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Blue Raiders report to camp Thursday, will hold first practice Friday

43 lettermen return, including 12 starters

August 2, 2006 · MT Media Relations

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Head Coach Rick Stockstill will welcome 104 veterans and newcomers on Thursday as the team reports for the start of fall drills. The first official practice is set for Friday at 4:40 PM.

"I am really excited about having all the guys together and getting started," said Stockstill. "It's the start of a new year and that gives everybody a lot of hope. We are all anxious to get a look at the newcomers while welcoming back the veterans. Everybody worked extremely hard over the summer and they appear ready to get started."

On Thursday, the team will spend the first part of the day in academic meetings before taking physicals in the afternoon. Following dinner, Stockstill will hold a senior meeting, followed by a team meeting, before calling it a day.

The NCAA's mandatory acclimatization period will begin with Friday's practice and will conclude with Tuesday's drills.

"This year it is really different because our first eight practices will be going on while the guys are still in summer school," said Stockstill.

A total of 43 lettermen and 12 starters will highlight the list of players reporting to camp, while 14 newcomers and 12 invited walk-ons will be a part of the group as well.

Offensively, eight starters are back including quarterback Clint Marks, running back Eugene Gross, wide receiver Bobby Williams, tight end Stephen Chicola, and linemen Richard Bortner, Franklin Dunbar, Germayle Franklin, and Marcus Gates. Franklin is a preseason all-conference pick and has started in 28 straight games.

On the defensive side of the ball, starters J.K. Sabb, Erik Walden, Bradley Robinson, and Jonathan Harris are back. Sabb, who led the Blue Raiders in tackles and tackles for loss in 2005, was also a preseason all-SBC pick and will be counted on heavily to lead a Blue Raider defense that lost SBC Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Littlejohn.

The Blue Raiders also welcome back placekicker and punter Colby Smith. The senior was recently voted a preseason all-conference pick as a punter after averaging 42.1 yards a kick in 2005.

Due to offseason injuries, wide receiver Taron Henry, defensive lineman Brandon Perry, fullback Hunter Birtsch, and center Marcus Gates will be limited in practice. Running back Alex Suber, who missed all of spring drills, will be full-go when drills begin Friday afternoon.

"We will spend a lot of time on fundamentals the first week of practice," said Stockstill. "Doing all the little things in this game is very important and we expect to pick right up where we left off in the spring."

The Blue Raiders will open the 2006 season at home on August 31 against conference foe Florida International. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 PM.

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