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September 9, 2008

Wideouts equipped to absorb Cannon injury

Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill confirmed Tuesday what many expected to be the case, that junior receiver Michael Cannon will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.

Cannon went down on the first pass completion of the Maryland game Saturday and when he returned to the sideline on crutches with his right leg fully wrapped, it became clear his prognosis was not very promising.

But in every cloud there is a silver lining.

Though losing Cannon is a blow to the Blue Raider offense, the receiving unit is much more equipped to rebound from this adversity than many could have ever expected prior to fall camp.

The emergence of Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald has added an immediate spark to the passing game, helping to keep the Raiders dangerous through the air despite top receiver Patrick Honeycutt only catching two passes in the first two games.

Stockstill said he'll be looking at an unsung Blue Raider to help step up and fill Cannon's void.

"We will lose a guy in the rotation," Stockstill said of Cannon. "We will try to get Andrew Banks, a walk-on, some reps this week and see what he can do. When a guy goes down it provides an opportunity for others. There will be added responsibility for other receivers and they will step up."

The Blue Raiders have been led in receptions by sophomore Wes Caldwell and McDonald, both of whom have 10 catches on the season.

Beyah, who is averaging 23 yards per catch, has provided a much needed big play threat and junior college transfer Eldred King has proven himself to be a reliable pass catcher.

Chris McClover saw significant time against Maryland and contributed three catches against the Terrapins in the Blue Raider in.

Considering Honeycutt has yet to have a breakout game, it is very encouraging for the coaching staff to have so many receivers that entered the season unproven emerge as reliable contributors.

"We have made some mistakes but we have made some plays too," Stockstill said of his young pass catchers. "They are learning. They minimized their mistakes from week one to week two. They are good young men, they work hard at practice. They are learning how to practice and they are athletic. Coach (Justin) Watts has done a good job bringing those guys along."

Cannon, who caught six passes for 68 yards on the season before getting hurt, will certainly be missed, but the injury is not nearly the death blow to the receiving unit that many would have forecasted over the summer.


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