By Steven Johnson//Contributing Writer
Shane Tucker kept churning and churning his legs before he barreled into the end zone to finally give the White Team its first lead in the fourth quarter.
Tucker’s touchdown served as the game-winning score as the White team took the annual Blue-White game Saturday, 31-28.
Though the offense got the victory, it was actually the Blue team, which consisted of all the defensive players, that looked the most impressive during the scrimmage Saturday afternoon.
The Blue team limited the White team (Offensive unit) to a mere 2.2 yards per rush and made life hard on an offensive line that has been hit with injuries during spring camp.
Linebacker Trey Wafford and converted safety Quay Watt had big performances on the day, combining for 10.5 tackles between the two. Wafford was constantly in and around the backfield and MTSU defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was pleased with his defense’s performance.
Especially Watt’s overall performance, whose move from linebacker to safety looking like it will pay immediate dividends for the defense.
“I thought he played well,” Nix said about Watt. “He showed some inconsistencies in coverage, but he definitely can bring the hat and he’ll be a force for us.”
Without potential starters Darius Johnson, Adam Sickel and Jaylen Hunter, the offensive line struggled to open up holes and protect the quarterbacks. The unit gave up six sacks on the day and struggled to keep defenders out of the backfield.
“I thought they did okay,” said MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill. “We didn’t have any explosive runs. I definitely think we can improve.”
Most of the eyes focused on the play of the quarterbacks as the competition between returning starter Austin Grammer and redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill continued.
The two signal callers split reps evenly, but with injuries to both the offensive line and the wide receiver corps, the two signal callers had solid, yet unspectacular, showings.
Grammer finished 11-of-15 on the day, accounting for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought I was pretty efficient for the most part and made the reads I was supposed too,” Grammer said of his performance.
When he was not pressured by the pass rush, Grammer looked solid attacking the secondary with a decent amount of deep balls, including a 54-yard strike to Derek Barnes, who led the team with 84 yards receiving on the day.
Brent Stockstill went 19-of-25 on the day and threw a touchdown, but only accounted for 125 yards on those 19 completions. He spent most of the day finding his check-down routes and did not test the defense downfield until late in the second half.
Fully dedicated to football after playing baseball last offseason, Stockstill has seen strides in his game. With ball control and not committing turnovers being the heavy emphasis, Stockstill felt he played well and did a good job of leading the offense.
“Just being around the guys in the weight room and being able to actually throw with them, I think it’s definitely helped me on the field,” said Stockstill.
One standout player on the offensive side of the ball was redshirt freshman Richie James. MTSU offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner used the explosive wide receiver in numerous ways, whether it was getting him the ball quickly with bubble screens or bringing him in motion for jet sweeps and shuffle passes.
Coach Stockstill offered a glowing review of his wide out.
“I think Richie’s a dynamic receiver,” said Stockstill. “He’s got great quickness and he catches everything. I’m not sure he’s dropped a ball this spring. I think he has a chance to be special.”
James, who was also awarded Most Improved Wide Receiver for the spring camp, finished with nine receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown on the day.
The Blue and White Spring Game consisted of the same format as last season. Offensive players were all assigned to the White team and all defensive players were assigned to the Blue Team. The first half consisted of two eight-minute quarters. The second half consisted of two 12-minute quarters with a running clock.
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