NCF Nation: Jerrel Jernigan

Andy Dalton and the Jets?

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
4:00
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There has been lots of speculation headed into the NFL draft about where TCU quarterback Andy Dalton and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick could land.

Well, there is a bit of news concerning Dalton. Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports the Jets worked out Dalton on Friday. The move may seem curious, considering the Jets have Mark Sanchez. But as Cimini writes:
Dalton is a fast-rising prospect who could slip into the bottom of the first round, according to scouts. The Jets own the 30th overall pick. While it makes no sense for them to invest another first-round pick in a quarterback, the Jets' interest in Dalton could be a way to entice quarterback-needy teams below them to trade up, increasing the value of the Jets' position.

Dalton's stock has been rising thanks to good performances during Senior Bowl week and the combine. The Vikings, Patriots, Colts and Titans, Browns and Bears have all reportedly worked Dalton out, too.

In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper has Dalton going early in the second round, at No. 35 to the Bengals.

As for Kaepernick, his stock also has been rising. He has had workouts with at least eight teams: Oakland, Tennessee, Miami, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Scouts seem to love his arm strength (he used to be a baseball player), and he did very well on the Wonderlic with a 37, one of the highest scores of all prospects.

Kiper has him going in the third round, at No. 76 overall to San Francisco.

Among the other non-AQ players featured in Kiper's mock draft from earlier this month:

First round

Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson, No. 16 to the Chargers.

Second round

Nevada linebacker Dontay Moch, No. 45 to San Francisco.

UCF offensive tackle Jah Reid, No. 51to Tampa Bay.

Boise State receiver Titus Young, No. 58 to Baltimore.

Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan, No. 59 to Atlanta.

Third round

Fresno State linebacker Chris Carter, No. 72, New Orleans

Hawaii running back Alex Green, No. 78, St. Louis

TCU offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, No. 82, San Diego

Hawaii receiver Greg Salas, No. 86, Kansas City

Boise State receiver Austin Pettis, No. 95, Pittsburgh
The Senior Bowl has been announcing the players to be featured in its game over the last several weeks, with plenty more to come. Some of the top non-AQ players in the country will be represented in Mobile, Ala., for the showcase game on Jan. 29.

Here is a partial list:

Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Jerrel Jernigan, WR/AP, Troy

Jeremy Kerley, WR/AP, TCU

Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Dalton joins a South roster that already features Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Dalton's draft status is one to watch, in my opinion. He may not be Andrew Luck but he has got the intangibles covered. It's hard to argue against a player who has won a school-record 42 games and definitely has the size at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds to play in the NFL.

Mel Kiper ranks him as the No. 5 senior quarterback going into the draft in his current rankings. Others project him as a fourth- to fifth-round pick.

"I’m just going to go out and show [scouts] how I play, show them that I can play with a lot of these players," Dalton said in a statement announcing his participation. "Hopefully people will see my leadership abilities and all the different intangibles that I can bring to the game."

Kiper has Jernigan listed as his No. 4 senior wide receiver.

Several other top non-AQ players have committed to play in another all-star game, the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando on Jan. 22. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been invited to play in both games. Here is a partial list of the East-West participants:

Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State

Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy

Lester Jean, WR, FAU

Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State

Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho

Brian Lainhart, S, Kent State

Josh McNary, DE, Army

Dontay Moch, DE/LB, Nevada

Justin Taplin-Ross, S, Utah

New Orleans Bowl Keys

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
11:30
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Here are three keys for Troy and Ohio in the R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.

Ohio (8-4)

1. Use receiver Terrence McCrae to your advantage. The Bobcats are not what you would call a high-octane offense, but they do have one big advantage with McCrae: his size. At 6-foot-4, he is much bigger than starting Troy cornerbacks Jimmie Anderson (5-foot-9) and KeJuan Phillips (5-9). McCrae has nine touchdown catches this season, and Boo Jackson recently set the career mark for touchdown throws at Ohio.

2. Know where Troy defensive ends Mario Addison and Jonathan Massaquoi are at all times. The duo has combined for 20 sacks this season, second-best in the nation behind Chris Carter and Logan Harrell of Fresno State. Massaquoi was second in the league with his 11 sacks, but led the Sun Belt with 17.5 tackles for loss. Ohio has generally done a good job with line protection this season -- except for the regular-season finale against Kent State. The Golden Flashes had seven sacks.

