For once, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are fairly set at most positions heading into the spring. Freshman of the year quarterback Brent Stockstill, a stable of very good running backs, and experienced offensive and defensive lines round out what could be head coach Rick Stockstill's most balanced team at MTSU.
Even with the multitude of returning players on both sides of the ball, there will be incoming players that should make an immediate impact during their first season with the Blue Raiders.
Let's take a look at the five players poised to make an impact at Middle Tennessee during the 2016 football season.
Rakavian Poydras, Defensive Tackle:
As I explained recently, the Blue Raiders rarely land one of the top 25 high school players in Tennessee. They landed one in Poydras. The 6-1, 280 pound three-star recruit from Clarksville High School has the size to find a role in the lineup as a reserve.
It will not be an easy task as seniors Shaquille Huff (6-1, 318), Raynard Felton (6-4, 278), and Jimal McBride (6-2, 319) all return in 2016. Poydras should find some playing time time in the rotation, but could impress and earn a start or two down the stretch on the MTSU defensive line.
Brian Kimbrow, Wide Reciever:
The Memphis native is a talent that does not end up in Murfreesboro very often. Kimbrow was a four-star recruit and one of the top players in Tennessee coming out of high school. A promising career at Vanderbilt fell apart and he is looking for a second shot as graduate transfer.
Kimbrow was a running back in high school and at Vanderbilt, but is projected as a wide receiver for the Blue Raiders. Expect the coaching staff to find a multitude of ways to get the ball into his hands. A combination of Kimbrow and Richie James at wide receiver is a very formidable duo.
Kory Lamberts, Linebacker:
A FBS ready linebacker, Lamberts will be even more important this fall after Detric Bing-Dukes spurned MTSU a month after signing day to join Ole Miss. Lamberts is already enrolled at Middle Tennessee and should immediately compete for one of the three open linebacker positions.
His only real detriment is durability as he only played in five games last fall, but he had 22 tackles, five sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss in those five games.
Crews Holt, Kicker:
After the strange saga of Cody Clark earning and then losing a scholarship before leaving the program completely, the signing of Holt is more important than ever. MTSU rarely uses a scholarship on a kicker out of high school, so that alone should show just how talented Stockstill and company see Holt.
The incoming freshman was the Tennessee high school kicker of the year and has range over 50 yards. Expect Holt to be the primary field goal kicker this fall.
Ricky Blair, Wide Receiver:
With the graduation of Ed Batties, the Blue Raiders are without a big target opposite James. In steps JUCO transfer Ricky Blair. He has the size at 6-3, 185 pounds as well as the production with 77 catches for 1,175 yards, and 12 touchdowns in two years at Pasadena City College. Blair is another JUCO transfer that is already enrolled with the Blue Raiders and will compete in spring practice.
He will have competition that looks to include tight end Terry Pettis as MTSU has eliminated the tight end position from the 2016 roster. A quartet of James, Kimbrow, Pettis, and Blair in the passing game could be deadly for defenses in 2016.
I'Tavius Mathers, Running Back:
Mathers is not exactly a newcomer after spending the 2015 season with MTSU. He had to sit out in 2015 after transferring from Ole Miss. The former four-star running back and Murfreesboro native rushed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns during his three years with the Rebels.
Mathers has a chance to put up big numbers this fall with defenses focusing on the dangerous passing game. A season with 1,200 or more yards would not surprise me for Mathers.