Last season, the MTSU football team finished out the 2011 season on a six-game losing streak and a 2-10 record, one of its worst in recent memory.
A new coordinator is expected to bring more aggressiveness to the Blue Raiders' defense.
Coming into 2012, the Blue Raiders do not want to repeat history, but remember the lessons learned from the previous season. The kickoff started with the annual Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days, held Monday, July 16 in New Orleans.
"I like where we are at," MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill said. "They are a very focused group. It's a group including the coaches that are playing with a chip on its shoulder. I've got two Grand Canyons on mine. There is a good edge on this team, and we want to go out and prove that we were better than last year. Everybody was embarrassed about last year, and we want to go out and prove we are a good football team."
Before the long interview process started Monday morning, in which all of the SBC coaches and a player on each team gathered at the New Orleans Marriott to talk with the media, the SBC preseason poll and preseason All-SBC team were released.
Blue Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the SBC this season by the league's head coaches, and none of the MTSU players were selected to the All-SBC team.
In the meantime, returning Blue Raider defensive lineman Omar McLendon, who was also at the event, believes 2012 will be a different result.
"This year is a clean slate, and we have a lot to prove," McLendon said. "We have a chip on our shoulder. Last season will never be forgotten, but we have flushed it down."
Stockstill echoed that statement about putting 2011 in the past and moving on.
"Every year no matter how your season ended, when it's over, it's over and that's the way you have to approach it," Stockstill said.
To make sure it does not happen again, Stockstill made several changes across the board, including a new offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, who took over the duties late last season. Stockstill also instilled a new weight program and brought in two new offensive line coaches.
The biggest change was adding Tyrone Nix to the mix of the coaching staff. Nix becomes new co-defensive coordinator along with Steve Ellis, who will be entering his fourth season as a MTSU assistant. Nix and Stockstill coached together at South Carolina in 2005. Nix spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator at Ole Miss.
"He has brought aggressiveness and he is straight to the point," McLendon said. "That's what we need. Last season, we had a lot of discipline issues. He had made it cut and dry and made it simpler for the players. We are a lot older, now, last year we had a lot of new players."
The Blue Raiders hope the changes will bring the Blue Raiders back to the top of the SBC.
"As long as we play like we are supposed to play, we will win games and make it back to the top," McLendon said. "It can not be all talk; we have to show action on the field."
As for the league itself, Florida International was picked to win the league with Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky close behind.
ASU senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was picked to be Preseason SBC Offensive Player of the Year and FIU senior defensive lineman Tourek Williams was named Preseason SBC Defensive Player of the Year.