First of all let me say that we are NOT predicting a big win Saturday, but we are not predicting a loss either. You guys have a Heisman hopeful and this would be a good win for us. This is a recent interview with our coach...
Battle 'lines' are drawn
MTSU defensive line faces tough test at Akron
By Adam Sparks
DNJ Staff Writer
It would be a bit cliché to say MTSU's showdown with Akron will be decided at the line of scrimmage Saturday.
Nevertheless, it would be true.
"It always starts up front with the physical part of the game," said MTSU head coach Andy McCollum, whose Blue Raiders kick off at the Rubber Bowl 5 p.m., Saturday in their season opener.
"But there's no doubt our defensive line has a big challenge ahead of them."
While Akron has gained national recognition with its quarterback Charlie Frye, a Heisman candidate and NFL prospect, the Zips' offensive line touts as much steadiness and experience as the man it protects.
Akron returns four senior starters on the offensive front from last season, and three of those have been intact atop the depth chart for two straight seasons.
In fact, the Zips' five-man front has recorded a combined 99 starts entering Saturday's game, led by left guard Aaron Conley's 36 career starts.
"They have four offensive linemen that played in a combined 90-plus games together, and that's a big positive for them, especially with a quarterback of Frye's caliber," McCollum said. "They were able to move the ball up and down the field against a Penn State team (Sept. 4) with a good defensive front, so it's a big challenge for our defensive front."
The experience of Akron's offensive line can only be rivaled by its skill and size, averaging better than 6-foot-3, 304 pounds among the five starters.
"They've got big guys, and they know how to get good position on you. It's going to be challenge," said MTSU defensive lineman Devarick Scandrett.
Along with preseason All-MAC selection Conley, Jim Borrieci leads the Akron front as a candidate for the Rimington award, which honors the nation's top center.
"Akron is tough top to bottom, and it's going to be challenge to go up against a Heisman candidate (Frye), but we need to get past that (offensive) line first," Scandrett said. "It's been a long time since we've had a chance to hit somebody besides our own, and that's what I live for. I'm looking forward to laying the wood on somebody, anybody.
"We're going to have to be physical to win this game."
Even without the inevitable battle versus Akron's offensive line, the Blue Raiders' four-man front carries the defensive load as expectations are running high for the veteran group, even among opponents.
"They've got a front four that looks like it belongs in the SEC," said Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart. "They just have some players who are very talented."
MTSU recorded just 20 sacks last season and only 11 by defensive linemen. Entering their season opener, the Blue Raiders are determined to turn around that trend.
"I speak for the whole defensive line when I say that we're ready to take a leadership role and show all the coaches and fans that we can be as good as people hope we will be," Scandrett said. "We want to meet this challenge head on."
Originally published September 8, 2004