Middle Tennessee donned shells for the first time in fall camp as the competition and spirit went up a notch at Wednesday's practice. Head Coach Rick Stockstill liked what he saw out of his team compared to Tuesday's workout.
"We had a long talk this morning about the importance of not taking a single play off if we have any hopes of getting where we want to be," said Stockstill. "The result was a better practice today than Tuesday. Our focus and effort improved and I think a lot has to do with this being the third day and the younger players are gaining more confidence."
In team drills, quarterback Dwight Dasher continued his improved play by connecting on 8 of 10 passes while 11 different receivers hauled in catches from the four quarterbacks. Phillip Tanner also earned praise from the coaches for the way he ran and caught the ball.
Defensively, Chris McCoy continued his improved play while Brandon Perry and Emmanuel Perez played with great enthusiasm. Alex Suber enjoyed another strong day and freshman Marquise Dixon was singled out because of an interception he had that was a pure effort play.
CANNON OUT FOR THE YEAR: Senior wide receiver Michael Cannon has been lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee on Monday. It was the same knee he injured early in the Maryland game last year that caused him to miss the final 10 games of the 2008 season. Cannon, a native of Memphis, played in 23 career games as a Blue Raider and caught 24 passes for 247 yards. A date has not been set for his surgery.
"I am disappointed on two fronts," Stockstill said. "Personally, I am sorry for Michael because he worked so hard to come back for his senior year then on the first day of practice he hurts the same knee. As for the team, we will miss his leadership and ability as a receiver. We were counting on a big year from Michael."
BELOW 80 ... AGAIN: After topping the 80 scholarship mark for the first time in the FBS era, Middle Tennessee has seen its total dip after two practices. Freshman Hakeem Johnson elected to quit football and did not report to camp and now Cannon is out due to injury. The Blue Raiders now have 79 scholarship players in camp and 47 of those are either freshmen or sophomores.
QUOTES FROM WEDNESDAY'S PRACTICE
QB Dwight Dasher
On his role entering third preseason camp: "It's not too different but it does seem like I have more control. My first couple of years I was kind of laid back behind Joe (Craddock) and I would take what I could get. Now I'm getting most of the reps and it feels like I am in more control of the offense. The biggest thing is leadership and that's my role in this offense, to be a good leader."
On the offense: "This offense is going to be exciting. The receivers are going to get a lot of balls; the backs are going to get a chance to do their thing. It's a fast-paced, scoring offense so I look forward to it because it should make the fans happy."
On the receivers: "All of the receivers are competing and trying to get better. They all are going to play but they really compete out here and it is fun to watch."
On QB Brent Burnette: "I see Brent coming around and showing great development at the quarterback position. Brent and I have a great relationship. He has a chance of being a great quarterback and we push one another but we also work well together."
Difference between entering fall camp as freshman and sophomore: "This time around you are aware of things happening and you just have a better grip on what is going on. It seems like things come to you quicker."
On learning the offense: "We installed everything in the spring so we were a step ahead coming into fall camp. Now it's a matter of working on the offense and improving daily."
On QB Dwight Dasher: "Dwight is a great quarterback and when I see him go in there and make good plays it makes me want to go in there and do the same. I think we feed off each other some. He's a good competitor and a good player.
On preparing to play: "You never know what can happen in a season and this year I am getting a lot more reps. Last year in camp it was mainly Joe (Craddock) and 'Dash' so it's different. It's good, though, I like it."
On entering his final fall camp: "It's the final push but at the same time I am still learning from all of these guys and the coaches so it's a great experience and I'm fortunate enough to have this season to come back and work with these guys so I'm determined to make it my best."
On the defensive line: "I see improvement across the board, with the hands, working on our feet, staying up and not being on the ground all the time. All and all there is improvement. Our motto is to come out and be competitive against each other every day. You are going to hear a lot of talking but it's in a good way."
DB Alex Suber
On mindset entering final fall camp: "Having been injured a couple times last year I have a totally different mindset because you see how quick your season can end. Even with Michael Cannon getting hurt here at camp already you see the importance of making each day and each practice count."
On the defense: "The biggest thing is that everyone is competing. Everyone is out here practicing as though there is not a number one, two or three. We have a lot more depth and everyone is hungry."
NEXT PRACTICE: The Blue Raiders will practice on Thursday at 3:45 PM and the workout is open to the public.
SEASON TICKETS: 1-888-YES-MTSU OR GoBlueRaiders.com
FAN DAY: Middle Tennessee's annual Fan Day will be held Sunday, August 16 from 2-4 PM in the Murphy Center. Make plans to visit with the players and coaches, get autographs, posters, and much more.
FENTON PAYNE AND FRED 5K: On Saturday morning, Aug. 15, the sixth annual Fenton Payne and Fred 5K Run/Walk to take place on the campus of Middle Tennessee. The event will get underway at 7:00 AM with registration located on the west side of Floyd Stadium in the concourse. The cost is $25 with cash prizes going to the winning male and female and the overall masters (40 years and over). There will also be awards to the top three finishers in all divisions, male and female, 9 and under, then 5 year age groups through 85+. New this year is a 1-Mile Kids Fun Run which will benefit Special Kids. For more information, contact Kerry Slicker at 615-796-1396.