Photo by Brent Beerends/MT Athletics
Week one is upon us, and the Blue Raiders are putting the finishing touches on prep for Saturday’s contest with Alabama A&M. Head coach Rick Stockstill, starting QB Brent Stockstill and LB DJ Sanders spoke Monday about their opponent.
After sitting out last year due to transfer rules, RB I’Tavius Mathers will start Saturday night in his debut game.
“I’m really excited about I’Tavius. I love him as a man. He’s a great teammate, he’s got a great work ethic,” coach Stockstill said. “He does everything right both on and off the field.”
Most notably on the depth chart is the starting freshman Ty Lee. After multiple injuries in the receiving core, Lee will be looked to as a true freshman to potentially make an week one impact.
“Ty is a smart football player. He’s not a burner, he’s not a fast guy, but he plays fast. He catches the ball well. He listens, he learns, he works,” Stockstill said. “He’s got a great attitude. With some of the injuries we’ve talked about already, it kinda gave a young guy an opportunity to move up pretty quick. He’s done a nice job.”
Jeremy Cutrer will be looked to in his senior season to be a catalyst on the defensive side of the ball. With a defense that brings back an all-senior front four, but a somewhat inexperienced linebacker and defensive back core, the Blue Raiders can always be helped by Cutrer’s pure playmaking ability.
“You gotta do it when the lights come on. You gotta do it when there’s not a coach standing out there at practice behind you,” Stockstill said about Cutrer’s spring and camp progression. “He’s had a good August. He’s done a lot of good things out there.”
Brent Stockstill took the podium next to talk about his progression and what he expects this weekend. Last season heading into camp, questions surrounded Stockstill as to whether he could take the starting role from Austin Grammer. After a superb freshman year, Stockstill holds firm as the starter in his sophomore campaign.
“Absolutely. Last year was a great competition. I’ve said it all along, if you’re the guy, and the team knows you’re the guy, it makes everything a little bit easier. You get to focus more on the leadership role. The comfort level this year rather than last year, I’m looking forward to it.”
Stockstill can rest assured that he has one of the strongest offensive lines in the conference. Boasting three seniors as well as second-year starter Chandler Brewer, the Blue Raiders will look to keep the pocket clean most of the season.
“I say it all the time, that’s my favorite group on the field. The character that they have, the closeness of that group as a whole they do everything together. I do everything with them, we go eat, we do everything. Those are my best friends on the team, I love being around them. They’re great football players and hard-nosed guys. I think they’re really gonna take our offense to the next level this year.”
DJ Sanders finds himself starting in the linebacking core for the first time. Even after losing key defensive players, Sanders and the rest of the defensive side of the ball remain bonded heading into the season.
“I haven’t really watched much film on him,” Sanders said about Alabama A&M’s dual-threat QB. “Anytime you have a scrambling quarterback you have to contain him and if he gets outside the pocket you have to make him pay.”
Transfers into the program brought leadership defensively onto the field, most recently with Deontay Evans, the transfer from Mississippi State. Sanders talked about how the defensive group has gelled in prep for the start of another season.
“We’re all coming along together. We know each other, we have signals with each other,” Sanders said. “We kinda feel off each other sometimes.”
The Blue Raiders will practice throughout the week before taking on Alabama A&M at home Saturday in the season opener. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Floyd Stadium.