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Middle Tennessee Q/A with GoMiddle.Com

Last year, we caught up with Austin Lewis publisher of GoMiddle.Com, the Rivals host for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. I e-mailed Austin again this year to get the insider's take on the Dwight Dasher-less Raider offense and the new defensive coordinator. Check it after the jump...

Bird: The most obvious change for the Blue Raiders in 2011 is the departure of Dwight Dasher at QB. Based on your comments last season, it seems like this may be more of a breath of fresh air than a total downgrade behind center. After game 1, does Logan Kilgore give the Blue Raider faithful more or less hope than their preseason expectations?
Austin: The Blue Raider faithful saw flashes of greatness against Minnesota and Louisiana in 2010 but after an injury early in the season, many wondered if Kilgore had the frame to handle the pounding. After a year in the weight room and an impressive performance against Purdue, the Blue Raider faithful are drinking the Kilgore Kool Aid.
Bird: We poured over the Blue Raider game stats against Purdue. It looks like the stars of this 2011 offense will be receivers Tavarres Jefferson and Malcolm Beyah. What style of players are these two receivers? Any other studs we should watch for on offense?
Austin: Keep an eye out for running back Benny Cunningham and receiver Sancho McDonald, both are reliable playmakers and have made big plays against top competition.

Taverress Jefferson is a reliable inside receiver that lacks the explosiveness to be a big play threat. Beyah is Kilgore’s favorite receiver and has the potential to take the ball to the house on any play.
Bird: Let's talk about the defense. 7 of your 10 top tacklers in 2010 were seniors. This new group gave Purdue fits. Do you think this defense is better than the 2010 defense that gave up 329 yards on the ground to Tech? Who are the leaders of the 2010 Blue Raider D?
Austin: Defense is about passion and aggression. Last year’s defensive coordinator was so worried about giving up the big play that he took the passion and aggression out of the defense. In 2011, the promotion of Steve Ellis brought the passion and aggression back to the Blue Raider defense.

As you mentioned, the defense lost 7 of the top 10 tacklers and the all four defensive lineman in week one were first time starters. In my opinion, the 2011 Middle Tennessee defense is more talented than the 2010 defense, but I’m not sure their lack of experience is cause for concern when Georgia Tech brings the triple option to Murfreesboro this weekend.
Bird: Rick Stockstill seemed to have a rough 2010 campaign after such a successful 2009 season. How happy are the Raider fans with Stockstill's first five seasons thus far? Any major complaints or do the fans have a generally favorable impression of the coach?
Austin: For the most part, the fans love Rick Stockstill and believe the program is going in the right direction. The most common complaint I hear is that he is too conservative and lacks the "killer instinct"(not going for it on 4th and inches against Virginia).
Bird: I think every football discussion requires some realignment discussions for the next couple years. Tell us about the Sun Belt. Are there any rumors of teams bolting or adding of teams to reach 12 and a championship game?
Austin: North Texas, Western Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee have all come up as possible candidates to move to other conferences. Florida International may get to move up because so a conference can use the Miami market in negotiations for a television deal.
Bird: Prediction time. Tech is 15-18-4 all-time in the State of Tennessee with a recent victory over Vandy in Nashville (2009). Looking back, Minnesota, UVA, Maryland, and Mississippi State averaged around 24,000 fans at Floyd Stadium. What do you think will be the attendance at Floyd Stadium? Second, who wins this game and what's the score?
Austin: Centennial celebration, first home game of the season, and an ACC opponent will have the Middle Tennessee fans ready to celebrate on Saturday. Unfortunately, I do not see the celebration lasting long into the night as Georgia Tech wins this game in front of 30,000 with a final score of 38-31.
Thanks goes out to Austin. I especially appreciate his prediction. Go Jackets!