Getting To Know Murray State

Murray State University
Founded: 1922
Enrollment: 10,000+
Fun Fact: It's the school formerly known as "Kentucky's Public Ivy." Ultimately realizing that calling your school Kentucky's public ivy is like referring to yourself as the soberest guy in Milwaukee or the mildest asshole in College Park, school officials dropped the moniker in December of last year.  Smart move if you ask me.  No one has to know they're from Kentucky.
Unique Tradition: the all-campus sing:

All-Campus Sing is an annual event, first held in 1958, that takes place each April in which residential colleges, fraternities, sororities, and other student organizations compete in choreographed song and dance. The event is hosted by the local chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota (original organizer of the event), in conjunction with the MSU Alumni Association and the Office of Student Affairs. It's held on the steps of historic Lovett Auditorium.

 

 

Murray State Football
Affiliations: Division I-AA, Ohio Valley Conference
First Game: 1924
All-Time Record: 438-372-36 (.540)
Head Coach: Matt Griffin (4th season; 8-26 at MSU).
Fun Fact: Mike Gottfried, Frank Beamer, and Houston Nutt got their head coaching starts at Murray State.
Unique Tradition: Racer One:

In 1976, the tradition of having a thoroughbred run around the track after every MSU football touchdown began. The name of that first racehorse was Violet Cactus. After the death of Violet Cactus in 1984, the horse Nancy Duster took over the job for one year. Violet Cactus is actually buried at Roy Stewart Stadium near the area where Racer One begins its run around the football field after a Racer touchdown. In 1985, the first Racer One began circling the football field after touchdowns. Several horses have filled the role of Racer One since 1985.

All-Name Team: His Excellency Prince Nwagbara, Quadricous Sanford.
Last Week: Beat the religion out of division II Kentucky Wesleyan by scoring in seven scientifically verifiable ways: field goal, safety, kickoff return for TD, punt return for TD, fumble return for TD, TD pass, TD run.
Returning Starters: 9 offense, 9 defense.

Offense
2008 Vitals:
68th in rushing, 43rd in passing, 70th in passing efficiency, 59th in total offense, 73rd in scoring. (All ranks I-AA.)

Matt Griffin debuted in 2006 with an 82-man roster that included 48 freshmen.  That team had 21 true freshmen on the two-deep, which led to a predictably difficult 1-10 season. The Racers managed two wins the next season and five wins in 2008, and they've made some significant statistical leaps both offensively and defensively as their youth has matured in experienced upperclassmen. 

Thanks to those early sacrifices, the 2009 Racers have the luxury of a roster loaded with two- and three-year starters; on the offensive side, all of their skill position players are back, including all four guys on the two-deep at receiver.

Quarterback Jeff Ehrhardt (6-4, 220) has 20 starts under his belt and is a solid if unspectacular passer, certainly not a guy that should worry the Wolfpack much.  Judging by his rushing totals, he's got decent wheels as well.

At running back, senior Charlie Jordan (5-8, 190) has been the starter since the tail end of his freshman campaign; he's averaged 4.2 yards per carry for his career and has about 1600 total rushing yards.  Griffin seems to like the committee approach--Jordan has never carried the ball more than 139 times in a season--so you can expect to see His Excellency (5-10, 213) get a fair amount of work as well.

Murray State has two preseason All-OVC receivers to keep an eye on: tight end DeAngelo Nelson (6-1, 235), who caught 34 balls for 386 yards in '08, and wide receiver Derrick Townsel (5-9, 182), who had 53 grabs for 667 yards in '08. It was Marcus Harris (6-1, 185) that led the Racers in receptions and TD receptions last year, though, and he'll start at the other WR spot. 

Defense
2008 Vitals:
59th in rushing, 39th in passing, 61st in passing efficiency, 40th in total defense, 97th in scoring. (All ranks I-AA.)

The challenge defensively is replacing linebacker Nathan Williams (179 tackles last year), and the Racers aren't really up for trying, since they've decided instead to switch to a 4-2-5 look.  In addition to making things a little easier on the linebackers, the 4-2-5 allows for greater speed and flexibility.  They'll have three safeties on the field at all times, and they can create the illusion of 8 or 9 guys in the box pre-snap.

Rock Chalk Talk put together a nice overview of the 4-2-5 after Kansas moved to the scheme:

The solution in the 4-2-5 is this.  Instead of having to find one anchor middle linebacker and two athletic coverage capable outside linebackers, now you only have to find two capable effective "inside" backers.  They don't have to dominate the middle and control the run by themselves and they aren't as likely to get caught on an island in pass coverage against the likes of  Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin or any other of these speedy or over sized slot guys in the Big 12.  What was once a weakness is now considered far less critical.

Second problem is a pass rush.  The front four of Kansas struggled in '08 to put together consistent pressure.  If you move to far toward a heavy pass emphasis and deemphasize your threat to rush you might only make the problem worse.  A 4-2-5 can address a little of both.  Let's assume for a moment that we are going to need more than a 4 man rush to get pressure.  Next let's look at our recruiting and notice that over the past few years it seems that it has become far easier as a up and coming program to find and recruit depth at the strong and free safety positions than at linebacker.  Darrell Stuckey, Phillip Strozier, Chris Harris, Lubbock Smith, Dexter Linton, Prinz Kande are 6 players that I think anyone would be happy to have in the pipeline for a 4-2-5. 

Now what we've got is the ability to have 8-9 guys "in the box" with three of them being safeties.  This creates the ability to clutter that pre snap read, hide any blitz packages and ads a lot more speed to positions that could threaten on a pass rush.  This is where the 4-2-5 differs from any other "nickel" packages.  Instead of 3 corners through elimination of either a linebacker or even worse a defensive lineman, you've added a safety at the expense of a position that was somewhat a liability anyway at outside linebacker.  A strong safety or weak safetey should be equally threatening in a pass rush or run support situation as they are in coverage.  That isn't always the case with three corners.  The spread wants to do just that, spread out the field.  Counteract that with players capable of doing multiple things from the middle third of the field and you make it more difficult for quick reads, and allow yourself more options from a defensive perspective.

Size has to be a concern for Murray State as they head into a game against a I-A team; they're already undersized by comparison and now that they've taken a linebacker off the field, they're that much smaller. I'm not sure how useful the added mobility is going to be if the Pack's blowing them off the line of scrimmage. (Which we're gonna do, right, guys? Right?)

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