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September 18, 2008The Blue Raiders dive back into Sun Belt play this week with a road clash at Arkansas State.
Although Middle Tennessee has an excellent recent track record against the Red Wolves, Arkansas State is off to a great start thanks to a high powered offense.
Here are our picks as the five key players to watch against the Red Wolves as the Blue Raiders look to even up their record:
1.] Desmond Gee
After a couple of weeks of waiting, Gee finally had a breakout performance last week in Lexington when he starred offensively for the Raiders by racking up 113 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Gee is hoping for a similar result this weekend in Jonesboro. The task will not be easy as Arkansas State features statistically the second toughest run defense in the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves are only surrendering an average of 119 yards a game on the ground and they held Gee to just 48 yards from scrimmage in last year's meeting.
2.] Joe Craddock
After battling hard for the job in fall camp, Craddock has not disappointed as the team's starting quarterback. The senior has consistently been one of the top performers in the Sun Belt during the first three weeks of the season and has been awarded the league's offensive player of the week honor each of the last two weeks. At Kentucky, Craddock had the tough assignment of passing the ball against one of the most highly regarded secondaries in the SEC. He rose to the task against the Wildcats by throwing for two touchdowns and more than 350 yards. For the Raiders to be successful this week, Craddock needs to once again play at a high level against a secondary that is allowing just 172 yards passing per game.
3.] Danny Carmichael
Middle linebacker is never an easy job. Carmichael is a key part of the run and pass defense and this week he has the difficult job of leading the effort to stop one of the league's top rushing and passing combos. Arkansas State features a wealth of skill talent, including dual-threat quarterback Corey Leonard and a speedy rushing threat in veteran Reggie Arnold. Carmichael needs to hit all of his assignments and make sound tackles in the middle of the field to cut down on Leonard's scrambling and Arnold's big play ability.
4.] Malcolm Beyah
Middle Tennessee fans and coaches alike have been thrilled with the early season performance of Beyah at wide receiver. The lack of playmakers at receiver was a major question mark heading into the year, but Beyah has helped fill that need with his ability to make big plays and put the ball in the end zone. The best news is that Beyah is only a freshman and appears to have a bright future ahead of him as a potent deep threat for the Raiders. In only three games as a college player, Beyah has more than 250 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
5.] Emmanuel Perez
Perez has been a bright spot off the edge for the Blue Raiders over the past couple of weeks. Against Kentucky, the sophomore had his name called frequently thanks to four tackles, two for loss, and a quarterback hurry. Perez must produce a similar result for the defense to have success against the Red Wolves, especially with first teamer Jamari Lattimore likely to miss the game due to injury. Perez needs to pressure Corey Leonard and force the Arkansas State quarterback to force a couple of uncomfortable throws.