3. Balance. Troy has had a hard time slowing down the run, and Ohio has been pretty decent behind Vince Davidson. The Bobcats are a very balanced team, and are going to need both Jackson and Davidson to have steady games to give Ohio its first-ever bowl win.

Troy (7-5)

1. Paging Jerrel Jernigan. It is safe to say the Trojans have the best overall player on their sideline in Jernigan, one of the top all-purpose players in the country. He is their top receiver, punt returner, kickoff returner and primary Wildcat option. What makes him so good is his speed and his ability to break tackles. Ohio cannot afford to miss bringing him down.

2. Help Corey Robinson. The redshirt freshman threw for 3,339 yards this season in the spread offense, but has had his share of ups and downs. He had six games this season in which he threw two or more interceptions. That is not going to bode well against Ohio, which is one of the best in the country in interceptions with 17 on the season. DuJuan Harris and the running backs need to establish themselves early.

3. Cut the silly mistakes. Troy leads the nation in penalties per game (8.75) and is second worst in penalty yards per game (76.8). Combine that with a negative turnover ratio, and you have the makings of an undisciplined team. You can bet these two areas have been emphasized leading into the game.
Troy won a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship for the fifth straight season and is in a bowl game for the fifth straight year, taking on Ohio in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday. Meanwhile, Ohio missed a chance to play for the MAC championship after losing to Kent State in the regular-season finale. The MAC has a 2-1 edge in bowl games against the Sun Belt in the last four years.

WHO TO WATCH: Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan. One of the best all-purpose players in the country, Jernigan can do it all. He ranks No. 7 in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 165 yards a game. He lines up in the Wildcat formation, he starts at receiver and returns punts and kickoffs. Jernigan also has a touchdown pass this season. We are not talking about a one-hit wonder, either. Jernigan holds the school and Sun Belt records for career receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose yards.

WHAT TO WATCH: Ohio running back Vince Davidson versus Troy run defense. Ohio struggled big time trying to run the ball against Kent State. Davidson only had 19 yards rushing, a week after getting 100 in a big win over Temple. Troy has had difficulty stopping the run at times this season, giving up an average of 171 yards a game. Davidson is not the only one who can run -- when backup quarterback Phil Bates is in the game, he is known to scramble, too.

WHY TO WATCH: Yes, this game has been universally panned as one of the least interesting in bowl season. But Troy is usually fun to watch in bowl games. The Trojans have gone to overtime in their past two bowl appearances -- losing to Central Michigan last season 44-41 in a thrilling double-overtime game in the GMAC Bowl, and dropping a 30-27 contest to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl in 2008. There is also some history that could be made -- Ohio is 0-4 all-time in bowl games.

PREDICTION: Ohio 30, Troy 24. Troy was not as strong as it usually is this season, and has struggled at times behind Corey Robinson and on defense. Yes, Ohio blew a chance to play for the MAC title game, but the Bobcats should be able to run on Troy and control time of possession.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 11

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
9:00
AM ET
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Three straight weeks of going 7-3 is not that bad considering the alternative. I did get one of my upset specials right, though I didn’t expect Navy to hang 76 on East Carolina. Props to New Mexico. Does it count that I said there was a “slim chance” of an upset? Hey at least I said there was a chance!

With a 64-40 overall record, bring on Week 11.

East Carolina 41, UAB 35. (Tonight) The Pirates have to get past the 76 points they allowed to Navy last week. UAB is going to have to get running back Pat Shed going, because Dominique Davis will be able to pass for the Pirates. The East Carolina defense has been bad, but somehow the Pirates will find a way to bounce back with bowl eligibility on the line. They have got to hold on to the football, though. Four turnovers on five possessions in the third quarter against Navy let the game get out of hand.

No. 4 Boise State 45, Idaho 13. (Friday). You know the atmosphere is going to be rowdy, what with offseason comments from Boise State president Bob Kustra stirring the pot. This is the final scheduled game in the rivalry now that the Broncos are leaving for the Mountain West. The Vandals would love nothing more than to end their undefeated season, but they are one of the most penalized teams in the country. Idaho hasn’t beaten Boise State since 1998. The Vandals’ last win at home over the Broncos? 1995.

No. 3 TCU 38, San Diego State 10. Sure this is the classic “trap” game for the Horned Frogs, who will be coming down off an emotional 47-7 win at Utah. San Diego State is much improved this season, and bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. Ronnie Hillman already has 1,000 yards rushing and will be the No. 1 target to stop. The Aztecs have won four straight but haven’t looked good doing it. They have won their past three games by an average of eight points. Their opponents in those three games have a combined six wins.

