Soccer


Sam Doughton, MTSU Athletic Communications


The Blue Raiders brought back an old not-so-secret weapon from 2021 against TSU on Saturday




MURFRESBORO, Tenn. — When I walk around the football training ground during the week, especially during the season, I know that I can’t report anything that happens there.

This is the price of my access as an internal editor. I can see a lot of things that most beat reporters wouldn’t see just because at the end of the day, I’m part of the team itself. And while football coaches and players are often generous with their time, they are also fiercely protective of their trade secrets, whether it’s who runs with the 1s in training or an injury report, by particularly in college football, where the latter is not required to be handed in each day of practice.

So when I see a player working through injuries alongside the coaching staff, a new nickel rotation, or a fun new scheme being worked on, I mentally jot it down and get on with my day.

Many times this mental note is left in my head. Players are allowed to play on Saturdays or the trick play you saw doesn’t end up being executed, and the mental note just becomes an observation you didn’t have to share when the information inside becomes public. But when something you’ve seen in practice becomes common knowledge, oh man, there are few feelings that are better than that as a writer.

I could feel that feeling at the start of MTSU’s 49-6 victory over Tennessee State on Saturday, when a Yusuf Ali the receiving touchdown was canceled and the ball was placed at the one-yard line. Offensive Coordinator Mitch Stewartwith potentially four goal-line chances in front of his attack, composed a formation that I had seen set up in training earlier this week.

He began standard heavy training, specifically for an air raid offense, with frank peasant behind Chase Cunningham in the gun as the team’s usual wide receivers were split into pairs on either side. MTSU stalled a bit, then Cunningham barked a few signals, and the wide receivers squished to play tight on the line. Peasant advanced on the snap, but not enough.

On second down, the wide four sprinted out, replaced by four defensive linemen. Ja’Kerrius Wyatt and Jordan Ferguson planned to line up at opposite ends of the offensive line at the tight end, Zaylin Wood and Marley Cook would lead the block as H-backs in the A-Gap.

“You see these four guys running around the pitch, I think everyone in the stadium knows what’s going to happen,” Cunningham said.

Exactly like in training, Cunningham had his lads as close to a huddle as you’ll see in the air raid, cheering them on as everyone zoomed in on their seats, snapping the ball within four seconds of the huddle ending. . TSU was able to get their hands on Peasant, but not before the running back burst through the hole punched by his D-line.

“I love my D-Line,” Peasant said. “They’re the most aggressive blockers I’ve seen. Once he calls that, it’s an automatic touchdown. Nobody’s blocking that, nobody’s holding them back. We’re getting into the end zone.”

Zaylin Wood after the game, he said the roster was established after Stewart watched the Blue Raiders 2021 film, where then-offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon began working with Wood, Ferguson and Cook in his sets of goal lines, both as head blockers and pass receivers. Wood’s touchdown against FAU in the regular season finale off the “Heavy D” set is still part of the season’s highlights rotation playing on televisions at the Murphy Center just outside the Athletic Communications office.

It’s a good idea to fit in at the goal line, where the defensive line can provide the strength to give the little seam that’s all that’s needed in those short-range situations, while still having the athleticism to go up and hook a pass. a screen or a fade. Time will tell if the latter makes it into the program. All I saw, both on the practice field and at Floyd Stadium, was the blocking of the lead for the Blue Raider running backs.

Wherever the MTSU offense goes with their defense to help them out on the field, that brings me back to the best games in football, where Julius Peppers and JJ Watt can line up wide for an NFL fade or a college football team can splitting the defense with the help of a state champion powerlifter who had two sacks the previous week. The kind of creativity, the simple innovation of taking what worked before and making it your own, that has defined so many patterns in football over the years.

I just hope I continue to have more hands-on observations like the ones I had this week that can continue to be shared after the fact like MTSU did on Saturday.