Football: Injuries give Bruce, Lee a chance to show versatility

Jocquez Bruce hauls in a catch during the Blue-White Spring Finale at Floyd Stadium on April 15, 2017. (MTSU Sidelines/Tyler Lamb)

Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sidelines Archives

Due to injuries the Middle Tennessee offense has sustained this season, Ty Lee and Jocquez Bruce have the chance to showcase their skills to help the team out.

Both Lee and Bruce are receivers by trade, but each of them has seen playing time in the Blue Raider backfield this year because of the uncertainty at the position.

Lee got a shot to start at running back in the second game of the season against Syracuse and didn’t disappoint. He carried the ball 18 times for 50 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Lee’s versatility played a huge part in the Blue Raider’s first win of the season.

The former Freshman All-American added another score through the air early in the fourth quarter to give Middle Tennessee State University a late lead.

Throughout the day, Lee touched the ball a total of 25 times and had 126 all-purpose yards to go along with his two scores.

“(Being versatile helps) to make moves, make people miss and make touchdowns,” Lee said.  “I can really just go out and be a baller and make plays.”

Lee is currently the third best rusher on the team and has carried the ball 34 times for 111 yards.

With Richie James out, Lee is also the team’s leading reciever. He has hauled in 28 receptions for 327 yards and three touchdowns so far.

Through the first five games, Lee has accounted for 438 all-purpose yards.

Bruce’s versatility has helped the redshirt sophomore find more playing time this season.

Bruce took over as the team’s number two option at running back against Bowling Green and has shown that he can excel in the backfield.

He led the Blue Raider rushing attack against the Falcons, ripping off 117 yards on 16 carries. The man they call “Juice” also found the end zone for the first time in his career on a four-yard touchdown run.

Through the air, Bruce has five catches for 29 yards this season. Last week against Florida Atlantic, he reeled in his first career touchdown reception to bring the Raiders back within two possessions in the fourth quarter.

“I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do,” Bruce said of his first two career scores.  “Confidence is going to come and we’re getting better day by day.”

Head Coach Rick Stockstill enjoys having the flexibility of “athletes” on offense because of the ability to plug them in wherever they are needed.

“After losing Terelle West in August, we struggled running the ball in the first game and we moved Ty to running back,” Stockstill said. “When we lost Richie (James), we needed Ty back at receiver and took (Bruce) and moved him to running back. As a coach, it gives you flexibility when injuries occur.”

In his senior season at Colquitt County High in Georgia, Lee had a combined 1,754 yards in the running and passing game while also adding 14 total touchdowns on his way to earning 6-A athlete of the year honors.

“I consider myself an athlete and I’m out there to make plays,” Lee said. “I played running back my senior year.  I feel like I have good experience to play both running back and receiver.”

Bruce also did most of his damage as a running back at South Doyle High in east Tennessee, rushing for 1,381 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2014 en route to a 5-A state quarterfinal run.

“I feel like an athlete,” Bruce said.  “Doing this in high school helps it feel natural to me because I’m used to doing it.”

Versatility is defined in the dictionary as the ability to adapt. Lee and Bruce will continue to adapt in this ever-changing Blue Raider offense, no matter what is asked of them.

Follow MTSU sports reporter Anthony Fiorella on Twitter at @A_Fiorella74 for more coverage.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Errin Jackson
    October 6, 2017

    I really like the emergence of Jocquez “Juice” Bruce. He runs hard, and never takes a play off. He makes quick moves in the hole and the open field to make the defenders miss. He cautious of the defenders around him, and protects the ball very well. He is taking advantage of his opportunity. He is a team player, and the perfect example of the next man up. Even when Richie James and Terelle West comes back, I think he has earned his way into getting some carries and designed receiving plays in the offense. He is only a redshirt sophomore, so he has a whole lot more football ahead of him for the Blue Raiders.