SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  MTSU Blue Raiders

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Andy McCollum (5th year, 21-24)
2002 record: 4-8
Sun Belt finish: T-4th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 208.7 ypg
(2nd in Sun Belt, 21st in nation)
Pass: 154.0 ypg (5th, 101st)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 171.7 ypg (4th, 84th)
Pass: 229.1 ypg (5th, 78th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR   6   Wardell Alsup   Sr.  
WR  85  Chris Henry  So. 
WR  Hashem Joyner  Jr. 
WR   1   Kerry Wright   Jr.  
LT   59   Brandon Westbrook   Sr.  
LG  73  Bill Brasch  Jr. 
76  Shavaskey Brown  So. 
RG   55   Josh Willoughby   Sr.  
RT  67  Julius Gant  Jr. 
QB   9   Andrico Hines   Sr.  
TB  28  Don Calloway  Sr. 
Defense (7)
DE   97   Jerry Vanderpool   Jr.  
DT  92  Jeff Littlejohn  So. 
DE  94  Devarick Scandrett  So. 
LLB  40  Dennis Burke  So. 
MLB   54   Randy Arnold   Sr.  
RLB  56  Kenny Edwards  Sr. 
CB   3   Tony Sutton   Sr.  
CB   5   Muhammad Rashada   Sr.  
SS   2   Michael Woods   Sr.  
WS   42   Brandon Lynch   Sr.  
FS   12   Will Martin   Sr.  
Special Teams
22  Brian Kelly  Sr. 
20  Robert Billings  Sr. 
KR  27  Kelvin German  So. 
PR  Kerry Wright  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 28  Florida Atlantic 
Sept. 6  at Georgia 
Sept. 13  at Clemson 
Sept. 20  at Missouri 
Oct. 4  Temple 
Oct. 11  New Mexico State 
Oct. 18  at Idaho 
Oct. 25  North Texas 
Nov. 1  at Utah State 
Nov. 8  Troy State 
Nov. 15  Louisiana-Lafayette 
Nov. 22  at Arkansas State 
With tangible annual progress, Middle Tennessee made its first three years as a Division I-A member look about as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel.

Last year, the fish shot back.

The Blue Raiders lost their first five games and stumbled to a 4-8 record (2-4 Sun Belt). For a team with sights set on a conference championship, losing three league games by less than a touchdown was of little consolation. Now coach Andy McCollum's fifth team is poised for a rebound as it approaches the new season with a little less hype and a little more purpose.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

No doubt about it, this is Andrico Hines' team. The athletic quarterback made his presence felt by finishing third in the conference in total offense last season and earning the unconditional respect of his teammates. He is also the Blue Raiders' top returning rusher and has the ability to keep opposing defenses off balance all season.

Hines will benefit from the presence of an experienced line, led by two-time All-Sun Belt selection Brandon Westbrook. However, with the departure of last year's top two rushers and top three receivers, Middle Tennessee will have to rely on new talent at the skill positions.

Running back Don Calloway has the most experience and speed and will get every opportunity to step into the role vacated by Dwone Hicks. Chris Henry, Kerry Wright and Wardell Alsup all got their feet wet as receivers last season and will be expected to step up this fall.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

If the line can hold its own, Middle Tennessee could have one of the top defensive units in the Sun Belt. McCollum was disappointed with the D-line's performance a year ago, but believes the three-man front could be an asset this fall. Jerry Vanderpool is a steady performer at left end and a team leader. At right end, Devarick Scandrett, who appeared in every game as a true freshman, has added 25 pounds.

The Blue Raiders' second and third layers of defense are stockpiled with formidable talents. Michael Woods and Brandon Lynch are two-year starters at outside linebacker. Middle linebacker Randy Arnold, the team's top returning tackler, is coming off his best season. Dennis Burke played in every game as a true freshman last year and has great potential.

All three starters return in the secondary: corners Tony Sutton and Muhammad Rashada and free safety Will Martin. Martin led the unit in tackles. Sutton and Rashada tied for the team lead with three interceptions, while Rashada broke up nine passes. Chris Johnson , who was sidelined last year after breaking his arm in the season opener, will see action at three positions.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

If games are won and lost on special teams, Middle Tennessee has a huge advantage.

The Blue Raiders welcome back two all-conference kickers in Brian Kelly and Robert Billings . Kelly converted 10-of-13 field-goal attempts and missed only one of 32 extra points. Billings averaged 42.6 yards per punt.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Look for Middle Tennessee to take its medicine -- along with its paycheck -- during the pre-conference "guarantee" games at Georgia, Clemson and Missouri. Then, with Hines at the helm, the team should mature enough as the season goes along to make a run in the Sun Belt.

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