He’s
not all that big for a tackle, but he’s productive and he plays
bigger than his size.
Stepping in to a starting spot at
tackle is Brandon Perry, a 6-1, 312-pound senior who was a decent backup
making 14 tackles with an interception. Keeping his weight in
check is the biggest issue, but he’s a big body who was able to
gum up the works. Staying healthy is a must after missing most
of 2007 with a broken foot.
Back on the left side is
6-1, 228-pound senior Emmanuel Perez, a speed rusher who started to come on as a good
all-around defender with 33 tackles and six tackles for loss.
However, for his size, he has to do more to get to the
quarterback; he only had one sack. He’s a decent veteran who has
the potential to go from good to great if he can do a better job
Projected Top Reserves: Former
JUCO transfer Jamari Lattimore had a nice first season making 22 tackles with 3.5
Sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He bulked up to 232 pounds on a
6-3 frame after coming to Middle Tennessee built like a big
safety. While he’ll be part of a rotation, he’ll be used as a
situational pass rusher and could b used at linebacker if
The coaching staff came up with a major coup
getting Omar McLendon, a 6-4, 220-pound speedster who was being heavily
courted by several bigger teams at the end of the recruiting
process. He might instantly be thrown into the mix to get his
athleticism and pass rushing ability on the field.
having problems with a shoulder injury two years ago, 6-2,
256-pound junior Gary
Tucker came back to be a decent reserve in the interior.
While he’s undersized, he’s tough and able to hold up
surprisingly well. He made nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for
loss, and now he’ll play a bigger role in the rotation.
Watch Out For ... even more aggressiveness from
the line. There’s a good group of athletes returning with enough
veterans to ask them to do more. There’s enough talent to form a
good rotation to keep up the pressure.
Quickness. All four spots will have players who can pin
their ears back to get into the backfield. The ends will be
camped out behind the line.
Outside of Perry, there isn’t a lot of beef. There will be
problems against the bigger power running teams like there was
last year. The run defense has been average overall, but it was
third in the Sun Belt. It does fine against quick teams, but
struggles against huge lines.
Outlook: One of
the league’s best lines when it comes to making big plays, the
production should continue with everyone doing what they can to
come up with tackles for loss. There will be big plays allowed
against the run, but overall, the defensive front will be a
strength even if there aren’t many sure-thing all-stars.
Projected Starters: Linebacker is one of the
team’s biggest issues, but there’s one star to build around in
senior Danny Carmichael. The team’s leading tackler, the 6-0, 246-pounder
made 89 stops with three sacks, an interception, and 11.5
tackles for loss as he did a little bit of everything for the
defense. The main man in the middle, he has just enough
quickness to seamlessly drop back into coverage, but his real
worth is as a run stopper.
Senior Cam Robinson has
been a career special teamer, but he saw a little more time on
defense last year making 10 tackles with a tackle for loss. He
has running back quickness and cutting ability, and he’s one of
the few linebackers with any appreciable experience. He could
back up Danny Carmichael in the middle if he doesn’t get the
start on the left side.
Working on the left side will be
Antwan Davis, a 6-1,
217-pound junior who saw time in every game as a reserve and
made six tackles all on special teams. More like a safety
playing linebacker, he has the potential to be a good all-around
defender with the ability to get into the backfield with his
speed. However, size is going to be an issue.
Reserves: Considering there’s such a concern about the
linebacking corps, there might be a spot sooner than later for
Roderic Blunt, one of
the team’s top recruits. While he’s only 6-1 and 205 pounds,
he’s a big hitting inside presence with cornerback speed. If he
doesn’t end up at safety, he could quickly be a part of the
Looking to take over for
second-leading tackler Ivon Hickmon will be
Gordy Loreus, a 5-11,
224-pound sophomore who made nine tackles in a reserve role.
Mostly a special teamer so far, he has the potential to put up
big numbers with good range and solid toughness.
more size to the mix is 5-11, 230-pound sophomore
Norman Washington, a part-time safety and special teamer who made
three tackles. He’ll get a shot at outside linebacker with so
much need for help, but he could end up moving back to the
defensive backfield if some of the freshmen emerge.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. There’s such a big
need to find starters, much less depth, that the newcomers will
be considered right away. Along with Roderic Blunt, corner-sized
Justin Jones, and
Stephen Roberts should all bring a shot of athleticism to the mix.
Strength: Quickness. Middle Tennessee tries to get
the best athletes available and then hopes for the best. The
linebacking corps, in whatever form it takes on, will be able to
Weakness: Experience. There’s Danny
Carmichael and a whole bunch of question marks. It’ll take half
the season before the coaching staff is settled on the depth
chart on the outside.
