Blue Raiders have first morning practice

Ball security still a concern; Last three home game times set

August 13, 2010 · Athletic Communications

Blue Raiders set last three home game times: Middle Tennessee Director of Athletics Chris Massaro announced today the game times for the final three home games of the 2010 season. The Homecoming game against Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 23 will kickoff at 3:30 PM while the Nov. 13 game against North Texas and the Nov. 27 contest against FAU will both begin at 2:30 PM. These times are subject to change due to television.

Stockstill on Friday's Practice: Offensively we turned the ball over too much this morning and we have to start doing a better job in that department. I have been harping on this for a few days and nothing kills you more than turnovers in this game. On one hand it was good of the defense to come up with the turnovers, but offensively you don't beat people putting the ball on the ground.

"I thought we pushed through pretty good today but there is still another level we have to get to if we want to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves this season. We have to learn how to compete better when we get tired. Right now we are just an average bunch of guys."

What Stockstill will look for in Saturday's first scrimmage: "I will be more interested in the effort than what we do schematically. One area I will focus on will be ball security on offense and cutting down on missed assignments and penalties."

1. What Blue Raider would do the best on "Dancing with the Stars"? Dearco Nolan
2. Who has the best nickname on the team, and what is it? Kenneth Gilstrap - Radio
3. Which one of your teammates would be the most likely to appear on "Survivor"? LB Roderic Blunt
4. What teammate would most likely get involved in politics? OL Mark Fisher
5. From the Twilight series, do you like Team Edward or Team Jacob? Team Jacob
6. Who should be the next judge on American Idol? Jeremiah Black
7. What Super Hero would you like to be! Captain Planet
8. What food did your mother have to make you eat as a youngster before you left the table? Fried Chicken and Cabbage
9. What song would you pick to be played when the Blue Raiders run out onto the field before a home game? "Turnt Up"

SCHULTZ TALKS ABOUT THE OFFENSE: First year Middle Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Mike Schultz is never satisfied, but he does see progress in the shaping of the Blue Raider offense as the season opener with Minnesota now looms less than three weeks away.

"As a coach, you are not ever satisfied," said Shultz, who came to Middle Tennessee from Big Ten member Illinois just in time for spring practice.

"Right now, turnovers are probably our greatest concern. We need to get our turnovers scaled back. We have set the bar awfully high, and with that, you have to have great execution."

Schultz has the reins of a Blue Raider offense that was one of the best in the nation last year. Headed by senior quarterback Dwight Dasher, who is on four different quarterback watch lists for the 2010 season, the Blue Raiders also boast a veteran offensive line and a trio of quality running backs.

"Dasher has had a good fall camp, we have a sophomore running back that is doing a real good job in Bennie Cunningham, and several receivers have also done a good job," noted Schultz.

He singled out juniors Tyler Mason and Sancho McDonald, as well as senior Garrett Andrews as those standing out so far. Wide receivers had figured to be an area that needed work, due to inexperience, and Schultz is making sure they get it.

"Coach (Justin) Watts is doing a great job handling those kids. Everybody knows that area has to get better, and the kids are responding to the challenge real well," Schultz declared. "They have come into camp with a great energy level, great work ethic, and a lot of enthusiasm on the practice field. We are getting pretty comfortable with them right now.

"We've got a good group of young receivers, and hopefully this fall camp experience will mature them and get them farther along in the process."

Schultz is thrilled to have senior offensive tackle Mark Fisher back. Fisher missed spring practice because of class conflicts, and Schultz is getting his first real look at Fisher in fall camp. Fisher is a pre-season All-Sun Belt Conference pick.

"It's good to see him back. He brings a lot of leadership to that offensive line group," pointed out Schultz.

Overall, Schultz feels that the O-line will be a team strength as long as they can keep injuries to a minimum.

"Right now, Coach (Jimmy Ray) Stephens is facing a challenge. We have to have some younger kids to help bring us farther along. To sit here right now and think we can go thru a 12-game schedule and not have an offensive lineman miss any games, that's a little far-fetched. That's not going to happen.

"We feel like we have a pretty decent nucleus of veteran offensive linemen, and we are trying to take that younger group and get them as far along as we can during camp. At some point in time, I know we are going to go to those kids, and they are going to have to be ready to step in and play."

Again, Schultz goes back to his emphasis on eliminating turnovers.

"Any offensive coordinator in the country will tell you that the biggest area of concern is turnovers. It is certainly not a new concept, everybody knows it, but the team that wins the turnover battle has a heck of a chance of winning the ball game."

"We have to keep coaching that as coaches, we've got to keep policing each other as players, and I talk to the kids about accountability to each other to have great ball security. And it's not just fumbling. Quarterbacks have to make good decisions, not throw into coverage, throw the ball away if you have to. And they have to do a great job of ball security, too. That's part of making decisions and managing the offense," concluded Schultz.

