With the start of fall camp less than one month away, BlueRaiderZone.com takes a look at the Top 5 questions the Blue Raiders must answer in fall camp.
#5- Who will be the starting quarterback?
There has been much talk in the off season about who will be the starting signal caller for the Blue Raiders. Fortunately for Middle Tennessee they have the luxury of knowing there are two very capable quarterbacks to fill this position. Joe Craddock came out of last year's fall practice as the starter. During the LSU game Craddock suffer an injury that kept him on the sidelines for the next several weeks. This afforded Dwight Dasher a chance to see playing time.
By the season's end Craddock and Dasher were close to even in minutes played. Combined they posted numbers that could have arguably made the duo All-Sun Belt selections.
The question of the starting quarterback should be viewed as a great luxury for offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus. At a time when many programs across the country are struggling to find a capable starter, Middle Tennessee has two of the conference's best quarterbacks on the same team.
#4- How quickly will the offensive line mature?
As the old saying goes, "Football games are won in the trenches". The Blue Raiders have many questions in the offensive trenches. David Price and Brandon Nix are gone due to graduation. The Blue Raider's top returning lineman, Franklin Dunbar, opted for the NFL draft due to financial hardships. This leaves the Blue Raiders with 15 scholarship offensive linemen, of which 13 are freshmen or sophomores. The outlook gets even dimmer when you consider one of the top returning linemen, Mark Fisher, may be out the entire season due to injury.
Offensive line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens is well respected in the coaching circles for his ability to coach the offensive line. 2008 may be one of his most challenging years yet.
#3- Who will be the playmakers?
Two years ago Blue Raider fans were introduced to Desmond Gee, an electrifying RB/WR/PR. Last year they had the chance to witness the play making abilities of Dasher. Who will be the next player to step up?
The running back position is very thin with Phillip Tanner being the only returning starter will any significant playing time. Gee should see some time at running back and wide receiver. Patrick Honeycutt will be counted on heavily at the wide receiver position. He is steady, but doesn't have the ability to stretch a defense.
The Blue Raiders best hope to see a break-out year by a playmaker very well may lie in the hands of D. D. Kyles. He is a speedy receiver who did not see the field last year due to an injury in fall camp.
With the lack of experience on the offensive line, the Blue Raiders need to find someone than can create big plays.
#2- Who can hold the line on defense?
The loss of defensive ends Tavares Jones and Erik Walden is another concern for the Blue Raiders. Jones ended his Blue Raider career with 120 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss. Walden finished his collegiate career with 152 tackles, 22.5 sacks, and 40 tackles for loss. Walden's sack total ranks him #1 in Blue Raider history.
#1- Will the kicking game improve?
There is no doubt that the kicking game made things interesting for the Blue Raider faithful in 2007. The Blue Raiders hit only 7-13 field goals. They also missed 2 PAT's in a close game against ULM.
It will never been known if the missed field goal against Virginia in the 2nd quarter cost Middle Tennessee a chance to upset an ACC team, but the 3 points would have come in very handy in the 2 point loss.
A missed 34 yard field goal as time ran out against Western Kentucky did keep the Blue Raiders from sending the game into overtime in a very disappointing 3 point loss.
Gendreau will be put to the test early. If he responds the way Stockstill intends then maybe there will be more consistency in the kicking game. As the Blue Raiders found out last year, a strong kicking game can be the difference in a win or a loss.
The Blue Raider coaching staff will be searching for answer to these questions during fall camp. If they are able to find the correct answers then look for the Blue Raiders to compete for the Sun Belt crown. If they don't find the right answers...well, let's just hope they find the right answers.