MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Four weeks of spring practice are in the books.
Middle Tennessee put a bow on a successful spring Saturday in its final practice with a fans, family and former players in attendance.
“It was a good spring,” head coach Rick Stockstill said. “I think we improved from the first day until today … and I think the toughness, competitiveness, leadership of the team, those intangibles areas, I think we’re forming that part of our identity.”
The Blue Raiders will go through summer conditioning and weight work before reporting to fall camp Aug. 1. The first game of the 2019 season is Aug. 31 at Michigan, just 140 days away.
This spring was Stockstill’s and the coaching staff’s first chance to see some players step into starting and key backup roles for the first time.
The graduation of several key members of the 2018 squad has left holes in multiple position groups, including quarterback, receiver, offensive line, cornerback and middle linebacker.
Most of the position groups seeking new contributors had players step up this spring, making Stockstill optimistic before reinforcements come via a talented recruiting class.
“I’ve liked some of our older guys … some of the attitude they brought every day this spring was nice to see,” he said. “Guys know how hard they have to work this summer to compete at the level that we need them to compete at.”
See our position updates on each group for some guys who’ve stood out this spring:
Blue Raider health
Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, they couldn’t escape the injury bug this spring. Several players were out or limited for all four weeks, and there were a couple of new setbacks during practice.
Headlining the players who were out or limited were safety Reed Blankenship, running backs Brad Anderson and Terelle West, cornerback Chris Stamps, center Josh Fannin, defensive linemen Rakavian Poydras and Ty Nix, and linebackers Wayne Parks and Chris Melton.
Most are anticipated to be back for fall camp.
“I think most of the ones who missed this spring will be back when we get started in August, but we had some this spring and the offseason who I’m not sure will be ready,” Stockstill said.
Stockstill had a lot of praise this spring for the work of second-year strength coach Matt Hickmann and his staff did in getting the players ready for spring drills (see our story on coach Hickmann).
That work won’t stop this summer, as Hickmann has conditioning and weight room plans set up for each player so they’re ready to go when camp starts Aug. 1. The team will also keep bond building off the field.
“You’re continuing to develop the brotherhood and the true respect and care for each other as teammates,” Stockstill said. “This summer, you don’t have as much school … and you have to be accountable for each other.”
Here are the players who were awarded this spring:
Terry Whiteside Award: Daniel Sargent
Most Improved Quarterback: Jordan Middleton
Most Improved Running Back: Maurice Gordon
Most Improved Receiver: Jimmy Marshall
Most Improved Offensive Line: Jack Mitchell
Most Improved Defensive Line: Jordan Branch
Most Improved Linebacker: Jarek Campbell
Most Improved Safety: Decorian Patterson
Most Improved Corner: Desmond Anderson
Grinder Award Quarterback: Chase Cunningham
Grinder Award Running Back: D’Monte Kemp
Grinder Award Wide Receiver: Jimmy Marshall
Grinder Award Offensive Line: Matt Martin
Grinder Award Defensive Line: Tyshun Render
Grinder Award Linebacker: Khalil Brooks
Grinder Award Safety: Kylan Stribling
Grinder Award Corner: Justin Brown
Grinder Award Specialist: Crews Holt
Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.