Wednesday's football camp notebook

August 17, 2005 · MT Media Relations
(Practice No. 12 & 13)

ANDY MCCOLLUM ON TODAY'S PRACTICE: "I thought we had a really good practice (Tuesday night) after the long delay and the weather. We probably were on the field too late because we didn't get off the turf until around 10 p.m., and we came back (Wednesday) morning and it was about like what I expected - a little sloppy early. There was a lot of heat this morning, which is good for us, but we didn't fight through it early and handle it like you would want to. As practice progressed, it got better and better. They came through in the end and we were able to accomplish some things and leave the field feeling good."

MORE ON SI'S RANKINGS: Sports Illustrated came out with their rankings of all 119 Division I-A teams recently and Middle Tennessee was tabbed No. 65. The Blue Raiders were the second highest rated team in the Sun Belt behind No. 63 North Texas.

The Blue Raiders were ranked ahead of SEC members Mississippi State (70), Kentucky (81), and Vanderbilt (90). MT was also picked ahead of Syracuse (68), Illinois (69), Arizona (71), North Carolina (72), Washington (73), Stanford (74), Wake Forest (86), and UNLV (91).

TEAM SLOGAN FOR 2005: Head Coach Andy McCollum said this year's team slogan is "You Can Count On Me". People will see that phrase on banners, wrist bands, chalkboards, and everywhere the 2005 Blue Raiders are gathered.

"We talked to the team over the offseason about accountability from every player and we want everyone to be able to look at the other guy in the locker room and know they can be counted on," McCollum said. "We are going to talk about this all the time and it is not always about on the field. This is also about in the classroom and off the field."

RAINEY IS BACK: After playing the 2003 season as a safety for the Blue Raiders, Justin Rainey was dismissed from the program in 2004 for disciplinary reasons before returning in January.

In 2003, Rainey started eight games and played in all 12, and finished eighth on the team with 46 stops. Due to his dismissal, Rainey enrolled at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas where he earned all-conference honors after recording 86 tackles.

The Rock Hill, S.C., native returned to Murfreesboro a changed man in more ways than one. Along with a different attitude, Rainey has also added 17 pounds to his impressive frame which is a huge reason the coaches have moved him to linebacker.

"Justin has grown up a lot over the past year," said McCollum. "He is a really good football player who simply loves to play the game. He made a mistake, has paid the price, and is now back with a great attitude and a different outlook. Justin has come in here bigger and stronger and is a guy we have to find a place for on the field. He is so physical and tough that we moved him from safety to weakside linebacker so he gets more into the action because that is what he thrives on. As a football coach, you love to be around Justin everyday because he loves practicing, playing the game, and he demands people around him to play with the same fire and intensity."

With Rainey back in the fold, Middle Tennessee is stronger at the linebacker positions than ever before. Along with Rainey, the unit includes Dennis Burke, Jonathan Bonner, J.K. Sabb, Tavares Jones, and Chance Dunleavy.

CRADDOCK OUT: Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Craddock will be out of action for at least two to three weeks following a knee injury suffered during Monday mornings practice.

Craddock, out of Birmingham, Ala., was No. 3 on the depth chart and was having a very productive fall camp prior to the injury.

"It was really a freak accident that happened on Monday," said Head Coach Andy McCollum. "He was running down the line, made a cut, and hurt his knee. No one touched him. It was just an unfortunate situation. We do not know the extent of the injury at this point and will not know anything for another two to three weeks. He will go through some rehab and then we will have some options but we will not know those options for two to three weeks."

CHICOLA INCREASES OPTIONS: One of the biggest weapons on offense for the Blue Raiders in 2005 will be tight end. That's right, tight end.

In the past, MT has seldom used the tight end to stretch the field but everything has changed with the development of Stephen Chicola. As a true freshman last year, Chicola hauled in 14 receptions with each catch occurring over the last seven games of the season. His reception total went down as the most by a true freshman in the I-A era.

"Stephen is a guy who came in here at 220 pounds and was fairly successful last year, but is now at 250 pounds, more mature, and more physical," said McCollum. "He came here from a very successful high school program (Jacksonville Bolles) and a great coach in Corky Rogers, which has really helped speed up his development. We thought Stephen was a steal at the time we signed him and he has proven us right. He has great hands, has become a better blocker, and developed a toughness about him. Stephen gives us a tight end who can help us stretch the field and make plays catching the football."

Chicola isn't alone at the position. Brentwood native Clint Corder is listed No. 2 on the depth chart and has looked good in fall camp. Corder missed all of 2004 due to an ankle injury, but has come back strong following a solid offseason in the weight room.

"Corder gives us another option at the position," said McCollum. "He is a smart, tough player who has really improved since joining the program in 2003. We feel very comfortable when Clint is in the lineup."

COACH MCCOLLUM ON QUINTON STATON: "Pound for pound, Quinton is one of the toughest guys on the team," said McCollum. "He plays hurt. Plays with everything he has, and possesses natural strength and leverage. Quinton does not talk a lot because he is a quiet leader, but no one plays with a bigger motor or more passion than he does."

FLY TO FLORIDA: Middle Tennessee fans can travel to sunny south Florida to support the Blue Raiders in October with games against league rivals Florida Atlantic and Florida International. Southwest Airlines is offering a special internet rate of $39.00 one way from Nashville to Ft Lauderdale, Florida. Flights must be taken before December of 2005. MT plays at Florida Atlantic on October 15 in Boca Raton and Florida International on October 29 in Miami. Ft Lauderdale is 28 miles from Miami and 21 miles from Boca Raton. You must book your flights on www.southwest.com before September 8 to get this special rate. It would be best to book as soon as possible since there are a limited number of seats at this rate. You can also purchase game tickets at the MT ticket office by calling 898-2103.

JOIN THE BLUE & SILVER CLUB: The Blue and Silver Club is an exclusive membership for football fans of Middle Tennessee. If you want to get the real inside scoop and get a better understanding of the game, the Blue and Silver Club is for you.

Already, 75 members have joined on and room is limited so act fast and get inside the Blue Raider huddle today. Members are invited to attend the annual preseason staff cookout, will receive a pass for home games to come down on the field to view pregame workouts, and will have the opportunity to have lunch with Head Coach Andy McCollum on Friday's before home games to discuss the upcoming opponent, watch film, and get an understanding of the gameplan. Other members of the staff will also be on hand to provide commentary and answer any questions. Anyone who is not a member and wants to join the club, please call Richard Burnoski at 615-898-2311.

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.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.