Friday football camp notebook
Blue Raiders enjoy solid practice on FridayAugust 17, 2007 · MT Media Relations
COMMENTS FROM HEAD COACH RICK STOCKSTILL:
End of game situations during today's practice: "In fall camp, you try to cover every situation that can come up. We did our kicking scrimmage earlier in the day. The last play of the game for the offense was where they are trying to catch the ball in the end zone. Then we switched to the defense where they defend, so we can teach everybody what to do in those situations. There are two scenarios, one where we are throwing a pass to get into field goal range, out of time outs and we have to run the field goal team in. The other one is where we put it on the hash mark and we run the quarterback to the middle of the field to take a knee.
On being "perfect": "I told them we are going to coach them hard on every play. I told them the other day that I want them to call me a perfectionist. We want everything perfect. If the ball is supposed to be on your left shoulder, we want it on your left shoulder. Not two inches inside. Every throw, every block, every step, every route and every thing we do should be perfect."
On demanding perfection: "If you don't demand perfection then you're settling for mediocrity. Every second of every minute while we're out here we want to coach them to be perfect."
On today's practice: "Today was a better practice. They're fighting through the dog days. Today was a little bit better than the past few days."
On how the kickers are progressing: "We had a kicking contest today. We did field goals, punts, kickoffs and we'll evaluate that on tape. Also, tomorrow during the scrimmage, we'll evaluate them."
On who might be the starting kicker: "I have a pretty good idea after watching them this morning, but we'll see after tomorrow."
On walk-on Jeremy Perry (Memphis) possibly developing a special team's role similar to Brandon Gantt last year: "He did a good job blocking a punt yesterday and did a nice job today as well. His athletic ability hasn't showed up at quarterback because he has not been able to get a lot of reps, but it has shown up a little more as of late. As thin as we are in some places, he might have a chance to get a position somewhere on our defense. We will look at him on that side of the ball this afternoon."
STRONG RETURN: Senior linebacker Chance Dunleavy is ready to conclude his Blue Raider career on a strong note after battling injuries that cost him all but one game in 2006.
Dunleavy, who played in all 11 games and earned four starts in 2005, played in the opener against Florida International last season before seeing his season come to an end when he dislocated his knee cap.
The hard-nosed Dunleavy also missed the majority of spring drills but he has made a strong return and is playing well in fall camp.
"Chance has done well and he has worked extremely hard to get well and reach this point," Stockstill said. "You can tell the longer practice goes the more fatigued he becomes. We just have to be smart with it. He's not at a point where he can play 50 snaps a game but if we can get him 25-to-30 snaps a game, especially early in the season until he gets a little more confidence in it that would be great."
Dunleavy is disappointed to have missed being on the field for a championship season but his production will be key for the Blue Raiders to make another such run in 2007.
"I just have to keep working. I'm hoping to have a healthy season," Dunleavy said. "You can't look back, just look forward and continue pushing. I'm ready to step in and take a lead role on the defense."
That's good to hear because on a defense with several returning starters the linebacker position is where three starters were lost from a season ago.
"Because we lost three starters at linebacker last year we need Chance in there because he's played, but the bigger thing to me is we need him out there because of his leadership," Stockstill said. "He's a senior, he's played a bunch of football, not much here, but he has played, and we need his leadership out there as much as we do his physical ability. That is as big of a key as anything because we are so young in a lot of places."
TIME TO SHINE: DeMarco McNair has spent most of his college football career in the shadows of others but the senior tailback seems to have a keen understanding of what is expected when a player assumes a lead role.
McNair, a 5-11, 195-pound rusher from Thomson, Ga., is enjoying a productive fall camp for the Blue Raiders and is emerging as a viable option as a starter. Starter or not, McNair believes his senior status and work ethic make him leadership material.
"Becoming a starter changes nothing in terms of that," McNair said. "You still have to work hard and give 100 percent. Being behind someone just makes you work harder and believe, keep faith in God, and push even harder. I believe being a senior, people listen to me. I am just trying to lead people in the right direction. I think that comes with character and being a good person."
McNair is coming off his best season as a Blue Raider. He played in all 13 games, earning one start, and was second on the team in rushing with a career-high 586 yards. A successful offseason should enable him to build upon those numbers.
"DeMarco has worked extremely hard in the offseason, he has transformed his body and gained about 10 pounds of muscle, yet he is able to maintain his speed and athletic ability," said running backs coach Willie Simmons. "As a senior, this is (McNair's) last chance and it is do-or-die. I think he has a do mentality."
McNair says it is easy to explain why he is having a good camp. The fall camp is all about practices and McNair enjoys that part of the football as much as any other area.
"You have to keep your mind right and work hard at practice because everything you do there transfers to the game," McNair said. "If you go to practice and loaf then you are going to loaf in games. You can't just turn it on at game time. If you loaf at practice you are wasting everyone's time."
PERRY ON THE MOVE: Getting an interview with Brandon Perry following practice is not easy. Keeping pace with him is not, either. Suddenly, it seems the Hawkinsville, Ga., native just can't slow down.
"It seems like my motor just keeps running. It's telling me not to stop, keep going," Perry said. Perry, a defensive lineman, says he is in the best condition he has been in since becoming a Blue Raider and it is showing on the field. After playing at more than 330 pounds in 2005 and 2006, Perry has shed more than 20 pounds and coaches don't believe improved play is a coincidence.
"Brandon has lost weight and he continues to get in shape," defensive line coach Les Herrin said. "I think he understands that if he wants to be what he should be then you have to lose weight. It's really the first time he has been close to being in shape and I think he sees the difference."
Perry says he is able to get off the ball quicker and his mobility has increased significantly.
"My coaches kept stressing to get my weight down," Perry said. "Now that I have I can see what a difference it is making. I feel like I'm playing pretty good and I feel like I'm part of what we are doing up front on defense."
NEXT PRACTICE: The Blue Raiders will practice on Saturday beginning at 3:05 PM.
SEASON TICKETS: 1-888-YES-MTSU OR GoBlueRaiders.com
BLUE RAIDER BLAST: The final "Blue Raider Blast" will be held in Downtown Murfreesboro on the square, Thursday, August 23, 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 2007-08 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.
FENTON PAYNE AND FRED 5K: On Saturday morning, Aug. 18, the fourth annual Fenton Payne and Fred 5K Run/Walk to take place on the campus of Middle Tennessee with Director of Athletics Chris Massaro firing the starting gun. The event will get underway at 7:00 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.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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