Stockstill likes team's approach; First practice in the books

Raiders will practice Tuesday at 1:20 PM

January 3, 2011 · Athletic Communications

MOBILE, AL – Middle Tennessee held its first practice in Mobile Monday and Head Coach Rick Stockstill was pleased with his team’s approach. The Blue Raiders worked out for 17 periods at South Alabama’s facility located about 25 minutes from the team hotel.

Photos: Day Two Gallery

The Blue Raiders were greeted with ideal weather as the temperature was 55 degrees under sunny skies. 

“We had a great practice today,” added Stockstill. “I was pleased with the effort, intensity, and focus we showed. They are approaching this game the way I want them to. We need to have another good workout Tuesday and keep bringing the same enthusiasm we had today.”

The Blue Raiders will practice again on Tuesday at USA beginning at 1:20 PM.

During a Monday evening press conference at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mayor Sam Jones presented Director of Athletics Chris Massaro a key to the city. “We are thrilled to be in the wonderful city of Mobile and representing the Sun Belt Conference in the GoDaddy.com Bowl,” said Massaro. “Everyone is doing such a great job with the bowl and really making us feel a part of the city.”

ESPN MEETING: After practice today, Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill and coordinators Mike Schultz and Randall McCray visited with the ESPN announcers who will be calling Thursday’s game. Carter Blackburn, Mike Bellotti, and Brock Huard will all be in the booth when the Blue Raiders take on the Miami Red Hawks. Eamon McAnaney will report from the sideline.

WALDEN SHINES FOR PACKERS: Former Blue Raider Erik Walden turned in a career game for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in a key contest against the rival Chicago Bears. Walden, the Blue Raiders’ all-time sack leader, made just his second NFL start on Sunday and led the Packers with 11 tackles (10 solos), two sacks, and two quarterback hits. For his effort, SI.com’s Peter King tabbed him the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week.

NATIONAL TV: Middle Tennessee’s game against Miami (Ohio) will mark the fourth nationally televised game of the season for the Blue Raiders which will go down as a new school record. The previous record was three set in 2006 and again in 2009. Under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders will be making their 14th national television appearance and that is more than any other Sun Belt Conference team during that span.

TANNER APPROACHING 3,000:  Senior Phillip Tanner enters Thursday’s GoDaddy.com Bowl needing just 33 more all-purpose yards to become the 12th player in school history to reach the 3,000-yard plateau. Tanner has 2,967 all-purpose yards that breaks down with 1,937 rushing yards, 447 receiving yards, and 583 return yards.

TIDBITS: DT Patrick McNeil, who is redshirting this season, is from Mobile, Ala., and played at Davidson High School … Counting the GoDaddy.com Bowl, the Blue Raider coaching staff has coached in 83 bowl games … The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders had a scout at today’s practice … A large media contingent welcomed the Blue Raiders to practice today as several players and coaches talked to the Electronic Media as well as various newspapers … The team had lunch today at Battleship Park and toured the USS Alabama.

Mark Fisher on facing Miami (Ohio)
It will definitely be a challenge for us. We have to be on our Ps and Qs and get our assignments right. We have to worry about us. We can’t worry about them. They have a good defense and it is going to be a great challenge and we are looking forward to it.

Patrick McNeil on sitting out the 2010 season
I like being on the field with the fellas. I had to go through rehab and watching them go through the season without me was really tough.

Benjamin Cunningham on his play at this year’s bowl game
I want to do better than I did last year and be a better producer for the team in this year’s bowl game. I feel like playing a full season, it gave me some experience and now I know what we are trying to do out there.

Benjamin Cunningham on having all five linemen back
When you see familiar faces out there you have a lot of confidence in them.

Preston Bailey on playing in this year’s bowl game
I had to sit out last year due to the transfer rule so I didn’t get to make the trip to the bowl game. It just makes this whole experience that much more special to me.  We are using these practices to fine-tune everything. We implemented a lot before we left Murfreesboro so we are just going to use these next two days to polish up and be the best we can going into Thursday. I am not nervous at all. I’m just soaking it all in. I’m glad and realize just how fortunate we are to make it to a bowl game. I am taking in the experience as a whole and am not nervous at all.

Rod Issac on practices leading up to bowl game
We are using these practices to just sharpen up our tools. We always talk about perfecting our craft and that is what we are going to do here. Just make sure the communication and everything is right.

Last year with the New Orleans Bowl we practiced indoors at the Saints practice facility for the indoor game at the Superdome. This year we are practicing outdoors for an outdoor game so that just helps us check the wind and get used to being outside. It feels good out here right now and I heard the game is going to be cooler so I hope it cools off out here so we can get used to it.

Rod Issac on getting back on the field
We are eager and excited to be back out here. We have been around each other but just going to events and lunches. Now we get to come out here and do what we love, compete. We get to come out here and get after it, make sure we know the plays and whatnot for the game.

Head Coach Rick Stockstill
We got the majority of our work done in Murfreesboro. The game plan is in and now we just have to refine everything we are doing and get better at the little things. These next two days will be critical.

Number one, it always starts with turnovers. We have to protect the ball and be sound in the kicking game. When you watch all the bowls leading up to ours, people have made plays in the kicking game. It has been 33 days since we played our last game so it will be almost like a first game in a since with the kicking game. We also have to be able to stop the run and not give up big plays on defense.

Stockstill on Dwight Dasher
It has been a very emotional year for us and for him. It has been a life learning experience for him. There has been a lot of negativity surrounding him since the end of July with the suspension and then when he came back he didn’t play very well. He has started to play better the last four games. I think he has learned a valuable life lesson that will help him be a better man, husband, and father as he gets on into his life. The team respects him, they believe in him and he has got a chance to be a very special player in every game that he plays. He is a strong competitor and doesn’t care about statistics he just wants to win.

Stockstill on preparing for Miami (OH)
It’s about us. We worry about ourselves. We can control what we do and can’t control what Miami, or whoever we play, how well they play. We have studied them and game planned what we think will be effective against them. To me especially, for 12 games, you just worry about yourselves and play the best you can play each time out.

Stockstill on local product Patrick McNeil
If he stays humble and continues to work as hard as he has, Patrick has the opportunity to become an excellent football player. He is a really, really good athlete to be as big as he is. He played 25 to 30 snaps in the opening game against Minnesota and then had about the same amount in the next game before he hurt his back. We ended up redshirting him, but like I said, if he stays humble and continues to work he has the opportunity to be a special player.

Stockstill on the USS Alabama visit earlier today
I think it was probably a lot like anything when you haven’t done something and don’t know what to expect. Ninety-five percent of our players have probably never been on a battleship before, I know I hadn’t, and just the size of it and how enormous it is amazes you. Then you think about the lives of the men who were on that ship and how it affected their families and the future of this country. It is just a very humbling experience and you leave with just a greater respect for the men and women who serve our country.

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