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April 17, 2009

Saturday spring game: What to watch

Middle Tennessee closes out spring practice on Saturday with the Blue-White Game, set to kick off at 1 p.m. inside Floyd Stadium.

While it is officially just the 15th and final spring practice allowed by the NCAA, it will provide players a final chance to make an on field impression and give football starved fans a Saturday inside Floyd Stadium, which will have to hold them over until the fall.

GoMiddle.com breaks down a few items to keep a close eye on in the game.

Blue-White Game: What to watch
How will Desmond Gee be used?
Gee is listed as a running back on the spring game roster, but he's taken most of his reps as a slot receiver this spring. How new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin utilizes him in the fall will be dependent on how incoming freshmen running backs perform in fall camp, but the spring game should provide some early indications of what the plans are. Playing with mostly the first team offense, Gee will likely line up in a few different spots, with the goal being to get him in open space every time he touches the ball.

Will the Blue defensive line win in the trenches?
The Blue team's chances to win hinge largely on whether or not its defensive front can win the battle against the White team's offensive line. The White team features the most proven offensive linemen in the game, but the Blue team has a significant edge on the defensive line. Led by seniors Chris McCoy and Brandon Perry, two players head coach Rick Stockstill has praised this spring, the Blue team will have to generate a pass rush and cause havoc in the backfield. Seeing McCoy and Emmanuel Perez battle against White team tackles Mike Williams and Mark Fisher should also be high quality entertainment.
Will a White team linebacker step up?
Looking ahead to fall camp, questions still abound at linebacker with a crop of incoming freshmen coming in ready to compete for playing time. The Blue team has a distinct advantage at linebacker in the spring game with proven veteran Danny Carmichael in the middle, but White team linebackers Cam Robinson and Antwan Davis can take advantage of the opportunity to make a final spring impression with a strong performance. If they succeed in that, Stockstill and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz should be provided more reason for optimism about depth at the position.
Can Dasher continue to assert himself?
Dwight Dasher has taken a couple of steps forward in recent practices, prompting Stockstill to say that the rising junior has separated himself a little bit in the battle to start at quarterback this fall. Playing with the rest of the first team offense, Dasher should have every opportunity to continue his positive momentum, but it will be a challenge as he faces a strong Blue team defensive squad. Dasher has thrown the ball consistently well of late and his mobility is certainly an added weapon. Another solid performance with good decision making and leadership would put a cap on an impressive spring.
Which team has the edge at safety?
Safety is one of the few positions that look balanced on paper between the two teams. The Blue team has playmaking free safety Jeremy Kellem and Josh Gregory, who has played in all 12 games each of the last two years. The White team has a strong duo of its own with talented sophomore Derrick Crumpton and reliable junior Kevin Brown, plus Denzell Guerra. The Blue team safeties can probably afford to take a few more risks with a stronger front seven playing in front of them, while the White team safeties might have to play a little more cautiously to avoid giving up big plays.



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