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2018 NFL Draft from a Middle Tennessee perspective

Rick Stockstill has brought NFL talent to Middle but something is still missing.

NCAA Football:  Camellia Bowl-Arkansas State vs Middle Tennessee Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With Richie James’s selection in the seventh round by the San Fransisco 49ers, Rick Stockstill has finally tied Andy McCollum for total number of players he recruited that were selected in the NFL Draft.

McCollum was at Middle Tennessee for seven seasons from 1999 to 2005. and produced Tyrone Calico, Erik Walden, Chris McCoy and Kendall Newsome as draft choices. Walden and McCoy finished their career under Stockstill but were recruited by McCollum. Calico was drafted in the second round in the 2003 draft, which is still the highest ever for a Blue Raider.

Stockstill’s recruiting classes have produced NFL Draft picks Jimmy Staten, Rod Isaac, Kevin Byard, and Richie James. Byard was drafted in the 2016 season by the Titans in the third round and is likely to be the most successful player Stockstill has sent to the NFL.

Overall, Stockstill has had five un-drafted signees in his 13 seasons at MTSU who played in the NFL. McCollum had three in his seven seasons as head coach.

So this begs the question: Does recruiting NFL players in C-USA translate to success?

This season UTSA and UTEP each had a player drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in Marcus Davenport and Will Hernandez, respectively. UTSA finished 6-5 and missed a bowl, while UTEP was the worst team in the country and finished winless.

In 2015 and 2016 season, WKU produced some of the best teams Conference USA has ever seen.

Those teams had six players drafted in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 draft (Tyler Higbee, Brandon Doughty, Prince Charles Iworah, Forrest Lamp, Taywan Taylor, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, and Mike White).

Louisiana Tech also had six during that span and made it to the Conference USA Championship Game once (Vernon Butler, Kenneth Dixon, Jeff Driskel, Carlos Henderson, Trent Taylor, and Xavier Woods).

It makes sense that more NFL players translates into more victories and more conference championships. But for MTSU that hasn’t been the case. Based on these numbers Middle needs to step up its recruiting and player development.

Often, there is no correlation between producing NFL players and the team having success at the college level. FAU will test that theory after this season. The Owls were a young team in 2017 and they dominated the conference, and return major contributors. If history holds true after this season, multiple Owls will be drafted in 2019.

All of the above points to the gap between the Blue Raiders and the upper crust of Conference USA. In the past three seasons the team has had the best quarterback in school history, the best running back in school history (arguably), and the best receiver in school history, but have yet to win C-USA East.

Stockstill’s tenure at MTSU is best evidenced by his accomplishments. As a coach, he has been a little better than average, but no outright championships and a losing bowl record make it hard to call his tenure a downright success. As this site has mentioned before, Stockstill is not going anywhere thanks to his absurd $5 million dollar buyout.

Coming into Brent Stockstill’s senior season, is this the last chance for a conference championship bid? Or has that window already closed?

FAU is a massive favorite to repeat this year and with FIU on the rise, C-USA is only getting tougher. Its fair to wonder if the 2016 season was Middle’s last best chance to win the conference with Stockstill as the head coach with a roster that that featured Richie James, I’Tavius Mathers, and Brent Stockstill.

This weekend’s draft was a reminder that NFL talent can be been produced in Murfreesboro but further muddles the Stockstill tenure as he’s either doing more with less at MTSU or less with more.