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Stockstill talks about spring practice

Blue Raiders to stress toughness, fundamentals

March 18, 2012 · Athletic Communications
EVALUATE YOUR TEAMS OFFSEASON WORKOUTS UNDER YOUR NEW STRENGTH COACH, JASON SPRAY, ENTERING SPRING DRILLS.
I think we have made some great strides with Jason leading the way. We had goals to increase our strength, speed, flexibility, and stamina in the offseason and you can already see noticeable gains in our bodies. The players’ confidence level is high because they feel stronger, look stronger, and have improved athletically. Jason has brought toughness to the weight room where he has pushed guys to their limits and in some cases past their limits. We are already a mentally tougher team and a stronger team than we were a year ago.

MT ADDED THREE NEW COACHES IN FEBRUARY SO TELL US HOW THEY ARE FITTING IN AFTER A FEW SHORT WEEKS ON THE JOB.
I am excited about our overall staff. We have moved some people around and brought in three new guys in Tyrone Nix, Matt Moore, and Glen Elarbee. These guys have fit in nicely because they are excited to be here, they do not have egos, and work well with all our previous staff members. They bring enthusiasm and energy to the positions they coach and I could not be happier with them representing Middle Tennessee.

YOU HAVE CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS FOR THE FIRST TIME. HOW WILL THAT WORK IN 2012?
We had an opportunity to get Tyrone Nix at Middle Tennessee and I think it was something our team needed. This is in no way a knock on Steve Ellis because he is a great person and a great football coach. Tyrone will be the play-caller on defense but they will work together in forming the game plan each week along with David Bibee and Joe Cauthen. Tyrone and Steve are good friends and only want what is in the best interest of this program.

WITH NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BUSTER FAULKNER, WHAT NEW CHANGES WILL WE SEE ON THAT SIDE OF THE BALL?
There will be some changes but not necessarily because Buster is the coordinator. I think you always have to evaluate and you have to look at your strengths and weaknesses and try to improve. We will experiment with a lot this spring and see what our players can handle. As a whole, the offense will not change drastically because I still want to be no-huddle, up-tempo, and predominantly a shotgun team. However, I want to do some things differently that will allow us to take advantage of the personnel we have.

ASSESS YOUR QUARTERBACK SITUATION. IS LOGAN KILGORE THE STARTER? WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM REDSHIRT FRESHMAN SHAUN WHITE?
I like all our quarterbacks and I think Logan and Jeff (Murphy) have the experience and ability to lead our team. Logan will enter spring drills as the starter but there is not a position on this team that is locked down. We have stressed to our team in the offseason that we will have a high level of competition in everything we do. It has been a point of emphasis. Shaun has a world of potential and ability but this is his first spring to really get coached. He has worked hard in the offseason and is a better runner than Logan or Jeff. He has a great arm but needs to develop some touch and keep learning the offense. I really look forward to seeing all three guys compete this spring.

SINCE YOU WALKED OFF THE FIELD IN DECEMBER, WHAT HAS BEEN THE ONE AREA YOU HAVE STRESSED TO THE STAFF AND PLAYERS YOU WANT TO SEE IMPROVED IN 2012?
I don’t know if you can put your finger on one particular area but we have to become a more mentally and physically tougher team. It all starts in the weight room and our players have done a nice job of embracing that so far. I think we have to improve fundamentally which is why this spring is so critical. We also have to play smarter from an assignment standpoint because we missed a lot of assignments last year. Some were due to inexperience, but a lot of our missed assignments were due to not playing smart. But the biggest area where we need to improve is toughness, and I like the direction we are headed.

OFFENSIVELY, YOU LOST FOUR GUYS WHO COMBINED FOR 162 CAREER STARTS ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE. HOW DO YOU REPLACE THAT TYPE OF PRODUCTION?
We have some good players ready to step in and take over, and we are bringing in two junior college guys to shore up our depth. Josh Walker started a lot last year and Jadareius Hamlin and Alex Stuart have also started and have a lot of experience. It will be hard to replace the experience Brandon (McLeroy), Colin (Boss), Preston (Bailey), and Mike (Williams) gave us the past few years but we just have to coach the ones we have and get them ready because the torch has been passed. I also think Darius Johnson and Roberto Loya have great futures in our program, and Jesse Grisham is a guy who has been around for a while now.

