MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) Protecting a quarterback in bubble wrap isn't possible no matter how much a coach might want to keep his player safe. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders can only hope Brent Stockstill stays healthy after breaking his collar bone late in the season.
''That's part of playing football,'' said Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill, who also is Brent's father. ''You guys watch him. He's going to give his all whether it's handing the ball off or going to make a tackle or blocking for a running back. He plays football the way you want it played.''
Stockstill helped the Blue Raiders rank eighth nationally, averaging 517.7 yards of total offense and 325.8 yards passing per game. Middle Tennessee went 8-5 with a shootout win over Missouri last year. But the team lost two of the three games played without Stockstill, who threw for 3,233 yards in 10 games with 31 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
He returned from the injury and threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns in the Blue Raiders' 52-35 loss to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.
The quarterback, whose favorite player is Brett Favre, said he's not going to change his style as he chases a Conference USA championship and a bowl victory.
''I think we have the guys to do that,'' said Brent Stockstill, who sat out spring practice after surgery to clean up his throwing shoulder.
Here are some things to know about Middle Tennessee:
CATCHING RICHIE JAMES: No quarterback can succeed without a great receiver, and Stockstill has just that in two-time All-CUSA receiver Richie James. He ranks second all-time in both catches and yards receiving at Middle Tennessee. He became the sixth player in FBS history with 200 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game when he had 207 yards rushing and 120 yards receiving against Florida Atlantic when James also completed 5 of 6 passes with Stockstill out. James had 105 catches for a school-record 1,625 yards with 12 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
REPLACE I-TRAIN: I'Tavius Mathers is gone, leaving Middle Tennessee looking for a new running back. Mathers ran for 1,561 yards and 17 TDs last season. Stockstill also needs three new starters on the offensive line.
STINGIER DEFENSE: Stockstill fired Tyrone Nix as defensive coordinator in December , replacing him with former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer. The Blue Raiders ranked 96th in total defense last season and allowed 449.5 yards per game.
POWER 5 START: The Blue Raiders open the season Sept. 2 by hosting Vanderbilt from the Southeastern Conference, followed by road trips to Syracuse of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Minnesota in the Big Ten. Middle Tennessee hosts Florida International and Marshall but must go to Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Charlotte.
PREDICTION: A rough road schedule combined with three Power Five opponents makes matching last season's 8-5 record in the regular season a challenge. Stockstill will need some help from the defense to equal that mark.
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