The MTSU football team started preseason practice on Friday gearing up for the 2012 season opener on Aug. 30 against McNeese State.
As a whole, the team has put the two-win 2011 season behind them and are preparing for the upcoming 2012 campaign.
"We are focusing on burying last season, and proving this core group is ready to be a good team," MTSU junior quarterback Logan Kilgore said Wednesday. "We are looking to bring all the hard work and things we have done since last season and showcase that to our fans and everybody else."
After last season's 2-10 record, Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill knew he had to make changes in order for MTSU to return to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt Conference.
"We got our nose bloodied last season, and I challenged our team to have the guts and pride to pick themselves up off the floor, and do something about it," Stockstill said.
Those changes included Buster Faulkner taking over the offensive play calls for a full season.
Also, two new coaches Glen Elarbee and Matt Moore take over the offensive line duties.
The biggest addition came on the defensive side of the ball when former SEC defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix joined the Blue Raider staff to become co-defensive coordinator with returning staff member Steve Ellis.
So far, Stockstill is pleased with the changes the program has made before this season.
"I was going to evaluate everything within this program, and do anything I thought necessary to make this team better," Stockstill said. "I'm really excited about the three new coaches we brought in."
On the field, MTSU will be working on how to start off 2012 better than last season, which the team ended the season on a six-game losing streak.
The Blue Raiders' last win came on Oct. 22, 2011 with a 38-14 victory at Florida Atlantic.
However, in the two previous seasons, the Blue Raiders played in a bowl game.
During SBC Media Days on July 16, the SBC preseason poll came out along with the All-SBC Preseason team.
The Blue Raiders were picked seventh out of 10 teams, and none of the players made the All-SBC list. MTSU is using the snub as motivation as it began practice Friday.
"I really feel like last season is enough motivation going into this season," Blue Raider senior running back Benny Cunningham said. "None of my teammates want to be where we were last season. I feel like the day after our last game, people had the mindset that we never want to have that feeling again. The 2-10 season was enough heading this season."
This year's squad returns 12 starters, six on both sides of the ball.
As with any team, the quarterback has the biggest role on the team.
The Blue Raiders return last season's starting quarterback, junior Logan Kilgore. He enjoyed mixed success last season, but he had to deal with a coaching change in the middle of the season.
In 2011, Kilgore finished in the top 10 in several SBC passing categories, while passing for 2,231 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 starts.
Halfway through last season, Faulkner took over the offensive coordinator position before the FAU game on Oct. 22. In that game, Kilgore started off with a 19-for-19 start, and helped lead the Blue Raiders to its final victory of the season.
In the season's final six games, Kilgore missed one game and did not start another.
He only threw for three touchdowns and had five interceptions.
In the meantime, he has improved during spring practice as he was presented the Terry Whiteside Award for his contributions to the team in several areas. Kilgore believes he now has developed a comfort level with Faulkner.
"Coach Faulkner and the entire offensive staff are oozing with knowledge," Kilgore said. "It is easy to go to their offices and talk with them. … Now, it's just a matter of him having the whole spring and off season to implement his ideas and his way of calling plays. It's just figuring out how he likes to get things done. I think that will give us an advantage heading into this season, rather than having it one week, one way and the next week, he was handcuffed on getting his ideas in during the middle of the season."
Practice will run until Aug. 26.
Fans will be allowed to watch it up until Aug.12, which is also the annual Fan Day. The 2012 season kicks off Aug. 30 at Floyd Stadium against McNeese State at 6:30 p.m.