Spring Forward

Well folks, we're officially 148 days away from the start of the 2012 football season. More timely than that, we're only nine days away from the Blue & White Spring game. With that in mind, Blue Raider fans are enjoying the optimism that comes with a few new additions to the staff and some new faces on the field.

I know that it's almost time for pre-season to begin since I got the official College Football News questionnaire in my email this week. When I did, the reality hit that it's really time to stop dwelling on 2011 and start focusing on 2012. So what's going to happen . . . ?

Honestly, I have no idea. I know what fans HOPE will happen: an about-face from last season's woes that results in a bowl bid or – for the most optimistic of fans – a conference championship. I'm not necessarily convinced that that's a real possibility, but I also haven't seen a single practice so far this Spring. That said, I'm VERY interested in seeing what the team has done under the new coordinators so far. For more on that, read on . . .

Everybody knows the offense struggled last season. Since we're looking forward to 2012, I won't bore you with the stats (that'll come later I'm sure). Instead I'll just offer up the fact that it can't get much worse for the Blue Raiders in 2012. That's supposed to be encouraging, by the way. I dunno if that came through . . . Okay, I'll elaborate.

So there's a new sheriff in town when it comes to the offense and his name is Buster Faulkner. Yes, he's a familiar face on the sideline, but he'll be in a brand new role for the ENTIRE YEAR this year and hopefully it will make a difference. There have been rumblings that Buster Ball will give the Blue Raiders a new look this year – and with an influx of talent at running back, another year of experience for Logan Kilgore AND the possibility of Shaun White seeing the field, there is a lot to look forward to.

The questions to me revolve around the offensive line and the wide receivers. The line is several players from last season due to graduation, namely Brandon McLeroy, Colin Boss and Mike Williams. Still, there is plenty of depth and experience to go around. It'll just be up to new OL coach Matt Moore to take the line and make it work in the revamped Buster Ball system.

As for the receivers, Middle Tennessee has lacked a go-to wideout for the past few years, which is not a good thing for a team that likes to pass the ball as frequently as the Blue Raiders actually do. If Anthony Amos is able to improve on his season from last year, he could easily become that guy.

On the flip side, a young guy like Christian Collis has all the physical skills to emerge as a real threat in the pass game, but we just haven't seen enough of him to know how that translates when it comes to on-the-field production. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

As bad as the offense was last season, the defense was worse. Again, I don't want to relive 2011 as I've already lived it once, so we'll look at the changes. By the final game of last season, only three seniors were starting for the Blue Raider defense, so the first thing that can be said of this unit is that there will be a lot more experience heading into 2012. The second is a bit more obvious in the sense that Tyrone Nix has joined the staff.

Nix made a name for himself at Southern Miss and South Carolina by utilizing a fast paced, blitzing attack. You know, a defense similar to the one that took Middle Tennessee to the best season it ever had just a few short years ago. Nix spent the past four seasons at Ole Miss – which coincidentally has NO direction in its name – before landing in Murfreesboro this season. Hopefully the return of a directional indicator will equate to a return in success for Nix and he can utilize his experience and a crop of experienced players to reverse the fortunes from last year.

The biggest question here is going to be whether or not the crop of players who spent the majority of last season watching, waiting and learning are ready to contribute to the team. There were 10 defense signees in the 2011 class, and not many of them saw a whole lot of playing time last season. Again, fan optimism logic states that they spent that time learning the system and growing in the weight room, but that will be determined once the season starts. Still – we'll get a glimpse of them next Saturday – and more importantly, we'll get a glimpse of how Nix will be using them.

I write all this to say, I don't know what to expect, but I know what I'm looking for when I arrive to Floyd Stadium for the Blue & White Game. Ideally I'll be sober enough to get an accurate gauge of where the team stands, but if not . . . I'll at least have a helluva time.

See you guys then!

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