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Attention turns to Troy as opener nears

Team to go through dress rehearsal Tuesday

August 18, 2008 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee's coaching staff will start turning the attention to Troy for the 2008 season opener at Floyd Stadium when fall camp resumes Tuesday.

Audio: Practice Report

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    The Blue Raiders open the season against the Sun Belt Conference member, Aug. 28, and after 20 practices of focusing on fundamentals, toughness drills, team work and more drills, the staff will start introducing the game plan for the opener.

    "We will go through our pregame stuff, create some situations and start introducing things for Troy (Tuesday)," head coach Rick Stockstill said after Monday's practice. "We are 10 days out, as of now, so we will start doing all of that now."

    And that means Blue Raider newcomers who anticipate a meaningful spot on the depth chart have to kick their pace into high gear - more mentally than physically.

    Stockstill has been pleased with the playmaking ability of several newcomers he anticipates having to play an immediate role on this year's team; however, the learning process must pick up the pace if those players are going to be trusted with quality reps against a conference opponent in the league opener.

    According to Stockstill, there were still too many instances of coaches having to tell new players what to do and where to be during last Saturday's scrimmage.

    "We are still having too many situations where we have to run behind these new guys and tell them what to do," Stockstill said. "That was a disappointment that some of them aren't further along than what they were. We have to get better at that and they were better today. They will continue to get better because we will start slowing down things as far as what we are putting in now."

    Still, the veteran coach says the onus of learning rests with the players.

    "It is their responsibility," Stockstill said. "They have no classes this week so they have to live over here and they have to study at night on their own because we can't be out there behind them (against Troy) like we have been. They have to assume some responsibility and learn the offense and defense."

    The initial stages of fall camp saw an increased amount of learning for new players as they were being inundated with new plays, schemes, formations, etc., and Stockstill said that is to be understood; but that time has come and gone.

    "It's unfair to expect newcomers now to know what to do early on because you are teaching them how to run routes and a lot of other things based on different positions," Stockstill said. "They are thinking so much as far as what to do and how to do it as opposed to letting their natural ability take over, but now this is our 20th practice so it's time they need to start learning and we expect them to know more now than we did in the early part of camp. Early it wasn't fair but now I don't think it's unfair to expect them to know some things."

    UPON FURTHER REVIEW: After watching film and having time to evaluate last Saturday's scrimmage, Stockstill still came away believing the team took a step forward.

    "I thought there was a lot of improvement from the previous scrimmage, and we did a much better job from an effort standpoint," Stockstill said. "I thought we tackled better than we did the first one, although we still missed some tackles and we have to get that corrected. Offensively, we made more plays down the field but the disappointment was three turnovers. (Quarterback Joe) Craddock had two interceptions and (receiver Malcolm) Beyah had a fumble, and we had some alignment penalties with these new receivers so that must be corrected."

    WELCOME BACK: Freshman offensive lineman Alex Stuart returned to practice Monday after missing last week with a hip injury. His return was a welcome site for a unit that has had more than a fair share of injuries throughout fall camp.

    The Blue Raiders are still awaiting the return of injured linemen Mark Fisher, Chris Hawkins, Evon Lettsome and Rogeric Govan, while working around the season-ending injury to Jake Padrick.

    Of Middle Tennessee's five linemen with the starting unit Monday, three have never played a snap in the college football game.

    WILDCARD WEEKNIGHT: Middle Tennessee is offering a special ticket package for the two weeknight home football games against Troy (Aug. 28) and Florida Atlantic (Sept. 30). The package costs $30 and includes a reserved seat for both games and a coupon for a hot dog and soft drink for each game. To order tickets, contact the MTSU Ticket Office at (615) 898-2103.

    LAST CALL: Tickets to Middle Tennessee's non-conference road games at Louisville, Kentucky and Mississippi State will be returned to the home schools in the near future. Any Blue Raider fans wanting to sit in the Middle Tennessee section at these road games must purchase their tickets through the Blue Raider Ticket Office. For tickets, call 1-888-YES-MTSU or access GoBlueRaiders.com site.

    BRAA BUS TRIPS: The Blue Raider Athletic Association (BRAA) will be sponsoring bus trips to football games against Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi State, and Western Kentucky this season. Following are the costs for each trip: $60 plus ticket for Kentucky; $50 plus ticket for Louisville; $80 plus ticket for Mississippi State; and $35 plus ticket for WKU. For more details contact the BRAA office at 615-898-2210.

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