After a season that saw the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders just miss out on taking a seat at the top table of Conference USA, we have seen a bit of a shift in the recruiting dynamic as well.
For the first time since the 2009 recruiting class, the Blue Raiders have at least five in-state commits heading into signing day. Currently Rakavian Poydras, Chris Myers, Treyton Peters, Kylan Stribling, and Ty Nix have all pledged their loyalty to the Blue Raiders with national signing day right around the corner.
Historically, the state of Tennessee has not been a football recruiting hotbed. That is until a population boom of the last few years that resulted in the high school talent level jumping exponentially lately.
How much of a jump has the in-state talent made in the last six seasons for the state of Tennessee?
In the 2011 recruiting class, there were only two players from Tennessee (Cameron Clear, Antonio Richardson) that were ranked 4-star recruits by Rivals. After that, the flood gates opened with ten 4-star recruits in 2012, seven ranked 4-star or higher in 2013, eight ranked 4-star or higher in 2014, 13 ranked 4-star or higher in 2015, and 11 ranked 4-star or higher in the 2016 class. Six of those recruits were ranked 5-stars.
During that same time, the Blue Raiders have been able to get commitments from a total of 18 in-state players. That number has jumped lately with nine players from in-state joining the team in the last two season (including the upcoming recruiting class). None have been ranked any higher than 3-stars, but players like Benny Cunningham have been able to star at MTSU and make a name in the NFL.
It has been a struggle, but Middle Tennessee's recruiting efforts are much more focused on in-state talent than in the past.
Let's take a look at the in-state talent that will be playing for the Blue Raiders in 2016.
Rakavian Poydras, DT (Clarksville): The 275 pound defensive tackle was a long time Memphis commit that make the switch to the Blue Raiders in late October. He is a three-star recruit that is the #23 ranked player in the state. I would be surprised to see a redshirt used on Poydras as he is one of the more college ready players in the Blue Raiders recruiting class. He is a ready to insert defensive tackle that should get significant playing time as a freshman.
Chris Myers, TE (LaVergne): Myers is an interesting prospect at the tight end position. He is 6-5 and 232 pounds, giving the Blue Raiders quite a bit to work with physically. 247Sports ranks him as a three-star recruit and the #33 player in Tennessee. He could be a future star at tight end, but there is no rush to get him on the field in 2016 as Terry Pettis returns for his senior season.
Ty Nix, DT (Oakland): Nix is an excellent performer in the trenches and would have gotten a much higher rating if he were a few inches taller. His 6-0, 270 frame puts him at a bit of a disadvantage versus linemen that have longer arms. It is tough to judge just how he will be able to handle the middle as a defensive tackle. Could be a candidate to play on the offensive side of the ball before his career is over.
Treyton Peters, OT (Harriman): The offensive lineman looks like the prototypical left tackle at 6-7, 290 pounds. Peters is a three-star recruit that also has offers from Western Kentucky and Memphis. He is the #38 player in the state according to 247Sports. He may not be ready to play in 2016, but has a chance to star on the offensive line in the future.
Kylan Stribling, CB (Independence): Stribling is an interesting prospect that has slipped under the radar so far. He is a natural cornerback at 5-11, 180 pounds and played on the most talented team in the state last season (Independence). With other FBS level players on that roster, many teams at the FBS level have overlooked him. The only major competition for Stribling's services is bitter rival WKU.
One more player should be added to this list since he is a transfer that will be eligible to play for MTSU in 2016.
Brian Kimbrow, RB (Memphis East): Kimbrow is a former four-star running back that started his career in the SEC. Kimbrow played for Vanderbilt, but had a falling out that resulted in a suspension. He has not played a game since the 2014 season, so it will take a little while to shake the rust off. He is a graduate transfer and will only be eligible for the 2016 season, joining 2015 transfer I'Tavius Mathers as a former SEC running back on the team.