FTRS: First off, what's the state of the Middle Tennessee squad? I saw in an article you wrote about intrasquad fighting. What's going on?
Austin: The coaches expressed concern of the lack of player leadership in the preseason and over the last couple of weeks, it’s easy to see why. First, your star quarterback, dark horse Heisman candidate, and offensive leader gets suspended for four games for violating NCAA rules. Reports of fighting on the sideline between players during games is not encouraging and if you read between the lines some things players have said, there seems to be a lack of chemistry in the locker room.
FTRS: Before the season started, the only MTSU guy Tech fans were familiar with was Dwight Dasher. And now that he's back from his suspension, do you think the hype will materialize? If not Dasher, what quarterback should Tech fans prepare to see on Saturday? Does he bring a different skill set to the table than Dasher?
Austin: Dasher will start and Dasher will play the entire game, assuming he doesn’t get injured. If he does, look for Logan Kilgore to come in and play, but if Kilgore struggles head coach Rick Stockstill may turn to Jeff Murphy to save the day.
While Kilgore is the typical pocket passer, he does have enough mobility to buy time or get down field for a crucial first down. Murphy appears to be the medium between Kilgore’s pocket presence and Dasher’s mobility.
FTRS: The whole country saw Middle Tennessee play last Tuesday. After the game, Tech fans were foaming at the mouth to face this rushing defense yet they may not realize that Middle Tennessee typically only gives up 3.5 yards per carry. What did Troy do to keep Middle Tennessee's defense off balance? Who are the key cogs of the Raider defense?
Austin: Troy’s offense is deadly. There’s no way around it. They can beat you through the air and they can run it on the group. Troy will spread field and force you to make plays in the open field against their extremely talented skill position players. Troy’s no huddle offense will prevent you from making substitutions and will wear down the defense.
The Blue Raider defense has plenty of talent but has struggled to show it this season. Jamari Lattimore and Dwight Smith are the playmakers on the defensive line and do a good job of keeping the young linebackers free to make plays. Jeremy Kellem, Kevin Brown, and Rod Isaac are playmakers in the secondary.
FTRS: How are the Blue Raiders prepping for Paul Johnson's option offense? The Blue Raiders defense went through extensive drills without the ball during their extra time to practice this week and then spent time going through plays with the ball. Historically, the Blue Raider defense has thrived on blitzing and a very aggressive style of play. However, this year the defense has been less aggressive, which could be helpful in trying to stop the triple option.
FTRS: Just glancing over the statistics of Middle Tennessee shows a pretty deep stable of running backs. Who are the feature backs of Middle Tennessee and what does each back provide to the Middle Tennessee offense?
Austin: The Blue Raiders have a solid stable of running backs but the three "feature backs" of the offense are Phillip Tanner, DD Kyles, and Ben Cunningham. Phillip Tanner is more of the bruiser that has homerun ability, Kyles is the speedy home run threat, and Cunningham is the sophomore that appears to be the future of the Blue Raider rushing attack.
FTRS: What are the season goals for this Blue Raider team? Have they changed since the preseason?
Austin: The preseason goals were to win the Sun Belt conference and to go to a bowl. With the loss to Troy, it becomes an uphill climb to win the conference, but a bowl is not entirely out of the question.
FTRS: Tech fans have a special amount of hate bottled up for the University of Georgia game every Thanksgiving. What is the one game on the schedule that Blue Raider fans love to win and hate to lose?
Austin: Middle Tennessee fans look forward to two particular games – Troy and Western Kentucky. Troy has had Middle Tennessee’s number the last few years, while Western Kentucky is a rival across every sport and there are only 100 miles between the campuses.
Thanks goes out to Austin. Check out the MTSU board on GoMiddle.Com for more insight into this weekend's game. Go Jackets!