Football Camp Notebook for Thursday

August 11, 2005 · MT Media Relations
(Practice No. 4)

MCCOLLUM ON TODAY'S PRACTICE: "Today may have been one of the best practices I can remember. We lined up 11-on-11 and got a lot accomplished because everybody was prepared and focused today. Everyday I keep seeing young guys improving and stepping up and that is a big key for this program. We have solid leadership out there and it is starting to show."

FULL PADS ON FRIDAY: Friday will mark the first day in full pads for the Blue Raiders during fall camp. After two days in shells, the team will don all their gear for Friday afternoon's workout. Saturday will mark the first two-a-day workout with the first practice beginning at 7:55 AM.

TIDBITS: QB Clint Marks went 6-for-7 during 7-on-7 today ... WR Taron Henry made the catch of the day during 7-on-7 when he reeled on in one-handed from QB Joe Craddock ... Former players Brian Kelly, Lucas Frost, and David Youell were in attendance at today's practice.

UPDATE ON THE DEFENSE: With nine starters and 23 lettermen returning in 2005, the Blue Raider defensive unit has high hopes of this being their best group in the I-A era. Under the leadership of Defensive Coordinator Mark Criner, this year's unit has better speed, more depth, and more athleticism than any defense in recent memory.

"When you have this much experience back it makes everything easier from coaching to playing," Criner said. "A year ago at this time in the secondary we had three freshmen, a junior college transfer, a walk-on, and one safety that had only started one game. It is hard to learn the defense in that short of time period, but after a year, spring drills, and summer things are starting to click.

"We can go about our installation of the defense very slowly because of our experience, which should make us better fundamentally. Later we will add in things like zone defense, blitz packages, etc..."

Senior Jeff Littlejohn leads the way on defense as the Gaffney, S.C. native is a first team preseason all-Sun Belt pick as a defensive lineman. Helping out Littlejohn up front will be Quinton Staton, Devarick Scandrett, Erik Walden, Sean Mosley, and a host of promising freshmen.

"Littlejohn and Staton have been very impressive early on," said Criner. "Everything starts up front and we need those guys playing at a high level."

The linebacking corps may be the best under Andy McCollum with starters Jonathan Bonner, Dennis Burke, and Tavares Jones leading the way. However, depth at the position is equally as strong with newcomers J.K. Sabb and Chance Dunleavy, and veteran Justin Rainey pushing for playing time. All six players have been very strong in early practices.

"This is a very solid group and they are playing well right now," added Criner. "It is great to see Jonathan Bonner back on the field and you can tell he likes being back. We are a much better football team when JB is on the field."

The secondary is also an area where the Blue Raiders feel they have improved. Sophomore Bradley Robinson and senior Keon Raymond lead the way at each corner, while Jeremiah Weaver and Jonathan Harris man each safety spot.

"Jonathan Harris has stepped up his game tremendously," Criner said. "You can see his maturity level rising and the rest of the secondary feeds off that."

BLUE RAIDER BLAST: The final "Blue Raider Blast" will be held in Downtown Murfreesboro on the square, Thursday, August 18, 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 2005-06 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. Sponsored by the Middle Tennessee Alumni Office, the Blue Raider Athletic Association and the Middle Tennessee Athletic Department, the "Blue Raider Blasts" are designed to give fans an opportunity to meet with student-athletes, coaches and administrators and to officially start getting geared toward the beginning of all sports. Middle Tennessee also will be hosting the Sun Belt Conference men's and women's basketball tournament, the conference volleyball tournament and the men's and women's indoor track and field championships in 2005-06. For more information, contact the Alumni Office at 615-898-2922.

FAN/MEDIA DAY: Middle Tennessee's annual Fan/Media Day is scheduled for August 20 at Noon in Floyd Stadium. 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 Sept. 3.

FENTON PAYNE AND FRED 5K: On Saturday morning, Aug. 20, the second 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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