MURFREESBORO – Jeremy Kellem never realized how much he liked jewelry until
Kellem and the rest of his Middle Tennessee State teammates were trudging
through the offseason workouts. Then their reward for winning the New
Orleans Bowl in December came and suddenly spring football practices weren‘t
“When we came back from winter break we were excited and then it kind of
died down as we went through winter workouts,” Kellem, a senior
starting cornerback for the Blue Raiders, said. “Then we got our rings and it was
like ‘Yes, this is what I am talking about.’ So we are always wearing our
That is the big difference between last year and this year – the
expectations are higher and there is a noticeable buzz and energy at MTSU.
Coming off a 10-win season and the school’s first bowl victory in the
Division I era, the excitement level was high on Saturday for the Blue
Raiders’ annual Blue-White Spring Game. In front of 3,110 at Floyd Stadium,
the White won their fifth straight spring contest as they rolled past the
But the talk wasn’t about the complicated scoring system – since it was
offense (Blue) versus defense (White), a points key was used to reward each
unit – it was instead centered around the future.
That is what Blue Raiders’ fans saw plenty of Saturday. Starters like Kellem and quarterback Dwight Dasher played just one series each before giving way to underclassmen like cornerback Marquise Dixon and quarterback Logan Kilgore.
“I know what the Jeremy Kellems, the Dwight Dashers, the Rod Issacs, the
Phillip Tanners – I know what they can do,” MTSU Coach Rick Stockstill said.
“I just wanted to see those other guys, the younger guys that haven’t played
as much, get out there and see how they compete.”
Dixon, a redshirt freshman, recorded nine tackles, which was good for
second-most behind senior defensive end Jarrett Crittenton, who had 10, including six for losses and three sacks. Offensively, Kilgore showed what he was capable of. The sophomore transfer from Bakersfield College in Calif., threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-34 passing, before he was picked off twice late.
“I was happy to see Logan go out there and make things happen,” Dasher,
2-for-4 for 11 yards passing, said. “He is going to be a good playmaker for us.”
That should be comforting for the Blue Raider faithful, but no one is eager
to show Dasher the door quite yet. The senior is coming off a breakout
season in which he set school records, throwing for 2,789 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Dasher also torched defenses with his feet, rushing
for 1,154 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Dasher will try to find that same sort of success under new offensive
coordinator Mike Schultz, who comes over from Illinois after spending one
year coaching the likes of all-Big Ten players Juice Williams and Arrelious
Benn. The defense also welcomes a new coordinator as Randall McCray, who
spent the past four years at Wisconsin, takes over the duties.
So while last year’s success might have carried over into the spring and
sparked a buzz, this a different team than last year. And Stockstill and the
Blue Raiders know how they did last year won’t matter come the fall.
“Once you come out here on the field and working out, last year is last
year,” Kellem said. “If you try to live up last year, you are not going to have a good year
this year. So we all had just had to put it behind and work toward this year. Because we want a better season than last year, so we have to work harder this year to have a better season this year than we did last year.
“But the rings are nice, though.”