Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
Brent Stockstill, Richie James, Brad Anderson, Terelle West, Chandler Brewer, Robert Behanen and Lucas Hamilton. These names are synonymous with Blue Raider faithfuls as the biggest weapon on one of the most talented offenses in Conference USA. Like so many others however, these players haven’t been able to contribute in the way fans anticipated, each missing ample time with injuries. Still, the offense has had one constant all season: receiver Ty Lee.
The sophomore has done anything but fall into the dreaded “sophomore slump” this season, as he has paced the Middle Tennessee offense in multiple categories.
“(I’ve) tried to just go out and play my game and give it all I’ve got,” Lee said. “I want to leave it all on the field.”
His 66 catches are double the amount of the team’s second-leading receiver, Brad Anderson. Lee’s 846 yards are over 500 yards more than Anderson’s 338, and his five touchdown receptions lead the team. The Georgia native’s 76.9 receiving yards per game are best on the Blue Raiders and his 12.8 yards per catch are the third-highest total on the squad (minimum ten receptions).
Ty Lee makes it 14-7 Raiders. 11:12 left in the 2nd pic.twitter.com/D4qKYdzh3h
— Anthony Fiorella (@A_Fiorella74) September 23, 2017
Lee is also versatile. In the 30-23 triumph over Syracuse, he started at running back for Middle Tennessee and carried the ball 18 times for 50 yards. He contributed two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Along with his 846 receiving yards, his 109 yards on the ground and four punt return yards give him the most all-purpose yards of any Blue Raider this season with 959.
“(Lee) is a really good athlete,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “He’s a smart football player, which enables him to move around and play multiple positions … His athleticism is what has enabled us to put him in different positions so that we can get him the ball.”
Lee’s model of consistency has played a huge factor into guiding quarterbacks John Urzua and Brent Stockstill through a season full of ups and downs. After Stockstill went down with a cracked sternum following the Syracuse win, Urzua was then thrust into action. The Blue Raiders then lost Richie James to an ankle injury in the loss to Minnesota, giving Urzua just one game with the one-two punch that is Lee and James. After losing James, Lee proved to be Urzua’s favorite target. He led the team in receiving against Bowling Green, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, the three games James missed.
James and Urzua both went down against Marshall, but Stockstill made his return to action the following week against UTEP. Out of Stockstill’s 13 completions in the win, six of them were to Lee. He led the Blue Raiders with 80 receiving yards and added 21 rushing yards. Stockstill also
leaned heavily on Lee against Western Kentucky, finding him 11 times for 114 yards.
In the final game of the season, Lee was instrumental in getting MTSU to bowl eligibility. He led the team in receiving again by hauling in eight receptions for 70 yards.
“(Having Lee) has been huge,” Stockstill said. “He contributed last year, but this year he’s really taken the next step. With (James) going down, we had to have another guy step up. He plays a lot bigger than he is, and I’m happy to have him on my side.”
In the face of adversity, Lee has made strides from year one to year two. The Colquitt County High School alum has already surpassed his numbers from last year in catches (66), receiving yards (846), average receiving yards per game (76.9) and average yards per catch (12.8).
As far as what he has done differently, it’s actually been rather simple for Lee.
“(I’ve) been playing fast and just trying to catch everything that comes toward me,” Lee said.
While they may not have lit up the scoreboard quite like they did this past season, the Blue Raider offense can thank their trusty sophomore wideout for keeping the ship steady.
“You don’t ever want to miss time, but when you come back, you want to make sure you have playmakers still there making plays,” Stockstill said. “Knowing that I had a safety net, and that I can go to him with the game on the line is big. Any quarterback has to have that guy to go to, and that’s what Ty Lee is doing this year.”