Football Camp Notebook for Wednesday

Blue Raiders go through 87-play scrimmage

August 16, 2006 · MT Media Relations

Thoughts on the morning scrimmage:
"I thought the defense came out and got after the offense pretty good early. The offense managed field goals on their first two drives and the defense did a good job of bowing their necks and not allowing a touchdown. The disappointing thing today was too many penalties and turnovers by the offense. We just had too many offside penalties for my liking which is all a lack of concentration, and even though we did not lose any of the fumbles we had it was still disappointing."

Individual efforts from scrimmage: "I thing Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee really stepped up and showed that they are pretty good players. Both players put the ball on the ground once and recovered the ball but for true freshmen they really made some nice plays today. Alvin Ingle made a couple of nice catches in traffic and up front Franklin Dunbar and Germayle Franklin were real consistent like they have been all camp. DeMarco McNair was also pretty good, but the quarterbacks were just okay today. I think those guys need to take control of the huddle better and take more leadership."

Thoughts on Defense: "Defensively, I thought they were good early but when we shortened the field and went to the red zone they gave up a couple of scores. We tried to teach them you have a long way to go during one stretch of the scrimmage then you have to protect a short field. They have to know the importance of the field."

"There was two players on the defense I was disappointed in because after three straight stops by our first unit I heard them laughing and joking around a little bit and I jumped them pretty good for that. On the very next possession, the offense went 60 yards for a touchdown. It proves a point that this team needs to learn how to finish. Just because they stopped them three straight times does not mean you are going to win the game."

"I thought Jonathan Harris played well and even had an interception late in the scrimmage. We have a lot of individuals doing well, but we need to pull it all together as a team on both sides of the ball."

Thoughts on redzone offense: "They did better in the redzone today, but what frustrated me was the first drive of the game. The offense goes down the field and get inside the 20 and we throw a ball in the endzone and we drop it, then we throw another ball in the endzone and we drop it. Both balls were thrown well and we had to settle for a field goal. You just can't give up four points in college football. When you have a play to make, you have to make the play. During the second half of the scrimmage Bobby Williams made a great catch for a touchdown as did Michael Cannon and we need to learn to make plays from the start of a game to the end and we are not there yet."

Overview from today: "We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go before we are a decent team. But the guys we put out there will be tough guys, competitors, and guys who love playing the game."

BLUE RAIDERS HOLD MORNING SCRIMMAGE: Middle Tennessee went through an 87-play scrimmage Wednesday morning with the offense and defense both securing highlights.

During the first part of the scrimmage, the defense held the upper hand by allowing just two touchdowns in 11 possessions. The offense opened with field goals of 27 yards and 36 yards by Colby Smith before the defense put the clamps on with six straight three and outs. The offense reached the endzone for the first time when freshman Desmond Gee scampered 60 yards on the right side for the scrimmages first touchdown. After the defense held on the next possession, the offense responded with a score that was set up by a 21-yard run by Phillip Tanner and a 20 yard reception by Jonathan Grigsby from Patrick Jackson.

The second half of the scrimmage was a different story as the offense took advantage of a shorter field (40 yards) to score touchdowns on four of eight possessions. Linebacker thwarted the offenses first drive with a sack and on the next possession Jonathan Harris picked off a Joe Craddock pass to get the defense off to a solid start.

The offense turned things around with touchdowns on four of its next five possessions. Patrick Jackson hit Michael Cannon for a 17-yard score, and then Alex Suber ran one in from nine yards out two possessions later. Jackson had his second scoring strike when he tossed one up in the corner of the endzone and Bobby Williams went up over two defenders to bring it in. The last score came under the direction of Craddock when he started the drive with a 12-yard completion to Cannon before Gee put together a six-yard run, a 16-yard run, and then a 1-yard dive into the endzone.

On the day, Jackson led all quarterbacks by completing 12 of 24 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns, while Craddock made good on 5 of 8 attempts for 46 yards. Starting signal-caller Clint Marks did not participate in the scrimmage due to an illness.

Gee led the Blue Raider ground attack with 95 yards on 13 carries and two scores, while Tanner added 60 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown. Suber registered three touchdowns and had 41 yards on 11 carries followed by DeMarco McNair's 17 yard on five rushes.

Williams and Cannon led all receivers with three catches each while Taron Henry, Alvin Ingle, and Tanner snared two receptions.

WEAKEST LINK?: Sophomore receiver Bobby Williams is tired of the Blue Raider receiving corps catching the bulk of criticism for inconsistent play during training camp so he's doing the only thing he knows to do - change attitudes.