Middle Tennessee will open a highly-anticipated 2010 season on Thursday evening, September 2nd, hosting Minnesota of the Big Ten in a 6:30 PM game. It will be True Blue and College Colors Day, and the game will be shown nationally on ESPNU.

MCCRAY SAYS GORBY LOREUS HAS ELEVATED HIS GAME: Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Randall McCray told GoBlueRaiders.com that linebacker Gorby Loreus has stood out in camp because he has elevated his game from the spring. Loreus, a junior from Tampa, FL, is currently running behind senior Antwan Davis at the Mike position.

"I appreciate Coach McCray saying that. I just felt like it was time for me to step up and be a leader on the team and lead these young linebackers. I'd been sitting around the last two years, not really getting any action, but it was not really about that, it was about being a leader. I want to set an example just to make the team better. As a person, I felt like I had to come into the summer and work a lot harder, to establish myself as a leader.

This has been eating at me since I've been here. When I got here as a freshman, I wanted to play right away. I got some reps on special teams, but I was hungry for more, wanted to be a bigger factor, to be one of the key players that everyone could look at as an example.

I want to be a leader by example more than vocal. I want to run faster to the ball, to work harder, and then have them see me on film and inspire them to work harder. Now that doesn't mean I'm not vocal as well. I am always talking to the younger guys. They come and ask me questions and I try to give them advice, to pass on what the coaches have told me and taught me."

STUART HAS FOUND A HOME AT CENTER: Junior center Alex Stuart came to Middle Tennessee two years ago, and got a lot of snaps as a true freshman. He has played both tackle and guard in his first two years, and will be the starting center when the Blue Raiders open the 2010 season on September 2nd against Minnesota.

"I am hoping that I have found a home at center," said Stuart, who played high school football at Oak Ridge. "I came from a tackle my freshman year, to a guard last year, to center. I am thinking that center is probably where I will end up staying. I am looking forward to that.

"I have been practicing a lot, getting a lot of reps in, a lot of mental reps, too."

The mental aspect of playing center is part of what Stuart likes.

"You've got to think out there. You have to make the line calls. You get a running back call; you have to make an opposite running back call. You call protection, you call the other team's defense, and you have to know where their "Mike" is. If you are a thinker, it comes natural to you."

Stuart remembers playing alongside All-Sun Belt Conference center Mark Thompson the last two years, and how good Thompson was on his calls.

"Thompson was really good at that. He has actually helped me out a little on that, understanding the calls, things like that. And, of course, Coach Stephens has helped me tremendously by understanding how to get my keys."

Stuart feels like the Blue Raiders have more depth on the O-line than they did his first two years, and that should benefit the team.

"There is not much drop-off in our first two offensive lines. I would say we are ahead of where we were the last two years. We are clicking and working hard out there," noted Stuart. "We have some flexibility, too. I can play tackle, guard, or center, so can Chris Hawkins. Colin Boss can play anywhere. Like Coach Stephens said, those guys are invaluable to us. Now if someone goes down, they can step in and we won't miss a beat."

FAN DAY: Meet the 2010 Blue Raiders and coaches at Middle Tennessee's annual Football Fan Day, Sunday, August 15 from 2 PM - 4 PM at Murphy Center. Autographs, inflatables, free hotdogs and drinks, and loads of fun will be on hand for all members of the Blue Raider family. Bring your kids and friends to get them ready for the 2010 football season. Show you're Blue Raider Pride and pick up 2010 football posters, schedule cards, and much more. Blue Raider fans who would like to purchase the official BLACKOUT t-shirt may do so for $15.00 which will include a ticket to the Oct. 5th game versus Troy. IdeasTees will also be on hand to sell other Blue Raider gear.

FOOTBALL HIGHLIGHT VIDEO IS READY: "March to New Orleans", presented by The Cavender Financial Group, is on its way to season ticket holders who took advantage of the early bird renewal special after the 2009 New Orleans Bowl and is available for sale in local stores.

The 49-minute video is a permanent record of the memorable 2009 season that included wins over Memphis and Maryland, the first visit to Floyd Stadium by an SEC team, a seven-game winning streak to close out the year, and the New Orleans Bowl victory over Southern Mississippi. Chocked full of highlights, the story of the incredible season is told from the point of view of many of the players and Coach Rick Stockstill.

"March to New Orleans" is on sale for $20 per copy at the Floyd Stadium Ticket Office, Lightning's Locker Room, Phillips Bookstore, The Learning Circle, and Reeves-Sain Drug Store.

NEXT PRACTICE: The Blue Raiders will practice on Tuesday at 5:20 PM. The practice is open to the public.

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

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