New receivers turning heads early in camp

Pass catchers provide offense with different options

August 3, 2008 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Lack of production among receivers throughout his first two seasons, coupled with few returning letter winners who factored into last season, prompted third-year Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill to place added emphasis on the position in the 2008 signing class.

  • Photos: Fall Camp Photo Gallery
  • With Desmond Gee seeing most of his time in the backfield these days, Middle Tennessee returned just two of its top eight receivers from a year ago - sure-handed Patrick Honeycutt and rising star Michael Cannon.

    Youngsters Wes Caldwell and D.D. Kyles are promising pass catchers but Stockstill wanted to add quality depth and increase competition at the position through recruiting.

    Enter transfers Chris McClover and Eldred King, along with talented freshmen Malcolm Beyah and Marcus Thurmond.

    The early results are promising.

    "I thought all of those guys have gone out and made some plays early in camp," Stockstill said. "They don't know what they are doing and they aren't supposed to but I think they have shown great potential and attitude. They have been everything we thought they were going to be in the recruiting process."

    McClover, a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., showed flashes of his speed, size and athleticism during the early fall camp practices, going over defenders and making plays, while also demonstrating concentration going after the deep ball.

    King, who hails from Thomaston, Ga., also turned heads with his speed and sure-handed catching in the opening practices, while also battling defenders for possession - and winning. The 5-10, 170 transfer from Garden City Community College is anticipated to provide immediate dividends among the receiving corps.

    Beyah and Thurmond also had some shining moments at the outset of camp, which has teammates excited about the overall potential of the unit.

    "The veterans are going to be veterans and they are going to play," senior quarterback Joe Craddock said. "I have really been impressed with (King and Beyah) this summer. All the new guys that came in during the summer and worked hard, it is showing because they seem to know what to do in these early practices.

    "The guys that reported this week really stepped in and did a nice job. McClover has caught my eye."

    While the newcomers are living up to early expectations, Honeycutt and Cannon also have been solid early. Honeycutt has caught every pass thrown his direction and Cannon had some nice receptions for big-yardage plays in the opening workout.

    THEY GOT PERSONALITY: Blue Raider offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus is high on the new receivers but the aspect that has been most pleasing is their personalities.

    "As much as anything these guys are a fun bunch to coach," Mangus said. "Practice is more upbeat and I don't know what the reason is but the personalities have been a joy and a great influx into our offense. We haven't had the most personality in the world in terms of individuals. These guys, they love football and they are really bringing that excitement you generally see on the defensive side, all that rah-rah stuff, but these guys enjoy coming to practice and competing. It's the most fun in shorts I've had in awhile."

    GOING DEEP: Middle Tennessee quarterbacks have been airing it out through the first two days of preseason camp much more than in the previous two years in the offensive system.

    Offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus says there is a good reason why.

    "We are more athletic and can stretch the field," Mangus said. "We made more plays down the field (Saturday) than we did the entire camp last year. It's nice to see."

    Even though it's early in camp and many of the new receivers are still working to learn the Blue Raiders' offensive system, it's clear the offense should have some new dimensions based on the influx of new and existing talent.

    "Instead of playing in a 15-yard box it's nice to use the entire field," Mangus said. "That's the name of the game and, ultimately, that's what has been missing the last two years. We just haven't had any kind of vertical stretch game. Now we have a bunch of guys who can do it and that's going to help us."

    OUT OF NOWHERE: Junior walk-on Sayquan Jordan was a late addition to the Blue Raider roster but fans may start taking note of the 6-0, 170 corner sooner than later.

    Jordan, who played at Holmes Junior College last year, originally signed with UAB out of Woodland High School in St. George, S.C., but he failed to qualify and attended junior college before walking on with the Blue Raiders.

    Jordan has had two good days of preseason camp and already is gaining attention for strong play in the defensive backfield; however, it's not like Rick Stockstill did not have previous knowledge of the outstanding find.

    "Sayquan is a first cousin of Ty Hill, who I recruited at Clemson," Stockstill said. "Ty Hill was a first-round pick with the St. Louis Rams. I've known Sayquan from high school and I knew a little more about him than a guy just showing up. He's done some good things early in camp."

    TODAY'S PRACTICE TIDBITS: During the team portion of practice, Joe Craddock completed 6 of 8 passes while Dwight Dasher was 1-for-4 ... Chris McCoy had a fumble recovery during team and Ted Riley had a pass breakup ... In the 7-on-7 portion of practice, Dasher was a sterling 8 of 10 and one of his incompletions was a throw-away ... Craddock connected on 7 of 15 passes while Brent Burnette went 1-for-5 and Sancho McDonald was 2-for-4 ... WR Michael Cannon had three straight catches during one stretch of 7-on-7, including one play where he split the defense, caught a quick pass from Dasher, and went 50 yards for the score ... Andrew Banks demonstrated his breakaway speed when he beat two defensive backs and hauled in a 50-yard pass from Craddock ... Defensively, Danny Carmichael had a pass breakup and Sergio Gray had a pass breakup and Anthony Glover had a pass breakup when he stripped Phillip Tanner of a certain reception ... Glover later added an interception ... LB Andrew Harrington and Sayquan Jordan each had a pass breakup.

    FAN APPRECIATION: Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill showed his appreciation to the 60-70 fans attending today's practice. During the team's mandatory tent break, Stockstill sent Joe-Joe Petrone over to the bleachers to hand out Gatorade to everyone. "Hey, our fans are great and I appreciate them coming out to see us practice. They need hydration just like our players so I thought a little Gatorade might take care of that."

    NEXT PRACTICE: The Blue Raiders will practice on Monday beginning at 5:15 PM.

    SEASON TICKETS: 1-888-YES-MTSU OR GoBlueRaiders.com

    BLUE RAIDER BLAST: A Blue Raider Blast will be held at in Central Park at The Avenue mall in Murfreesboro, Thursday, August 7, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Meet coaches, cheerleaders, dance team members, Lightning and more. Representatives from the athletic department will also be on hand with football schedules, season ticket, and BRAA information. Register to win door prizes, including Blue Raider apparel and merchandise from select Avenue merchants.

    FAN/MEDIA DAY: Middle Tennessee's annual Fan/Media Day is scheduled for August 10 at 2:00 PM in Murphy Center. There will be free hot dogs and cokes given away while supplies last, and games for the kids. 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 August 28.

    FENTON PAYNE AND FRED 5K: On Saturday morning, Aug. 23, the fifth annual Fenton Payne and Fred 5K Run/Walk to take place on the campus of Middle Tennessee. 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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