Spring practices act as eyeball tests for coaches to sift through the debris, anticipating the chips to fall into place before the season starts. Down in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, head coach Rich Stockstill confronted an obstacle that would wholeheartedly modify the entire offense when it came to choose a quarterback.
On one hand, junior Austin Grammer was returning with a year already under his belt, as he was stationed under center in 2014. Anyone with a presumption that the spot was rightfully inherited turned heads when Stockstill christened his son, Brent, as the starting quarterback for the 2015 season.
The crucial decision paid its dividends upon season’s close, as the 8-5 Blue Raiders, led by Stockstill, find themselves vying for the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl versus the Western Michigan Broncos on Christmas Eve. The records, similar to the wins, piled up for the freshman from Siegel High.
Stockstill is the first Middle Tennessee representative to reel in Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors, amidst a batch of quarterbacks in the Conference USA that pocketed their own fraction of the limelight this past season. Stockstill wasted mere moments in distributing credit to his peers upon taking home the award.
“I think you could say you got two guys at the top with (Brandon) Doughty and (Jeff) Driskel,” Stockstill told DailyNewsJournal. “They are the older guys who have been around the block while (Nick) Mullens is in the middle of the pack age-wise. I guess I’m the young guy coming up, and it’s humbling, but I have to continue to improve.”
Stockstill’s lofty target of building off already-gaudy numbers would put Middle Tennessee State into a pretty nice channel next season, considering he effortlessly demolished program records for passing yards, attempts, touchdowns, and completions. Stockstill also stood alone as the only quarterback in the country to throw for more than 300 yards in seven or more games.
It’s been a path bombarded with obstacles for both Stockstills, which in turn makes for a heartfelt narrative. Brent had originally signed his letter of intent to play for the Cincinnati Bearcats as a member of the 2013 recruiting class before making the flip to Murfreesboro under the guidance of his own father.
Next up for the Blue Raiders is a trip to the Popeyes Bahamas to meet and greet with the Western Michigan Broncos. It’s a game that will match a pair of teams hanging in the logjam of their respected conference; just a prototypical mid-major clash between the Mid-American and Conference USA.
Should Middle Tennessee slip up early, Stockstill will need to be capable of answering the Broncos bell. Western Michigan features a potent offensive unit with the capacity for throwing an array of looks at opposing defenses. Led by redshirt junior quarterback Zach Terrell, he’s accompanied by the top wide receiver tandem in the nation in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis.
Behind them? Middle Tennessee’s duo of Richie James and Ed’Marques Batties, two of Stockstill’s favorite targets, who collected a mindboggling 2,180 yards and 19 touchdowns combined. A track meet-type game sets the stage for Middle Tennessee State’s young gun to showcase his arsenal of skills during his final start of his first season as starting quarterback.
A star-studded year for Stockstill and his cohorts doesn’t end in November; just one more trophy to seize in hopes of adding to the freshman legacy.