Outlook: One of the
team’s biggest strengths last season will now be one of the
bigger issues. Carmichael is a rock-solid veteran to work
around, and there’s good potential in Davis and Loreus on the
outside. The key will be the rotation with so many undersized
options needing to see action. If nothing else, this group will
be able to run.
Projected Starters: The veteran, solid
secondary will be led by all-star
Jeremy Kellem at free
safety. The 5-10, 185-pound junior was third on the team with 72
tackles with a sack, two interceptions and 3.5 tackles for loss.
A big hitter for his size, he’s a good all-around playmaker
who’s tough to get off the field. It’ll be a shock if he’s not
an All-Sun Belt performer.
Also back is
Kevin Brown, the 6-1,
203-pound junior strong safety who finished fourth on the team
with 68 tackles with three broken up passes, an interception, a
sack, and 2.5 tackles for loss. He stepped into the starting
role in the third game of the season and never looked back.
While he’s good in run support, he needs to show better range
and do more against the pass.
Senior Alex Suber
does a little of everything well at right corner. He only played
in seven games after suffering a broken jaw, but he still
finished with 26 tackles, two interceptions and four broken up
passes. While he’s only 5-9 and 166 pounds, he’s able to handle
himself well against bigger receivers and is fast enough to hang
with the speedsters. The former running was able to keep with
Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, and now he has earned enough of
a good reputation to not be picked on like he was when he took
over the job two years ago.
Rod Issac had to step
in for all-star Bradley Robinson and did a decent job making 32
tackles with an interception and two broken up passes. At 5-11
and 188 pounds, he’s one of the team’s bigger corners and he’s a
good tackler. But now, with his experience, he has to start
doing more when the ball is in the air.
Top Reserves: Seeing a little bit of starting time last
year when injuries hit was senior
Marcus Udell, a top
JUCO transfer who originally signed with Alabama. He has good
size at 6-0 and 188 pounds and excellent ball-hawking potential,
but he only made four tackles and didn’t do anything against the
Working behind Kellem at free safety will be
Derrick Crumpton, a 5-11, 183-pound sophomore who was a key reserve
making 20 tackles with two broken up passes in a strong freshman
season. He’s a big hitter who can play either safety spot or
work as a nickel back.
5-9, 179-pound sophomore
Juwan Carson had a
good first year as a backup corner making 11 tackles. Originally
a running back, he quickly moved over to the defensive backfield
and was also used on special teams. He’ll start out behind Alex
Suber, but he could play either corner spot.
Out For ...more from the sophomores. Crumpton is a
rising safety with enough upside to see more time, while Carson
should grow into a role as a key backup corner. He’ll be a
starter next year when Suber moves on.
Experience. Four starters return with good depth waiting in
the wings. While this is an undersized group, everyone can
tackle and there will be times when the secondary takes over
games against mediocre passing teams.
Consistency. The secondary will be able to shut down the average
teams, but the good ones should be able to come up with 250 to
300 yards without a problem. That’s fine, especially in the Sun
Belt, but there needs to be more production when the ball is in
Outlook: With a solid group of
veterans returning and decent depth to count on, the secondary
should be among the strongest in the Sun Belt. There will be
games here and there when there are problems and breakdowns, but
for the most part, this will be one of the team’s strengths.
Alex Sumer and Rod Issac are solid corners, while Jeremy Kellem
is a big-time safety who’ll earn all-star honors.
Projected Starters: The special teams were a nightmare
last year, but one of the positive areas was Alan Gendreau, a sophomore who hit 10-of-14 field goals. He didn’t show off a lot of
range, hitting just 2-of-5 kicks from beyond 40 yards, but he
was 8-of-9 inside the 40.
Senior David DeFatta
was an elite high school punter who averaged 40.9 yards per
kick in each of the last two seasons and put 13 inside the 20.
However, he didn’t get much help from his coverage team and he
didn’t do enough to produce the hang time to help the cause. His
average was fine, but the Blue Raiders netted just 32.22 yards
Desmond Gee has the speed and the
experience to be a star returner, but it didn’t happen last year
averaging just 19.4 yards per try. He’ll take over the punt
return job after the Blue Raiders finished 100th in
Watch Out For ... a major
upgrade on the special teams. After the problems of last year,
Steve Ellis was brought on to do more and get more production
from the return game and the coverage teams. Expect a lot more
attention to be paid here.
kickers. Gendreau is good enough from mid-range to be relied on,
while DeFatta has a big leg and can blast the ball when needed.
Weakness: The return game. MT was 104th in
the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 19.27 yards per try,
and 100th in punt returns averaging 6.23 yards per
Outlook: The special teams were a
major disappointment last season, but the kickers were fine. The
coaching staff will do far more to spend practice time and
attention on improving the coverage teams, but the real issue is
the return game. There are several veterans in key spots, so
there should be an improvement across the board. Things can’t be