|About this time last year, the Middle Tennessee football team was the talk of the state.
Everybody was expecting a 10-win season, especially the fans and the media.
However, it did not happen because of poor decisions made by the then star QB Dwight Dasher.
During Monday’s press conference, the Blue Raiders players and coaches wanted to let everybody know last year is over. Time to move on.
Of course, during all of the preseason press conferences throughout the nation you hear the same thing. For example: This is a new season, last season is over, that is in the past, we do not worry about it. Here is a little secret, most of that is B.S. or coach speak. They do think about what happened in the past, however they work on changing it just as we do in our everyday life.
However, in this case, the 2011 Blue Raiders really mean it.
After finishing last season 6-7 which ended in a loss in the Danica Patrick, I mean the Godaddy.com Bowl.
Several changes were made to the team. Dasher, who caused most of the problems last season graduated. The offensive and defensive coordinators were gone. Both lasted only one season.
Head coach Rick Stockstill went back to what made his previous teams successful. Don’t get me wrong, the Blue Raiders made an unbelievable comeback, winning their final three games to finish 6-6 and gained a bowl berth. Even early last season, you could tell MTSU was getting away from what made them successful in the past. Stockstill restated that Monday.
“That is a challenge every coach and every team has every year,” he said. “Every team changes, so it is a yearly challenge that we all go through. We had a lot of distractions, and I never felt that we were close as a team or as a staff as I would like. Credit last year’s team and staff that, considering where we were after three quarters of the season, where everybody was digging our grave, we didn’t quit. We kept fighting and battling and got into a bowl game. When we got back from the bowl game, I knew we were going to be a really young team, and I wanted to start early talking about chemistry, talking about leadership because we did not have a lot of experienced guys coming back. I made a real effort to preach being a team, and stepping up.”
Instead of looking around the nation for replacements, Stockstill did not have to look far to find his new coordinators.
On offense, running backs coach Willie Simmons takes over, while on the defensive side, cornerback coach Steve Ellis will now run the show.
“Having two new coordinators is not going to change what we do schematically,” Stockstill said during Monday’s media day press conference. “We are going to be the same up-tempo team on both sides of the ball. I think the thing that people will notice most this year is that our quarterback is not the runner that Dwight Dasher was the past few years. Obviously, we won’t have as many quarterback’s runs as we did last year. Dwight carried the ball 20 times a game, and our quarterback this year may carry it seven or eight times a game. That part will be different, but that will be more to having new personnel than having a new offensive coordinator. We are still going to do the same things we did last year, we are going to be four-wide, up-tempo, try to go as fast as we can. Last year, we had high expectations, but our own expectations were higher than people on the outside. From that standpoint, there was no pressure. But this time last year, at this press conference, all we were talking about was Dwight and the situation he was in. We don’t have that distraction this year; so there is a better feel going into this season. And that was a distraction, not pressure.”
You could see the changes even during the press conference. In the past, after the media speaks to the head coach and the two coordinators. The players are put in their own space for one-on-one interviews. This year, they changed the format is which all of the players sat that the table in front of everybody. They really fed off of each other and we could tell that this team was more in tuned with each other than in the past year.
It was great just to talk football this time than issues off the field. It’s only two days into preseason practice, but this team is coming together.