No. 14 Utah 35, at Notre Dame 20. The Utes have to bounce back and fast to put the embarrassment of last weekend behind them. This certainly will be a big test for coach Kyle Whittingham to get his team to stay focused for the remainder of the season. The Irish have a handful of starters out because of injuries. Bank on Jordan Wynn putting the mistakes of last week behind him to have a big game.

No. 21 Nevada 45, Fresno State 40. This one is not going to be easy for the Wolf Pack, but they come into the game riding a major 844-yard output on offense, with three 100-yard runners and a 300-yard passer in a win over Idaho. Chris Carter and Logan Harrell each have nine sacks for Fresno State, but the first key is to stop the run. The same can be said for Nevada -- Fresno State has gotten good production from Robbie Rouse in the last three games. He is coming off a 286-yard day against Louisiana Tech.

UCF 35, Southern Miss 21. The Knights are the only undefeated team left in Conference USA and are the favorites to win the entire conference. They survived a scare on the road against Houston last week and now face an East Division rival that has been inconsistent. But the Golden Eagles have lost their two league games by a combined two points. Still, their defense has been somewhat disappointing and is going to have a hard time slowing down Jeff Godfrey.

BYU 30, Colorado State 27. I am trying not to read too much into the Cougars’ offensive explosion last week because it came against UNLV. But still, it has to be encouraging to see Jake Heaps throw for more than 100 yards in a game. This one features the two top freshman quarterbacks in the league, and the Rams are much improved with Pete Thomas leading the way. But BYU has an improving defense -- and has to win to keep bowl hopes alive.

Army 30, Kent State 27. The Black Knights have to win either against Kent State or next week against Notre Dame to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1996. This one is an intriguing matchup -- Army has the No. 8 rushing attack in the country, averaging 277 yards a game. Kent State has the best run defense, giving up just 69 yards a game. But the Golden Flashes have to major injuries on defense: linebacker Cobrani Mixon and safety Brian Lainhart. Mixon is second on the team in tackles, while Lainhart is third. Quarterback Spencer Keith also has a sprained thumb and is listed as day-to-day.

Troy 28, FIU 17. Though FIU is 3-5, the Panthers are 3-1 in conference play, half a game behind Troy (4-1). So essentially the Sun Belt title is on the line. Troy has never lost to FIU, so bank on the Trojans to win this one and eventually win their fifth straight league title. Great special-teams matchup to watch between T.Y. Hilton of FIU and Jerrel Jernigan of Troy.

UPSET SPECIAL: Tulsa 45, Houston 44. The top two scoring offenses in Conference USA battle it out with the West division title at stake. The Golden Hurricane have loads of confidence after winning three straight, and plenty of weapons for Houston to try and handle. Tulsa has a more high-powered attack than UCF, which scored 40 in a win last week, so the Golden Hurricane get the edge.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
5:15
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Time once again for the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: East Carolina QB Dominique Davis. Scored three touchdowns and set career-highs in passing attempts (53) and completions (37) on the way to a 376-yard, interception-free performance in a 33-27 overtime win over NC State.

Defense: Memphis LB Jamon Hughes. Had the most tackles for a Memphis player in 31 years with 21 stops against Southern Miss. The total ranks tied for second in school history and is the most since Pete Scatamacchia had a school record 25 against Louisville in 1979.

Special teams: Rice P Kyle Martens. Averaged 49.8 yards on four punts, none of which were returned, in the Owls' 34-31 win over Houston. He placed his fifth punt of the season inside the 10 this season.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Ohio QB Boo Jackson. Went 14-of-21 for 161 yards, one passing touchdown and two rushing scores in a 38-10 win over Akron. He also caught a 42-yard pass in the win.

Defense: Miami LB Evan Harris. Had a career and team-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one passed defensed in a 27-20 win at Central Michigan. Harris’ two interceptions were the first for the RedHawks by a single player since 2006.

Special teams: Temple DE Adrian Robinson. Blocked a PAT attempt in Temple’s 28-27 win over Bowling Green. The play forced the Falcons to opt for a 2-point conversion on the game’s final play.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett. Accounted for 414 yards of total offense, ninth-best in school history, and set school quarterback records for most rushes (35) and net rushing yards (189) in a single-game. He had five total touchdowns.

Defense: Toledo DE T.J. Fatinikun. Had five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a key 10-yard sack in the Rockets' 34-21 win over Kent State.

