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Blue Raiders ink 24 to scholarship agreements

Stockstill adds 21 high school players and three transfers

February 7, 2007 · MT Media Relations

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee head football coach Rick Stockstill announced today the signing of 24 players to scholarship agreements on National Signing Day.

"I think we filled our needs at every position," said Stockstill. "We had 26 available scholarships but I wanted to save two scholarships in case someone qualified late or if there were a couple of players available in the summer. We signed players at every position and I feel like we have a good solid group."

The Blue Raiders, coming off a Sun Belt Conference championship and a Motor City Bowl appearance, inked 11 players from the state of Florida, three from Georgia, three from Tennessee, two each from Virginia and Mississippi, and one from Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona. Overall, 21 signees come from the high school ranks and three are transfers from junior college.

"We really improved our athleticism and team speed with this class," said Justin Watts, recruiting coordinator. "We signed nine linemen combined for offense and defense and we believe all will grow into solid players."

Stockstill and his staff lost four starters on defense, which was a big reason 13 of the 24 signees were defensive players. The Blue Raiders brought in five defensive linemen, four linebackers, three defensive backs, and a safety.

"I guess our bigger needs, numbers wise, were on defense," added Stockstill. "We lost a lot of players at linebacker and in the secondary, and our defensive front will be depleted after next year. So we had to add more depth on defense compared to where we were this past year. We tried to go a little bit heavier on defense and some of the players we signed offensively are good enough athletes that they may be able to play both sides of the ball."

Offensively, the Blue Raiders added four linemen, three wide receivers, a quarterback, a running back, a fullback, and a tight end.

"I think this is a pretty athletic class," said Stockstill. "We have a few players, Dwight Dasher, Walt Dozer and DD Kyles, along with our defensive backs, that can really run. I am excited about Ivon Hickmon and Andrew Harrington who are already here. In watching them workout they look like good football players with quickness and athletic ability. I think we will have improved our speed from where we were last year."

The Blue Raiders will begin spring practice on March 19 with the Blue-White Spring Game set for April 14 at Floyd Stadium.

CLASS NOTES: Position breakdown (OL 4, LB 4, DE 3, DB 3, WR 3, DT 2, S 1, FB 1, TE 1, RB 1, QB 1) ... Average height of the class is 6-1 while the average weight is 222 ... The Blue Raiders had four signees from Tampa's Jefferson High School which expects to announce 11 Division I signees today.

11 players from the state of Florida:
"We are going to try and recruit the best players at each position and not really try to emphasize one state over the other," said Stockstill. "It just happened that it is one of those years where we signed more out of Florida. Next year it may be Alabama, Georgia or Tennessee."

Uniqueness of four signees from same high school team:
"It is a little unusual," said Stockstill. "This is the first time I have been associated with a program that has signed four from the same school. Jefferson is a very good high school program and I think they are going to have 11 players sign Division I scholarships this year. Our coaches thought these players were good players at each position and we are excited to have them at Middle Tennessee."

Comments from Stockstill's Press Conference
Opening Statement: "We signed 24 guys today and could have signed 26 [scholarships]. Everybody knows you can only sign 25 in a year but we are including one from last year. We kept two slots open that we will try to save for a cornerback or an offensive/defensive lineman or maybe even a receiver. Over the next three months, we will look to see what is available out there and maybe we'll find somebody. I said it last year, we aren't going to make a big deal out of it [the recruiting class] because we will find out how good they are in a couple of years. I think we filled our needs. You look across the board and see that we signed somebody at every position. With what we lost from last year's team and what we are going to lose from this year's team coming up, I thought it was critical that we upgrade our numbers in the secondary, at linebacker, and at the wide receiver positions. We signed a quarterback, tailback, a full back, a tight end, and four offensive linemen. Across the offensive board, we fulfilled our needs there. Defensively, I think we signed 13 guys. We are probably a little light on that end. We have 31 guys on scholarship on offense and 21 on defense coming back. Our numbers are real low defensively .We are not even two deep scholarship-wise on defense. We went a little heavier on defense and we probably could've gone even more than what we did. We will look at those two scholarships that we have left to possibly fill them with a defensive player. We must continue to increase our numbers from a depth standpoint on the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, I think there is some good talent with the guys that we recruited."

On having the freedom to sign more players: "This year, you could take four offensive linemen instead of two offensive linemen. You could take three defensive backs as opposed to one. It made it a little bit easier. Successful programs are the ones when you lose two wide receivers, you replace two wide receivers. When you lose three defensive linemen, you replace them with three defensive linemen. We lost three receivers to graduation this year, we signed three receivers. To me that is how you get your positions in tact and you don't let one position get overloaded or under loaded. We are starting to get a little bit of a balance. It will still take us a couple of years to get to the point where you replace what you lose at each position. It's a lot easier to balance those needs when you can sign 24 or 25 as opposed to 13 or 14 like last year."

On the affect of winning a conference title and making a bowl game appearance in 2006: "We have a great product to sale with the overall administration and the direction of the program. It gives you a little bit more credibility, it gives you a little bit more to show to the players, and high school coaches. We tell them, if you come here, you can accomplish all your goals just like you can if you go somewhere else. You can go to a bowl game, win a conference, have a winning season and you can play in front of a nice crowd at home and on the road. It [the Motor City Bowl] was another step in building your program and how you want people to perceive it. They [high school coaches] have to trust you because they are turning their player over to you. He's got an investment in those kids. He wants to know that they are going to come to a place that's going to take care of them from an academic, football, spiritually, and social standpoint. For a lack of a better word, it gave us more credibility."

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