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April 16, 2012

White Tops Blue to Cap Spring















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Middle Tennessee head football coach Rick Stockstill, like most, does not put too much credence into the scoreboard of the annual spring game.

What he does look for, however, is effort out of his team and positive signs that his squad is improving. He walked away from Saturday's game with a good feeling about what his team showed on the field.

"I wanted to see us come out and compete and play hard and improve in some areas that we needed to improve on," Stockstill said following the White teams 40-17 victory over the Blue team. "I like the way we're competing. I like our mindset and I like how hard we are working in the weight room and in practice. We've got a long way to go but if they'll continue with this attitude and the effort that they've given then they've got a chance to accomplish their goals."

Over 4000 fans made their way into Floyd Stadium to catch a glimpse of an improved Blue Raider squad who will be looking to rebound in 2012 after a dismal 2-10 campaign.

"I think we executed on some things and some things we didn't but I think what today was really all about was the culmination of the last 15 practices and I think we did well," quarterback Logan Kilgore said. "There are certain things you want to come away with from this. Obviously, you want everybody to stay healthy and put on a show for the fans."

Kilgore looked solid under center, completing 15-of-26 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. He also, however, threw an interception when DB Khari Burke stepped in front of a Kilgore pass in the third quarter and returned it 33 yards.

"They ran the same play on me in practice and got me on it," Burke said. "I saw it on the film and caught it today. I want to thank coach Nix for calling the right play to put me in the right position. I just made the play."

The defense, as a whole, played with a renewed focus on fundamentals and a cohesiveness that was evident from the opening series.

"We're coming along well," Burke said. "It's all about bonding. We don't want to be selfish. We teach each other as practice goes on and we just listen to coach Ellis to get us in the right positions. We're bonding and having fun. That's what it's all about - having fun."

Linebackers Roderic Blunt and Leighton Gasque paced the defense with seven tackles apiece. Blunt also tallied a forced fumble at the goal line when he popped the ball out of the hands of running back Drayton Calhoun.

Sacks were aplenty on Saturday as well. Gasque, Shubert Bastien and Jerrold Frazier each notched a sack for themselves, while rising junior Dearco Nolan led the way with two sacks of his own.

Nolan explained how the mindset of the defense has shifted heading into the 2012 season after the game.

"We came out with a mentality to get better this spring," Nolan said. "We're changing our whole mentality to domination. It's all about coming out and mastering our craft."

Nolan admitted that this team will be playing with a lot to prove after their disappointing showing in 2011.

"We just came out with some attitude and a chip on our shoulder," Nolan said. "We're not going to be the same team we were last year. The taste is still in our mouth and we've got an even bigger chip on our shoulders now. We're going to come and dominate every chance we get and that's what we wanted to show our fans today."

While the defense had the majority of the successes on Saturday, there were some shining moments for the offense as well.

RB Drayton Calhoun led the way in the rushing department, tallying 39 yards on six carries. Benny Cunningham notched 27 yards as well on eight carries.

Receivers Anthony Amos and Harold Turner Jr. each hauled in five receptions for 81 and 69 yards, respectively. In all, 14 different players tallied a reception en route to the offense gaining a total of 484 yards on 104 plays.

Spring Practice Awards:

Most Improved Quarterback: Shaun White
Most Improved Running Back: Drayton Calhoun

 Most Improved Wide Receiver: Reggie Whatley
Most Improved Offensive Lineman: Micah James
Most Improved Defensive Lineman: Alexandro Antoine

 Most Improved Linebacker: Roderic Blunt

Most Improved Safety: Kevin Byard
Most Improved Corner: Kenneth Gilstrap
Most Improved Strength Training Quarterback: Jeff Murphy
Most Improved Strength Training Running Back: Benny Cunningham

 Most Improved Strength Training Wide Receiver: Kyle Griswould
Most Improved Strength Training Offensive Lineman: Josh Walker
Most Improved Strength Training Defensive Lineman: Omar McLendon

Most Improved Strength Training Linebacker: Christian Henry

Most Improved Strength Training Safety: JaJuan Harley

Most Improved Strength Training Corner: Chris Sharpe

Most Improved Strength Training Specialist: Josh Davis

Jeanne Massaquoi Freshman Academic Award: Shaun White

Donald Craig Sophomore Academic Award: Reggie Whatley
Dr. James E. Walker Junior Academic Award: Kenneth Gilstrap
Dr. Sidney McPhee Senior Academic Award: Jeff Murphy

Terry Whiteside Award: Logan Kilgore



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