Special teams: Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward. Blocked his second punt of the season in a 45-14 win over Buffalo. Ward also forced a fumble late in the game and contributed two tackles, one on special teams.

Mountain West

Co-Offense: San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman, TCU QB Andy Dalton. Hillman had 191 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 27-24 win over No. 23 Air Force, the team's first win over a ranked team in 14 years. Dalton accounted for 289 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-3 win over BYU.

Defense: Colorado State DT Guy Miller. Had eight tackles, 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss to in a 43-10 win over UNLV. Miller set new school and MWC records with his 4.5 sacks.

Special teams: TCU PR Jeremy Kerley. Had 137 total return yards in a 31-3 victory over BYU. Kerley helped the Horned Frogs establish field position throughout the contest, returning two kickoffs for 81 yards and four punts for 56 yards.

Sun Belt

Offense: Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin. Had a career-high four touchdowns, the most of any Sun Belt player this season, in a loss to Indiana. Aplin completed a school-record 33 passes on 44 attempts for 275 yards and added 23 rushing yards.

Defense: ULM DB Robert Nelson. Returned an interception 55 yards for the game-sealing touchdown in a win over Western Kentucky. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Warhawk since 2008.

Special teams: Troy KR Jerrel Jernigan. Had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the win over Louisiana, the first of his career and the first for the Trojans since 2007. He also scored the winning touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Corey Robinson in the fourth quarter.

WAC

Offense: Louisiana Tech QB Ross Jenkins. Threw for a career-high 422 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-35 win over Idaho on Saturday. It was the most yards thrown by any quarterback in the nation over the weekend.

Defense: Hawaii LB Corey Paredes. Had nine tackles and forced two fumbles in the 27-21 win over No. 19 Nevada. His first forced fumble led to Hawaii’s first touchdown. On the second, he stripped Colin Kaepernick just before he crossed the goal line.

Special teams: Boise State PR Chris Potter. Returned four punts for 76 yards in a 48-0 win over San Jose State. The 76 return yards are the most by a WAC player this year.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
10/17/10
1:09
AM ET
I realize there are still a few non-AQ teams playing, but thought you might want an early helmet stickers edition. Will add to it if necessary from Nevada-Hawaii and New Mexico State-Fresno State.

Ron English, Eastern Michigan. Congrats to the Eagles for getting their first win since 2008, beating Ball State 41-38 in overtime. The Eagles snapped an 18-game losing streak with a big-time comeback. Eastern Michigan trailed 28-7 in the second quarter before scoring 28 unanswered points. Ball State tied it up at 35 with 34 seconds left in regulation. But Alex Gillett threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ben Thayer in overtime to win it for the Eagles. They had come close in several games this season, giving English hope his team was coming close. He did more than come close Saturday.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio). Dysert threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Cruse with 19 seconds left to give the RedHawks a 27-20 win over Central Michigan, their first road victory since 2008. Dysert went 29-of-47 for 399 yards, the second-best day of his career. Cruse had a career-high 179 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns.

Dominique Davis, East Carolina. The quarterback had another outstanding game, throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for another in a huge 33-27 overtime win over N.C. State. Davis scored the touchdown in overtime, to help the Pirates win a game that they led 21-0 in the first quarter. Davis has three 300-yard games this season and has thrown from 1,439 total yards, with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have started three different quarterback this season, but it appears they should stick with Jenkins, the starter from last season. He has now led them to two straight wins after a career day in a 48-35 win over Idaho. Jenkins went 31-for-44 for 422 yards -- all career highs -- and tied a career high with three touchdown passes. He also added another score on the ground, as he has looked more and more comfortable running the new spread offense coach Sonny Dykes has installed. He became the first Louisiana Tech quarterback with over 400 yards passing since Luke McCown in 2003.

Jamon Hughes, Memphis. The senior linebacker has been a bright spot for Memphis this season. In a 41-19 loss to Southern Miss, Hughes notched a career-high 21 tackles (15 solo, 6 assists), plus one sack for a 4-yard loss. He has led the team in tackles in all seven games this season.

Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State. The true freshman had 191 yards on 24 carries, including touchdown runs of 65 and 44 yards to give the Aztecs a 27-25 win over No. 23 Air Force, their first win over a ranked team since 1996. He essentially went untouched on his 44-yarder with 2 minutes left to essentially seal the game. The Aztecs (4-2) had lost 25 straight games to ranked opponents, dating back to a 28-24 win over No. 16 Wyoming on Nov. 7, 1996. Hillman has three 150-yard games this season for 785 yards on the year, trailing only Marshall Faulk for most rushing yards by a San Diego State freshman (1,429).

