The opening week of college football season always brings a lot of excitement. Everybody has dreams of this being “THE” year and hope is plentiful. There is excitement stirring in the Middle Tennessee State football program, but for the Blue Raiders it may be for slightly different reasons.
As is the case for many people in all walks of life, 2020 was not very kind to the Blue Raider football program. Challenged by missed practice time, injured players, and the overall poisonous atmosphere of the Covid 19 world, MTSU finished a disappointing 3-6 overall.
But alas, the calendar has turned, players and the program have healed and a new day dawns. Veteran head coach Rick Stockstill is back doing the same things he has always done, cultivate young men and devise a winning formula. Now it is up to this current crop of gridiron gladiators to execute their leader’s game plan.
“Everybody across the country is excited because hopefully things are getting closer to normal in this world we are living in”, says Stockstill, now in his 16th season as head coach of the Blue Raiders. “We are excited about opening the season because it gives us a chance to show everybody we are a lot better than what we showed last year. This program is not satisfied with what happened last season and we are all eager to prove some folks wrong.”
The Blue Raider offense will have some similar schemes as a season ago, but an infusion of new and returning personnel should make things more exciting. The quarterback position should have a little more zing as redshirt junior Bailey Hockman has transferred in from North Carolina State after throwing for over 2000 yards last season. A bevy of talented running backs will also give Stockstill options offensively.
“We didn’t do a very good job of scoring last season”, says Stockstill. “We want to play fast offensively and we think we are better equipped to do some of the things we like to do. Most people run the same plays, it just boils down to who can execute them the best.”
On the defensive side, the Blue Raider mentor is looking for vast improvement. With senior defensive back Reed Blankenship back fully healthy, the boys in Blue will be looking to lay a hat on somebody.
“In all honesty we just were not very good on defense last season”, says Stockstill. “We couldn’t get off the field on third downs and we have to be a lot better. We have a lot of returning experience on defense and we are excited about who we have lining up on that side of the ball.”
MTSU opens their season on September 4 at home against Monmouth University. Kickoff at Floyd Stadium is slated for 6 pm.
“We have a really good group of kids that have been working hard since January to prove themselves”, says Stockstill. “I like this bunch because they have developed some great comradery and exhibited a strong work ethic. We are all very excited for the opportunity that is in front of us.”