RAIDERS HOLD KICKING SCRIMMAGE
MURFREESBORO – The Blue Raiders conducted a 12-period kicking scrimmage this morning for practice 11 inside Floyd Stadium. The team started with field goals, then punting before moving to punt block. The scrimmage concluded with work on kickoff return and kickoff coverage.
The final nine periods of practice consisted of team work, the inside drill and more on the two-minute offense. The Blue Raiders will return to the field after dinner on Wednesday for another 15-period practice in shorts.
STOCKSTILL LIVE: The Rick Stockstill Radio Show will get underway on August 25 beginning at 7 PM. The show will take place at Sam’s Sports Grill in Murfreesboro.
GRADUATES: Middle Tennessee will have 10 student-athletes playing the 2014 season with a degree in hand. The student-athletes are Isaiah Anderson, Darrell Baptist, Leighton Gasque, Christian Henry, Patrick Hughes, John Kelly, Pat McNeil,Chris Sharpe, Max Ugboaja, and Reggie Whatley.
Following are comments about today’s kicking scrimmage, along with some quotes on the offensive line:
HEAD COACH RICK STOCKSTILL
On three different guys kicking during the season
“That’s a strong possibility now with (Canon) Rooker being out for the year. It looks like Cody (Clark) will be our field goal kicker. Zach Lopez and AJ Wells will be competing for the punter job, and then AJ and Cody are battling for kickoffs. AJ is leading in the kickoff competition and Zach is ahead in the punting. If it stays that way, then it very well could be three different guys.”
On the Punting team
“We didn’t do a very good job protection-wise. I think that was the biggest issue today. It was the first time we really went live so we have to improve in that area. I’ve been pleased with how the guys punted. Today wasn’t one of their better days, but for the most part of camp, I think both Zach and AJ have punted better than what they did in the spring.”
Punt Return Team
“The number one responsibility for the returner is to get the ball to the offense. If you’re fortunate enough to have a guy with some wiggle and some shake, yeah, you would love to have that dimension. We have never had that guy at punt returner. We finished second in the conference last year in punt return yards so we did a nice job, but his number one job is not to lose yards and let the ball roll or lose 10 or 20 yards on a punt.”
On the value of Reggie Whatley at Kick Returner
“He has put us in a position to win a bunch of games the past couple years just with his kickoff returns. I know the one at WKU was huge. He had another long return against Memphis last year that helped set up the field for us, and he had a long return at FAU at the end of the game that almost didn’t go to overtime. He is a huge weapon for us back there.”
Offensive Line Coach Geep Wade
On the experience of the three middle offensive line guys (Daniel Stephens, Josh Chester, Adam Stickel)
“These guys haven’t played a lot of snaps, but they’ve been on the field. (Josh) Chester started the first three games and played well vs FAU. He broke his foot in the fourth game and just couldn’t play toward the end of the year as we got on roll. (Daniel) Stephens played well in the FAU game and started against ECU. They just didn’t play a bunch of snaps but they saw some quality time. They are young but I don’t see them as new guys. Stickell has come along over the course of fall camp, and was the most improved player in the spring on offense. What I’m excited about in him is his low pad level. We still have a long way to go, but these guys care and I’m excited about the direction we’re heading.”
On Guard David Adams
“He’s really athletic, 280 pounds and can do a backflip. A great kid, works hard, and goes home and drives a truck. Those are the guys that love football, have great character and play with toughness. We can win with that”
On expectations of line
“We don’t talk about being the top running team from last season. We talk about football being a lifestyle, being an offensive lineman is a lifestyle. These guys have to live it 24/7. If they don’t, they don’t love the game. We’re just trying to instill pad level, striking with the hands and playing low. We’re not going to do a lot of different things up front. Great teams get better between now and the last practice, hopefully, before a bowl game. Our motto is to come to work every day and for it to be a lifestyle 24/7.”
OT Darius Johnson
On guards Adam Stickel and Josh Chester
“Adam Stickel and Josh Chester are playing really well. They got a lot of reps last season and the more reps they get; the more they’ve improved every day during camp.”
On the importance of chemistry on the offensive line
“It’s very important because if one or two people are not in sync with the rest of the line, it could mess the whole play up, or possibly the whole game. We’re the core of the offense, without us the running back can’t run the ball and the quarterback can’t get off his pass. We have to be working together at all times and be in sync like a fist.”
On the improving Comradery on and off the field
“I’ve felt the chemistry has improved a lot since day one even though we have a lot of new guys. Before camp started we all got together regularly to do some fun stuff like eating at Coach Wade’s house. We have built a bond together that will help carry onto the field and once college is done.”