Jerrel Jernigan, Troy. Jernigan had six receptions to set the school record for catches with 219 in a 31-24 win over Louisiana. He finished with 180 total yards, including one receiving touchdown and a 75-yard punt return for a score, two weeks after undergoing elbow surgery. His 12-yard TD reception with 4:43 left was the game-winning score.

Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan can do it all

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
10:00
AM ET
Can he catch? Check. Can he run? Check. Can he throw? Check. Can he return kicks? Check.

Not much is missing from the Jerrel Jernigan repertoire. One of the most versatile players in the country, the Troy wide receiver/returner/runner has just about done it all in his career there. In his senior season, Jernigan is poised to have his name etched all over the school and Sun Belt record books.

[+] EnlargeJerrel Jernigan
Grant Halverson/US PresswireJerrel Jernigan's 2,730 receiving yards is a new conference record.
Just last week against Middle Tennessee, Jernigan set the Sun Belt record for receiving yards with 2,730. He now stands two receptions behind Danny Grant (215) for the all-time Troy record for career receptions and 16 catches behind former North Texas receiver Casey Fitzgerald (229) for the league career mark.

He already holds the school record for career all-purpose yards. So far this season, he ranks No. 4 in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 178 a game.

Not bad for a high school quarterback.

But Jernigan knew he would not be a quarterback in college. He had his heart set on Auburn, but the Tigers never offered. He took a visit to Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets wanted him to move to defense. “I wasn’t having that,” he said.

When he visited Troy, he loved everything about the school. It didn’t hurt that it was an hour away from his parents. Coaches told him they wanted him to touch the ball eight to 10 times a game, but he says he opened eyes after a 100-yard game his freshman season against Georgia.

“I knew I had it in me,” Jernigan said. “I just had to get used to college game and the speed of the game.”

Jernigan had played some receiver in high school, but he never returned a punt or kickoff. He said it was not that hard to learn. You would have no idea he is relatively new at doing both. He started returning more punts this season for the eyes of NFL scouts, who told him last season they wanted to see him return punts.

His speed certainly helps. Jernigan said he ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds last year at junior pro day at his school. His mother ran track in high school and his father played basketball, but he says he has no idea where he got his speed. He also says he doesn’t do much to work on it -- he has always been naturally fast.

Jernigan also has a special toughness about him. Three days before the Middle Tennessee game, he had surgery on the bursa sac in his elbow. He played against the Blue Raiders with heavy padding on his elbow, catching four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown, and also had three carries for 17 yards. Coach Larry Blakeney praised Jernigan for playing in the game.

“He never whimpered about trying to get ready to play,” Blakeney said. “Some of the padding and maybe the tenderness may have affected his play a little bit, but you have to give this young man credit for showing up.”

Blakeney always worries about giving Jernigan too much to handle throughout the season, saying they run him down during a week of practice.

But Jernigan doesn’t mind, especially if it makes him more attractive for the NFL. He may be undersized at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, but there is no questioning his value.

After all, he can do it all.

Midseason Report: Troy

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
6:30
AM ET
Troy Trojans

Record: 3-2 (2-0, Sun Belt)

The Trojans have dominated Sun Belt play in recent years, but going into the season they were not the preseason favorite to win the league. That honor went to Middle Tennessee, mostly because it returned Dwight Dasher at quarterback. That did not sit well with the Trojans, who knew they had to do a little bit of proving on the field. They did that in a big way last week against Middle Tennessee, beating the Blue Raiders 42-13. They are now in command of the Sun Belt race, hoping for their fifth straight championship. The Trojans will be favorites in the rest of their league games, and it would be a major upset if they failed to win another title. What has been most impressive is the way Corey Robinson has stepped in at quarterback, replacing the departed Levi Brown. Troy leads the league in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. The defense, which lost eight starters, has started to pick up its play as well behind Jonathan Massaquoi and Mario Addison.

Offensive MVP, QB Corey Robinson: Robinson, a redshirt freshman, beat out veteran Jamie Hampton for the starting quarterback job and has delivered in a big way. He leads the league with an average of 300 yards passing a game, and also leads the league in passing efficiency. It doesn’t hurt when you have all-everything man Jerrel Jernigan on your side, either.

