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Summer Scheming ‘22: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 9/24

MTSU will head to Miami Gardens as a major underdog to the ‘Canes who look to notch their first W over the Red Raiders in program history.

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Middle Tennessee v Florida Atlantic Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes will host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Saturday, Sept. 24th at Hard Rock Stadium. This is the third matchup between MTSU and Miami in both programs long histories. The Blue Raiders are 2-0 against the ‘Canes, dating back to a home-and-home series in 1931 and 1932. The Hurricanes have actually never scored a single point against MTSU, having lost both games by a combined 32-0.

Info: Middle Tennessee State @ Miami (Miami Gardens, FL)

Day/Time/Channel: Sept., 24, 2022 / TBA / TBA

Head coach Rick Stockstill returns for his 17th season at MTSU. Stockstill is 101-98 as a head coach, including 75-49 in conference (split between the Sun Belt and CUSA). Stockstill, a former Bobby Bowden quarterback, is a three-time conference coach of the year.

2021 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in Conference USA)

Bowl Game: Bahamas Bowl win over Toledo, 31-24

“I remember that guy!”

The Middle Tennessee flashback player is Tyrone Calico. Calico was a 2nd round NFL Draft choice of the Tennessee Titans after catching 17 TD’s for MTSU from 1999-2002. Calico, a six-foot-four, 230 pound wide receiver, went on to catch four TD’s in three seasons with the Titans. After a bad knee injury, Calico finished his career in the Canadian Football League.

NFL Preseason - Green Bay Packers vs Tennessee Titans - September 1, 2005 Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Data & Personnel

MTSU heads into the 2022 season as the SP+ projected 106th team in the country.

SP+ Projection Overall: 106 (Miami 14)

SP+ Proj. Offense: 102 (Miami 21)

SP+ Proj. Defense: 99 (Miami 23)

Middle Tennessee has two players on the Athlon Sports All-Conference preseason first team for the CUSA. Defensive lineman Jordan Ferguson and punt returner Jaylin Lane made first team cut. The 6-foot-two, 262 pound Ferguson has 27.5 TFL’s and 11 sacks in four seasons at MTSU. Lane averaged 21.9 yards per kick return (2nd team) and 15.5 yards per punt return with a score in ‘21.

Center Jordan Palmer and cornerback Teldrick Ross made the third team. Palmer is the man in the middle for an offense that scored just under 30 PPG in ‘21. Ross had an eye popping 12 PBU’s and an interception for a TD a year ago. With Miami without a true number one WR, Ross could be an issue for the ‘Canes out wide.

Lane pops up again, this time as a fourth team wide receiver along with linebacker Johnathan Butler, and punter Kyle Ulbrich. As a WR, Lane caught four TD’s while racking up over 400 yards. Butler logged 46 tackles last season, while Ulbrich averaged 44.4 yards per punt.

MTSU scheme on O

After spring practices wrapped up, the Daily News Journal didn’t tab anyone as the clear starter at QB. The QB that started off ‘21 as the starter, Chase Cunningham, had been injured and was still recovering this spring. Cunningham looked strong before the injury, throwing 16 TD’s. Back up Nick Vattiato had an improved spring and Stockstill signed a thee-star in Kyle Lowe to compete early.

Above- MTSU runs a predictable 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) offense like a good 80% of the FBS programs do.

Vattiato flashed mobility in the Bahamas Bowl against Toledo. If MTSU is going to deploy a QB that can create space (and thus buy time), scramble for 1st downs, and be involved in the run game- the Blue Raiders have a chance to keep themselves away from a blowout.

Above- Bash read concept. When the defensive end (top of the screen) sits on the give, the QB pulls and follows his guards. The RB would’ve gotten the ball with no lead blockers, while the QB gets the lead blockers if the read is to keep.

Above- Here’s the Bash concept drawn up from The Athletic re the Bengals and Ravens.

Above- The ‘base’ play off of bash is probably inverted veer (aka power read). We’ve written about power read a ton here on SOTU. Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente ran it with great success against Manny Diaz’s defenses in ‘20 and ‘21, but wouldn’t call it again after TD runs in both games. That’s how you wind up unemployed, bud.

As you can see, the QB reads the front side (top of screen) DE. If the DE runs wide with the RB, the Q pulls and follows the back side guard who pulled and wrapped. If the DE plays the Q or ‘squeezes’ (comes inside) the Q gives to the RB wide.

Above- outside of the scrambling, MTSU used some play-action max protection schemes to also create time and hit some deep throws.

MTSU scheme on D

The Blue Raiders base from a 4-3 defense, that shifts into a 4-2-5 against certain personnel groups or in certain situations.

Above- The overhang showed blitz all the way and the QB failed to adjust and let himself get whacked back side.

Above- MTSU’s defense does a great job of spilling (pushing to the outside) the wide run and allowing help to come down. Essentially they used the sideline as an extra defender against the running back.

Above- Miami has to be able to game plan Restrepo to beat MTSU defenders 1-on-1 on the deep ball. Get the man free and let him run.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- MTSU isn’t very good. If Miami can just avoid coming out flat, they will have to stop Lane, the KR/PR specialist and that’s about it. Hope the kicking game is improved under Coach Cristobal from where it was under Coach Diaz.

2- MTSU’s defensive end/tackle, Ferguson, could pose a problem as a pass rusher if Zion Nelson and crew can’t get it together. If I’m Stockstill’s staff, I’m all in on bringing tons of pressure against Tyler Van Dyke rather than dying by a million paper cuts. Van Dyke is on Heisman Mode when it comes to taking what he’s given underneath.

3- WR Depth. Again, if I’m Stockstill, I’m putting Ross on Xavier Restrepo and telling the rest of Miami’s WR’s to beat me. If he can get Restrepo and Ross in a 1-on-1, who steps up for The U at wide receiver?

Way too early prediction: Miami by 28.