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Game 2: Murray State Preview

 



June 26, 2014

Murray State Football

2013 record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 Ohio Valley Conference

Returning starters:
7 on offense, 6 on defense

Returning lettermen:
30

Key players: Parks Frazier, QB - Serving mostly as a backup last year to dual-threat quarterback Maikhail Miller, Parks will likely take over under center for the Racers in 2014. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior showed promise in two starts and seven appearances last season, connecting on 67 percent of his passes for over 660 yards and four scores.

Jeremy Harness, WR - Second on the team in receptions last season with 40, Harness is one of the biggest returning offensive threats for the Racers in 2014. A starter since his freshman campaign in 2012, Harness's 40 catches resulted in 353 yards and a score last season.

Travis Taylor, LB - A junior college transfer in 2013, Taylor finished fifth on the team with 59 tackles in his first season at Murray State. Taylor's size (6-foot-3, 227 pounds) and speed make him a dangerous pass-rusher, as evidenced by his 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles a year ago.

Overall outlook:
Murray State is heading into the fifth season of head coach Chris Hatcher's tenure at the helm. In 2013, the Racers finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The six wins a year ago was a one-game improvement over their 2012 showing.

The program is looking to return to the success they found in 2011, when they won seven contests- tied for the program's highest total in the last decade. The 2013 edition of the Racers showed flashes of a powerful offense, averaging nearly 30 points and over 500 yards of offense per game. The team posted at least 31 points in seven games, including a 41-point outing against Missouri State and an 83-point explosion against Campbellsville. For the upcoming season, the Racers return more than half of their starters on both offense and defense, but have lost most of their biggest producers. Gone are the team's two most oft-used offensive weapons in quarterback Maikhail Miller and Walter Powell, an All-American wide receiver. Miller, a threat with both his arm and his feet, accounted for 23 total touchdowns and 2,650 yards of offense in 2013. Powell led the Racers with 66 catches and 13 scores. On defense, the Racers lost their top-four tacklers, along with defensive back Darrell Smith, who snagged three interceptions in 2013. The 2014 schedule will be a challenge for the program. In addition to their Sept. 6 meeting with Louisville, the Racers will face FBS opponent Western Michigan on Sept. 20.


Offense:
Given the loses of Miller and Powell, the Racers have to replace components in key areas. Based on his experience, Parks Frazier looks to be the top candidate to succeed Maikhail Miller as the team's starting quarterback, but could be locked in competition with several players through fall camp. Head coach Chris Hatcher noted the progress of senior CJ Bennett and redshirt sophomore KD Humphries in his post-spring practice assessment, but neither saw significant action last season. The Racers will look to a solid staff of returning receivers to cover for the loss of Powell. Returning for next season are five receivers who hauled in at least 20 passes in 2013. Alongside Jeremy Harness, whose 40 receptions is the high among returnees, junior Janawski Davis will provide the Racers with a solid second option. Davis snagged 29 passes and scored twice last season. The running game will likely be headed-up by Marcus Holliday. The sophomore running back carried 30 times for 230 yards and three touchdowns in his freshman season. Holliday was the team's fourth-leading rusher in 2013, seeing action in just five contests. Outside of Holliday, no returning Racer gained more than 40 yards on the ground last season.

Defense:
Having lost a handful of their leading tacklers from last season, the Racers will be looking to fill several holes in all areas of their defense this offseason. The Racer defense surrendered an average of 572.2 yards of offense to opponents last season, 248.5 of which coming on the ground and 323.7 through the air. Despite losing their leading tackler in linebacker Sam Small, the Racers' linebacking corp will likely be its strongest unit on defense. Along with leading returning tackler and top pass rusher Travis Taylor, the group returns starters Perry Cooper (54 tackles in 10 starts) and Anthony Hayes (35 tackles). Junior T-Ray Malone and sophomore Jonathan Jackson both saw action last season, and will add depth to the position in 2014. The front of the Racers' 3-4 defense will be headed by ends Zach Dean and Felton Collins, and anchored by nose tackle Demetrius Mason. Dean, Mason, and Collins, two juniors and a senior, respectively, all saw action last season, but none started more than six games. Dean was the leading tackler among them, with 40. The biggest question mark resides in the secondary, where starters have departed at each position. Cornerback Cadarious Sanders is the most experienced returnee to the Racer defensive backfield. Sanders saw the field in all 12 games last season, tallying 22 tackles. Sophomore William Higginson also appeared in all 12 games last season, making him a candidate to start at the other corner slot.


 

 

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