Defensive MVP, DE Jonathan Massaquoi: The first-year starter has done an excellent job on the outside, leading the team with 6.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He also has forced a fumble and recovered two. Massaquoi had his coming out party in a 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State, with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Troy in Sun Belt driver's seat

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
10:30
AM ET
Troy completed dominated Middle Tennessee in its 42-13 win Tuesday night, putting itself in the driver's seat in the Sun Belt race.

What else is new?

The Trojans (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) have now beaten the Blue Raiders (2-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) five straight times, and have won 12 straight Sun Belt games. They are going for their fifth straight conference title.

This season was supposed to be Middle Tennessee's year, but things have not gone exactly to plan. Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended for the first four games of the season for improperly accepting a $1,500 loan. He made his return Tuesday night, but it was one to forget on a "Black Out" night in Murfreesboro.

“That is really important. They were picked No.1 in the Sun Belt, but I think it was more of a 'clear out' than a 'black out,'" Troy receiver Tebiarus Gill said.

Dasher dislocated the pinkie finger on his left hand on the second drive of the game and missed the rest of the first quarter. When he returned, Middle Tennessee was down 14-0. The Blue Raiders could not muster anything on offense, even with Dasher back. He looked rusty and out of sorts, and so did his teammates.

They had just 82 yards of total offense in the first half and ended the game with 207, including just 28 on the ground in the face of an attacking Troy defense. Dasher, who passed for 2,500 yards and ran for 1,000 yards last season, had 14 carries for a team-high 27 yards and went 22-of-37 for 172 yards.

He has traditionally struggled against Troy, and Tuesday night was no exception. Dasher was also sacked four times.

“We spent all week focusing on Dasher because we knew he was going to be a big key to their offense," said Troy linebacker Jacoby Thomas, who had two sacks. "We came in here wanting to go after him with blitzes and we blitzed him all night."

Meanwhile, Troy quarterback Corey Robinson continued to excel, going 26-of-37 for 259 yards with three touchdowns. Jerrel Jernigan, who was limited with an elbow injury, still had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. He also became the Sun Belt's all-time leading receiver with 2,730 yards, passing North Texas’ Johnny Quinn.

One bit of bad news for Troy: Backup quarterback Jamie Hampton is out for the season after breaking his leg. Hampton was injured on an 8-yard carry in the second quarter and will undergo surgery Wednesday. He has played in every game as a change of pace to Robinson, but coach Larry Blakeney fears his career could be over.
Dwight Dasher figures he will be nervous before Middle Tennessee plays Troy Tuesday night in a big Sun Belt conference showdown.

Who can blame him? It has been 10 months since he played in a football game, the first four contests of his senior season gone while he served an NCAA suspension for improperly accepting a $1,500 loan.

[+] EnlargeDwight Dasher
Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMIDwight Dasher will get his first start of the season Tuesday night against Troy.
Dasher came into the season with high hopes and some outside Heisman buzz as one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the country, and it pained him to be in the meeting rooms and on the sideline knowing he could do nothing but watch.

But the season is far from over.

Middle Tennessee managed to go 2-2 without him, and is 1-0 in conference play going into the Troy game. This matchup could ultimately decide who ends up winning the league. Troy (2-2, 1-0) has won four straight conference championships, including four straight over the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee was the preseason pick to win it all.

“I mean we want to beat them bad,” Dasher said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to go out there and win, and be the conference champs this year.”

Dasher has plenty of motivation on all fronts. He is eager to get his season started, and has spent extra time at practice working with his receivers to try to shed some of the rust. The time off between the win over Louisiana on Sept. 25 has certainly helped because it has given Dasher extra time to get reps with the first team.

He does not anticipate being rusty, but coach Rick Stockstill knows it is expecting a lot to believe Dasher will be on top of his game.

“You can only simulate game time situations in practice so much and there’s nothing like getting out there and playing,” Stockstill said. “He hasn't played a live game since December. I'm sure there will be some rust but he's had great week of practice.”

There is also motivation to change the way he has played against Troy. Dasher has never had a good game against the Trojans. In a 31-7 loss last year, he was 24-of-44 for 245 yards with a touchdown, but was shut down in the run game, with 18 carries for 53 yards. He played sparingly his freshman year and came off the bench his sophomore year but did poorly in relief.

“They have keyed in on me a lot, not wanting me to run the ball,” said Dasher, who became the fourth player in NCAA history last season to pass for more than 2,500 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards.