Williams had one of the best receptions during Wednesday's scrimmage when he beat two defenders and hauled in an acrobatic 16-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Patrick Jackson.

He calls it leading by example.

"Right now our receivers have a bad name out here," Williams said. "We are the weak link right now and we are trying to correct that. I'm just asking the quarterback to put the ball in a place where I can go make a play, and (Jackson) made a great throw."

Williams admits the receivers, as a whole, have had too many up-and-down practices; however, he believes the unit has the potential to be something special.

"We have some pretty good talent," Williams said. "If everybody plays with some heart we can have something special. All I ask is these guys have heart out there and right now we need to improve that. We have to be focused and have heart."

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Sophomore quarterback Joe Craddock enjoyed a productive day in Middle Tennessee's scrimmage Wednesday, although he did throw an interception. Craddock was effective running the offense when he was under center but the competitive signal-caller still believes there is plenty of room for improvement.

Craddock suffered a season-ending knee injury during fall camp in 2005 and missed the entire season after taking a redshirt year in 2004. The Birmingham, Ala., native says he is thankful for another opportunity to be on the field competing.

"I'm real proud of how my knee has done this camp," Craddock said. "I'm very thankful to (Head Athletic Trainer) Joe-Joe Petrone and his staff for getting me right. I'm still not getting hit but I wasn't getting hit when I got hurt, either, so I feel good and I really can't thank the (Sports Medicine) staff enough for the work and time spent with me during my rehab."

On the field, Craddock appears to be settling into the competitive quarterback he was when he stepped on campus three years ago. Aside of the interception he threw during Wednesday's scrimmage, which was deflected, Craddock put up good numbers and led the offense on three scoring drives.

"The offense came out ready to play, both the 1s and 2s," Craddock said. "We tried to eliminate penalties and turnovers and I think we did a pretty good job. We had a couple of fumbles and I threw the interception but other than that I think we did a good job. We have to work on ball security but there were a lot of positives."

BIG-PLAY BIRTSCH: Fullback Hunter Birtsch was excited when he scored from the 1 during the goal-line portion of Wednesday's scrimmage but it wasn't because he crossed into the end zone.

Nothing against kickers but Birtsch said the offense has been settling for too many field goals in the redzone so it was good to see the unit scoring touchdowns and not settling for three points.

The Blue Raiders' first unit scored on two-of-three goal-line opportunities Wednesday.

"Coach 'Stock' has been stressing getting the ball in the end zone because we have been inside the 10 and settling for field goals so to get touchdowns on two of those three possessions was big," Birtsch said. "I'm just trying to focus on doing my job and helping to make sure the ground game is stable so I can be counted on when the time comes."

NEXT PRACTICE: The Blue Raiders will hold their 17th practice of fall camp on Thursday from 3:45 AM to 6:05 PM.

BLUE RAIDER BLAST: The final "Blue Raider Blast" will be held in Downtown Murfreesboro on the square, Thursday, August 24, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. This event is geared toward Blue Raider fans, alumni, and supporters in Rutherford County and surrounding areas and all interested parties are encouraged to attend and meet Middle Tennessee players, coaches, athletic administrators and University administrators as the athletic department gears up for the start of the 2006-07 school year. Admission to the "Blue Raider Blast" is free; however, food provided by Whitt's Barbecue will be available for $5 per plate. The blast will include music, inflatables, face painting and a special guest appearance by Middle Tennessee mascot, "Lightning," to entertain the youngsters.

FAN/MEDIA DAY: Middle Tennessee's annual Fan/Media Day is scheduled for August 19 at Noon in Murphy Center. There will be free hot dogs and cokes given away while supplies last, games for the kids, and various drawings. Also, tickets will be on sale as well as this year's football media guide. As always, fans can get player autographs and photos so make plans now to check out this year's team as they prepare for the season-opener on Aug. 31.

FENTON PAYNE AND FRED 5K: On Saturday morning, Aug. 19, the third annual Fenton Payne and Fred 5K Run/Walk to take place on the campus of Middle Tennessee with Head Football Coach Rick Stockstill firing the starting gun. The event will get underway at 7:30 AM with registration at Peck Hall. The cost is $25 with cash prizes going to the winning male and female and the overall masters (40 years and over). There will also be awards to the top three finishers in all divisions, male and female, 9 and under, then 5 year age groups through 80 and over. For more information, contact Mark Hardison at 615-848-9063.

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