YOU LOST TWO RECEIVERS WHO ENDED THEIR CAREERS RANKED IN THE TOP 10 IN RECEPTIONS, BUT YOU STILL RETURN A TALENTED CORP GROUP. TELL US ABOUT YOUR PASS CATCHERS?
I like this group of receivers. You have guys with experience and been productive in big games. Anthony Amos was productive last year and Kyle Griswould made plays at receiver and running back a year ago. Reggie Whatley came along about the fourth or fifth game in 2011 and should have a lot more confidence entering his sophomore season. Christian Collis and Arthur Williams are guys who have been solid in the offseason and I am excited to see them compete this spring. We signed Marcus Henry in December and having him go through spring practice will be vital in his development. I think we have a good mix of jitter bug guys and big receivers. We just have to stay healthy and be more consistent than we were a year ago.

A YEAR AGO YOU WERE REPLACING ALL FOUR OF YOUR DEFENSIVE LINE STARTERS AND THIS YEAR IT APPEARS THE POSITION IS THE STRENGTH OF YOUR TEAM. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THIS GROUP IN 2012?
I really like the guys coming back. Omar (McLendon) is a senior now and he has worked hard in the offseason, gained some weight, strength, and seems poised for a great year. He will be the leader. Jimmy Staten has worked hard and is up to 300 pounds now after a solid sophomore season. We have battled through the growing pains with young guys and now they are older and ready to produce. Jiajuan Fennell is fully recovered from his injury and Shubert Bastien is a guy who has a great future and a world of potential. Dearco Nolan played inside last year because of injuries but he will be back at his normal position at end. He is a tough, physical guy who will really help us on the outside. We are also getting Patrick McNeil back from his Achilles injury so this spring will be big for him. Kendall Dangerfield had a nice year last season and will be one of three seniors along the defensive front with McLendon and Kevin Pope. We will not have Marcus Robinson or J.D. Jones during the spring due to their injuries but they should be ready when camp begins in August. This group has a lot of potential but they have to stay healthy and we need some of the younger guys to make a push.

LINEBACKER PLAY WAS INCONSISTENT LAST YEAR SO WHAT WILL BE THE EMPHASIS FOR THAT UNIT THIS SPRING?
Yes, we were inconsistent and missed a lot of assignments last year but we had a lot of guys playing for the first time. I like their athleticism and their mentality right now with Tyrone Nix. There is a ton of potential with this group but now we just have to translate it to performance. Stephen Roberts has struggled with injuries his entire career and will be limited this spring because of the injury he suffered last season.

WHO AMONG THE REDSHIRTED FRESHMEN DO YOU SEE PUSHING FOR PLAYING TIME THIS SEASON?
Offensively, I think Darius Johnson and Roberto Loya could make some noise along the offensive line because we do not have a lot of depth there right now. Jeremiah Bryson is another guy to keep an eye on as well as Drayton Calhoun. Calhoun is not a redshirt freshman but he sat out last year after transferring from LSU. Christian Collis at receiver is another guy I am excited about and I expect him to be in the mix for playing time. As I mentioned earlier, I also believe Shaun White will be considered as well.

Defensively, Jajuan Harley and Kevin Byard will go into the spring as starters, and Jared Singletary and Rodney O’Neal should be in the mix as well. I think those guys in the secondary should contribute immediately on defense and special teams. Jerrold Frazier, J.D. Jones, O’Shae Bridges, and Marcus Robinson will all be fun to watch up front.

WHO WILL BATTLE IN THE SPRING TO TAKE OVER THE VACANT SPOT AT PLACEKICKER?
Right now, Carlos Lopez is the favorite. He transferred in from Carson Newman where he played for three years and graduated. He has experience, works hard, and has a great attitude. I look forward to seeing him kick this spring.

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