“So they’ll bring a little pressure. Our offensive line has to step it up and pick it up. If they do that, I’m going to have a good game.”

The Middle Tennessee offensive line has been banged up, so that is going to be a huge key in the game. Troy coach Larry Blakeney knows his team has to prepare differently with Dasher back on the field simply because he runs the ball more than his replacements did.

“We will have to prepare well for the draw, the power and the trap where he has the ball in his hands,” he said. “Sometimes they will just line him up and run it right or left. He is also not bad throwing the ball. We had a good game against him last year, but he is a viable guy who makes a difference.”

As for Troy, the Trojans have one of the top all-purpose players in the country in Jerrel Jernigan. He needs seven receptions to break the school record of 215 held by behind Danny Grant (1966-69) and 218 yards to break the career yards mark of 2,907 that Grant also holds.

But much of the spotlight will be on Dasher and how he does in his return.

“I’m ready to get back out there and play, give everything I got especially the game I’m coming back for,” Dasher said.

Mel Kiper's latest big board

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
4:00
PM ET
There are no non-AQ players on Mel Kiper's latest big board, released today. Though you will need an ESPN Insider account to look at it, there are some among his top five seniors at each position.

At quarterback, TCU's Andy Dalton moves into the No. 4 position thanks to his strong start to the season. He is completing 75 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and two interceptions, and also has 113 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. Nathan Enderle of Idaho is off the list, thanks in part to his five interception performance against Nebraska a few weeks ago.

Others to watch:

No. 3 FB Charles Clay, Tulsa.

No. 5 WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy.

No. 4 OG Andrew Jackson, Fresno State.

No. 5 OG Marcus Cannon, TCU.

No. 5 C Kevin Kowalski, Toledo.

No. 3 OLB Dontay Moch, Nevada.

No. 5 S Shiloh Keo, Idaho.

No. 4 K Matt Szymanski, SMU.

There aren't as many non-AQ players on the non-seniors list. You'll have to check that one out for yourselves.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
5:44
PM ET
Here are your non-AQ players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: Bryce Beall, RB, Houston. Ran for a career-high 195 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown runs in a 54-24 win over UTEP.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Had 11 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a loss to West Virginia on Friday night.

Special Teams: Kevin Fitzpatrick, K, Tulsa. Tied a career-best when he made four-of-four field goals, including two in each half.

MAC
East Division

Offense: Thomas Merriweather, RB, Miami. Ran for 100 yards for the second time in his career, getting 105 yards on 15 carries and tied his career high with three touchdowns in a win over Eastern Michigan.

Defense: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. Had six tackles, a career-high two sacks, a career-high three tackles for loss and one forced fumble in a 13-10 overtime win over Central Michigan last Thursday.

Special Teams: Freddy Cortez, K, Kent State. Made field goals from 45 and 41 yards in a 26-13 loss at Boston College. It was the first time in his career Cortez has made two field goals of 40-plus yards.

West Division

Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Completed a career-high 24-of-33 passing for 298 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Nicholls State. Carder became the sixth Bronco quarterback with five passing touchdowns in a game and the first since Oct. 8, 2005.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Had a career-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions in a 20-13 win at Ohio.

Special Teams: Jay Karutz, P, Eastern Michigan. Set a school record with a 49.5 punt average against Miami with three of the four inside the 20-yard line, including two that were downed inside the 1. His fourth punt was a 56 yarder that went out of bounds.

Mountain West

Offense: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 victory over New Mexico State. The four rushing touchdowns set a conference freshman single-game high and are the most by a San Diego State player since Larry Ned had four touchdowns against Wyoming in 2001.

Defense: Alex Ibiloye, S, TCU. Forced three fumbles and added a team-high tying nine tackles in a 62-7 win over Tennessee Tech. Ibiloye became the first Horned Frog to force more than one fumble in a game since Jerry Hughes forced two against BYU in 2008.

Special teams: Shaky Smithson, WR/PR, Utah. Returned five punts for 128 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, to help Utah beat UNLV 38-10. He is the first Utah player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2007.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Threw for a single-game school record 438 yards in a loss to Louisiana. That is the highest total for an FBS player this season. He currently has the second-most passing yards in the country with 716.

Co-Defense: Maurice Rolle, DB, Louisiana; Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy. Rolle had a key interception of Aplin with 1:59 remaining to secure the win. Massaquoi had eight total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a loss to Oklahoma State.

