Spring Roundup: Wide Receivers

When the Blue Raiders started their first Spring practice in 2010, they did so without their two top receivers from the 2009 season, Patrick Honeycutt and Chris McClover. The receiving core also lost the all-purpose Desmond Gee, who played an integral part of the offense during his tenure in Murfreesboro.

Heading into Spring practice, replacing those losses at receiver was one of the top priorities identified by the Middle Tennessee staff. The Blue Raiders do have the fortune of returning an important group of receivers from the New Orleans Bowl championship squad. Garrett Andrews, Sancho McDonald and Shane Blissard combined for over 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns through the air last season, but Middle Tennessee's pass-heavy offense requires more than three capable receivers.

"Right now the biggest word to describe the receivers is inconsistent," receiver coach Justin Watts says. "We've had days where we looked really good and played well and followed that up with poor drops and missed assignments."

Watts goes on to say that there is currently a mixture of experience among the receivers, with some guys having significant experience at the Division 1 level and some guys who have never played a snap. The key, he says, is to figure out how to be a part of the Blue Raider offense by making plays away from the ball.

When it comes to individual performances so far, Watts says that he's seen improvement in several players.

"Garret [Andrews] and Sancho [McDonald] have both done a good job of working hard and trying to better themselves as receivers. Harold Turner, Shane Blissard and Tavares Jefferson are finding their own place in our offense. Tyler Mason is a fast guy who plays fast, gives great effort and he's starting to catch on."

Mason is a junior college transfer from Chabot Community College in California who's going through his first set of Spring drills with Middle Tennessee. As a part of Middle Tennessee's 2010 recruiting class, Mason is reported to possess 4.5 speed and is one of several swift newcomers who could see action at multiple positions with the Blue Raiders.

"Tyler is similar to [recently departed] Desmond Gee, in that once he learns the whole offense and not just his position, we can move him around to different spots," Watts adds.

Mason isn't a guaranteed starter just yet, however. Watts says that he and Blissard are currently battling it out for the Y slot, while Harold Turner and Tavarres Jefferson are both battling for the rights to the slot vacated by Honeycutt.

The redshirt duo of Arthur Williams and Richard Drake are also making strides, according to Watts. Each one has made a noticeable improvement since the bowl game and will likely factor in to the offense in some capacity this season.

For now, the Blue Raiders have one more week of Spring drills before wrapping it up with the annual Blue White game on Saturday, April 10. Blue Raider fans can come get their first glimpse of the 2010 team at Floyd Stadium. The game is scheduled to start at 1:00 and is open to the public.

Extra Extra:

Watts on his dual-duties as recruiting coordinator: "Recruiting coordinator means different things on different staffs. One good thing about Middle is that Coach Stockstill is so involved in the recruiting process. I'm really just in charge of the organization of it. For example, we'll go out recruiting for three weeks in the month of May and I'm coordinating who's going out and who's staying in because we're only able to have seven coaches on the road at once. It's really great because we have nine guys on the staff who love to recruit."

On how Brent Burnette's recent departure will effect the remaining scholarships: "We've got four scholarships left. We'll go out and look for a JUCO wide receiver, an older offensive lineman and we're still playing with the other two scholarships. The idea has been tossed around to seek out a quarterback, but I'm not sure. Coach Stockstill will make the final decision, but the plan right now is not to sign a quarterback."

On possibly redshirting Logan Kilgore in 2010: "In a perfect world, that would've been the plan. Now, it's just like business and you have to re-evaluate everything once a change is made."

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