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2019 Reviews: Middle Tennessee

If there is any fan base prepared to absorb the changing of the guard as it were, it is Middle. The basketball program was going through a big change last season as the program transitioned from Kermit Davis. “We know we are going to have a tough season” said one fan in Murfreesboro the day of the 2018 CUSA title game.

That afternoon as Brent Stockstill and his father were processing the loss to UAB and presumably the future, we knew Middle was going to look different. This season, there is only the one Stockstill on the sidelines — well in blue. Kid Stockstill is an GA elsewhere — and the Blue Raiders are something like a shell of their recent selves. For seemingly forever, when Kid Stockstill was quarterbacking the team, Middle was a threat from the East. When he was not, it looked dire.

This season Asher O’Hara led the team to a 3-5, 4-8 record with some nice wins (that 50-17 win over FIU) and some awful losses (that loss to Rice). As a team they threw for less than 3,000 yards for the first time since 2014. The thing is that O’Hara ran for 1008 yards on 199 carries. He was the entire offensive threat for much of the season and that is a large burden.

A nice offense can be built on that, but it is tough. This was a transition year, despite the preseason expectations from the team and some writers. Some of the young talent got to play on both sides of the ball and Stockstill is still one of the leagues better coaches. Transition years are not wasted years, but seasons where you have to go from knowing who you are to figuring out who you can be.

Does Middle want to go all-in on the O’Hara run/pass threat or do they think that is sustainable? When the run game is slicing up FIU so terribly it makes sense. The 26 ppg is not bad,( in league play it was 28+) but belies some inconsistency and self-harm that prevented the scores from being in the 30s and 40s. A young QB will do that.

The defense allowed 29 per game (25 in conference) and it was here that there was real struggle. Last year’s team rode the defense to the title game (allowed only 19 per game in league play) and a more balanced version of the team can easily see another win or two thanks to some quality defense.

O’Hara can do some things in this league and with a little bit better defense wins are in the future. Finding a way to have him use his legs while risking injury is the offseason task for Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin.

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