With the graduation of Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee entered this off season notably weak at the quarterback position. It's widely assumed that JUCO transfer Logan Kilgore will be named the starter prior to the season opener at Purdue, but behind him there are only two quarterbacks on the roster: fellow JUCO transfer Jeff Murphy and Samford transfer Spencer Wise.
While Wise sat out in 2010 to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, Murphy and Kilgore combined for four starts to begin the season in the place of the suspended Dasher. Between them, they managed three touchdown passes and six interceptions. With that in mind it's easy to understand why quarterback depth was a priority in this recruiting class.
Luckily for the Blue Raider staff, a pair of highly touted prospects fell to Middle in the last week before national signing day: Shaun White, a dual-threat quarterback from Pensacola, Fla., and Timmy Byerly, another spread-oriented quarterback with the ability to scramble. Both signed with the Blue Raiders on Wednesday. In doing so they instantly improved depth at the position and replenished the system with high school players who would have time to learn the offense.
Each player should bring a particular level of excitement to the Blue Raider faithful, who have grown accustomed to the ups and downs of a talented, but mistake-prone Dasher. In White, the staff received the signature of a prospect they were high on early in the process and understandably so. When the 2010 season was said and done, White had accumulated over 2,000 yards passing for 14 touchdowns, despite the fact that he missed two games with an injured ankle.
Eventually he would sign with the in-state rival Vanderbilt Commodores, only to be told on his official visit in late January that he didn't have the grades to enroll, despite being an NCAA qualifier.
At that point, many programs had already signed their allotment at the quarterback position, so White was left without a home just a few weeks before national signing day. Eventually, he would find two Sun Belt schools vying for his commitment. Both Florida International and Middle Tennessee expressed immediate interest in the talented signal caller and he promptly set up visits to each.
After visiting both schools during a one-week span, White went home and took a few days before deciding upon the Blue Raiders, but not before news broke of another quarterback commitment.
For Timothy Byerly, the recruiting process has been long, trying and ultimately redemptive. At 6-1, 220 lbs. many national programs considered him too small to make their primary quarterback signee. So he waited. He waited despite the fact that he was named the AJC's AAAA player of the year. He waited despite the fact that he passed for 2,665 yards and rushed for another 1,509. He waited despite the fact that he accounted for a total of 51 touchdowns.
Eventually the waiting ended. Byerly received a scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee in late January. He quickly set up an official visit to Murfreesboro and visited campus on the weekend of January 28. On the following Monday, Byerly called head coach Rick Stockstill and informed him that he wanted to be a Blue Raider.
Stockstill got a similar call from Shaun White less than 24 hours later, giving the class a much-desired jolt from a pair of talented quarterback prospects. Fans can be assured that the staff is high on each quarterback and is looking for big things from each. Both have spent their careers in spread-oriented offenses and have proven an ability to scramble.
With Kilgore likely providing a year of learning time, both White and Byerly can spend the 2011 season getting acquainted to the Middle Tennessee style. It will be an interesting battle for the starter spot over the next several years as each of these talented players could easily be the quarterback of the future. Regardless of the decision, Blue Raider fans have the assurance of having a pair of capable leaders for several years to come.
Stay tuned to BlueRaiderZone for the rest of the positional breakdowns from the 2011 class.
Class of 2011: Young Guns
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