Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 129 of 179

128 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY ANDREW HUSSEY Middle Tennessee State is looking for its next quarterback. Head coach Rick Stockstill's son, Brent, has departed after a success- ful career as the starting signal-caller of the Blue Raiders. He was the Conference USA MVP last season and is the program's all-time leading passer with 12,483 yards. His 106 career touchdown passes rank 20th all time in Football Bowl Subdivi- sion history. The two options to replace him are inexperienced. Junior quarter- back Asher O'Hara has only 114 career passing yards, while junior quarterback Randall Johnson comes to MTSU from the junior college ranks. The 6-5, 235-pound Johnson had success at Reedley College in California, where he threw for 2,832 yards and 28 touchdowns while also rushing for 797 yards and 14 scores in 2018. He was named the Golden Coast Offensive Player of the Year, though the jump to Division I will be a big one. Whoever earns the starting nod has a de- pendable target to throw to in senior wide receiver Ty Lee. The 5-9, 178-pounder cur- rently ranks third in career receptions and touchdown catches at MTSU, along with ranking fifth in receiving yards. Sophomore running back Chaton Mobley should get the bulk of the carries in 2019 after he rushed for 660 yards and four touch- downs last fall. MTSU will need the 6-1, 235-pounder to improve with more expe- rience because its rushing attack only av- eraged 132.6 yards per game last season, which ranked 108th in the country. On the other side of the ball, the Blue Raiders' secondary is led by two experienced veterans in junior free safety Reed Blanken- ship and senior strong safety Jovante Mof- fatt. Blankenship led the Blue Raiders with 107 tackles in 2018. Moffatt had 101 tackles in 2017 before missing nine games last sea- son due to a shoulder injury. They will likely have to help cover up for the cornerback position, which lacks proven options head- ing into 2019. Perhaps the biggest contender for all- conference honors this season other than Blankenship is fifth-year senior out- side linebacker Khalil Brooks. The 5-11, 206-pounder started in every game last sea- son and finished fifth on the team with 68 tackles and tied for the team lead with 14.5 tackles for loss. He also had 6.5 sacks, which ranked second on the squad, a team-best 14 hurries and six passes broken up. Brooks combines with junior DQ Thomas for a solid linebacking corps. The 6-2, 215-pound Thomas finished third on the team last year with 70 tackles, while he also had 14.5 tackles for loss, a team-best eight sacks and two forced fumbles. Along the defensive line, fifth- year senior defensive tackle Malik Manciel should anchor the unit. He earned honorable mention All-Con- ference USA honors in 2018 after he started in all 14 games. The 6-3, 255-pounder recorded 31 tackles with four tackles for loss and two sacks last season. Next to Manciel on the defensive line is fifth-year senior defensive end Tyshun Render, who started in three games last season and finished with 25 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. It will be hard for MTSU to repeat the success of last season, which featured the Blue Raiders' first Conference USA East Division title. Replacing Stockstill at quar- terback will be hard to do, but MTSU has the top-end talent to compete within its league. However, the Blue Raiders must first navi- gate a difficult non-conference slate with trips to Michigan and Iowa, along with a home game against Duke. No matter who the new quarterback is, that's a tough beginning to the season. Notes Junior safety Reed Blankenship was first-team All-Confer- ence USA in 2018, while fifth-year senior linebacker Khalil Brooks earned second-team honors … Head coach Rick Stockstill has had 10 bowl-eligible teams in his 13 seasons with the Blue Raiders, but has yet to win a conference title … Street & Smith's tabbed wide receiver Ty Lee as the best NFL prospect in Conference USA. ❑ Middle Tennessee State Is In The Midst Of A Transition 2019 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2018 Result Aug. 31 at Michigan — Sept. 7 Tennessee State — Sept. 14 Duke — Sept. 28 at Iowa — Oct. 5 Marshall W, 34-24 Oct. 12 at Florida Atlantic W, 25-24 Oct. 19 at North Texas — Oct. 26 Florida International L, 24-21 Nov. 2 at Charlotte W, 21-13 Nov. 16 Rice — Nov. 23 Old Dominion W, 51-17 Nov. 30 at Western Kentucky W, 29-10 PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Ty Lee, Sr., WR — Led the Blue Raiders with 71 catches for 883 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 … Had six or more catches in a game five times last season … In his career, he has 213 catches, 2,537 receiving yards and 21 touch - down receptions. Defense: Reed Blankenship, Jr., S — Started in 12 games last season for the Blue Raiders … In addition to his team- high 107 tackles, which ranked seventh in the league, he accu - mulated eight tackles for loss, four interceptions and seven passes broken up … Ranked 16th nation- ally in interceptions. Fifth-year senior Khalil Brooks earned second-team All-Confer- ence USA honors in 2018 and will lead a solid linebacking corps for MTSU this fall. PHOTO COURTESY MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE GAME 1 • MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE RAIDERS • AUG. 31 QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: First meeting Head Coach: Rick Stockstill, 87-78 at Middle Tennessee State and overall (14th year) 2018 In Review: 8-6 overall, 7-1 Conference USA (1st East Division) Final 2018 Ranking: Not ranked Returning Starters: 11 (4 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist) Last Bowl Appearance: 2018 (New Orleans Bowl vs. Appalachian State, L 45-13) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Asher O'Hara (114 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) Rushing: Chaton Mobley (660 yards, 4 TD) Receiving: Ty Lee (883 yards, 7 TD) Tackles: Reed Blankenship (89) Sacks: DQ Thomas (8.5) Interceptions: Blankenship (4)

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