Special Teams: Jerrel Jernigan, KR, Troy. Became the fourth player in league history to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Oklahoma State. Jernigan finished the game with 277 all-purpose yards and moved past former Middle Tennessee star Desmond Gee into fifth place on the SBC career list with 4,362 career all-purpose yards.

WAC

Offense: Bryant Moniz, QB, Hawaii. Completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 win at Army. Moniz led the Warriors to touchdowns in three of their first four possessions.

Defense: James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada. Had a team and career-high nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks in a 51-6 win at Colorado State. Nevada notched its first shutout since 2006.

Special teams: Anthony Martinez, K, Nevada. Made all three of his field goal attempts and six extra point in the win over Colorado State. The field goal attempts were the first of his college career, while the 15 points he scored in the game are tied for the third most of any kicker in the nation in a game this year.
No. 25: Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Sr., Troy

2009 numbers: Led the Sun Belt Conference with 71 catches for 1,101 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 266 yards and a score. He also was pivotal as the Trojans kickoff returner.

Making the case for Jernigan: Jernigan was by far the Trojans’ best receiver for the second consecutive season and the best receiver in the Sun Belt Conference. Jernigan had a slow start to the year, but finished with more than 100 yards in each of his final three games, including nine catches for 154 yards against Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl. The Trojans will break in a new quarterback this season and Jernigan will be the fail-safe to get them into a rhythm, especially early in the season. Jernigan has the potential to notch another 1,000-yard receiving season and be the first Troy receiver selected in the 2010 NFL draft since 2001.

Troy spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
6:30
AM ET
2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 8-0

Returning starters
Offense: 7, defense: 3, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners
RB DuJuan Harris, RB Shawn Southward, WR Jerrel Jernigan, WR Tebiarus Gill, OL Tyler Clark, OL James Brown, LB Daniel Sheffield, CB Bryan Willis, P Will Goggans, K Michael Taylor

Key losses
QB Levi Brown, DE Brandon Lang, DE Cameron Sheffield, LB Boris Lee, LB Bear Woods, DT Kevin Dixon, DT Eugene Kinlaw

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Shawn Southward* (110-602-12), DuJuan Harris* (151-583-10)
Passing: Levi Brown (321-504-9, 4,254, 23)
Receiving: Jerrel Jernigan* (71-1101-4), Tebiarus Gill* (47-581-6)
Tackles: Bear Woods (143), Boris Lee (127)
Sacks: Brandon Lang (8.5), Cameron Sheffield (7.0)
Interceptions: Bryan Willis* (4)

Spring Answers

1. Linebackers are again a strength: The Trojans lost stars Bear Woods and Boris Lee, but juniors Xavier Lamb and Donnell Golden have served as apprentices under Woods and Lee for two years and are experienced and talented. Daniel Sheffield missed the spring after shoulder surgery, but will be back for his senior season, and several of the younger players will fill out the depth, including redshirt freshman Johnny Thompson, sophomore Jacoby Thomas and sophomore Kanorris Davis.


2. The offensive line looks stout: Tyler Clark, who has been a three-year starter at guard, moves to center this season. Junior James Brown is back at left tackle and sophomore Kyle Wilborn is back at right tackle, although he may move to right guard if junior college signee Demarkus Underwood beats him out. Former Florida State player Tyler Graves could be the starter at left guard.

3. Improved receiving corps: Junior college transfer Brett Moncrief will be a nice addition to a receiving corps that already boasts Jerrel Jernigan, who has a chance to become the all-time Sun Belt Conference leader in receiving yards and receptions, TeBiarus Gill, Jason Bruce, Austin Silvoy, Chip Reeves and Josh Jarboe. This receiving corps will help in the transition to a new quarterback.


Fall Questions

1. Replacing record-setting QB Levi Brown: Four players went into spring with the chance to be the starting quarterback and two came out. Junior Jamie Hampton, who was the starter in 2008 before a knee injury turned over the offense to Brown, and redshirt freshman Corey Robinson will continue the battle into the fall.


2. Filling holes on the defensive line: The Trojans lost four starters on the defensive line and have yet to come up with a permanent solution. Senior Mario Addison and sophomore Jonathan Massaquoi played well on the outside, but the inside tackle spots are still up for grabs. Because there is so much uncertainty on the line, Troy might switch to a 3-4 defense.


3. Shoring up the secondary: Junior college transfers Willard Ross and Barry Valcin both spent time at corner in 2009, but will both be at safety in 2010. Bryan Willis, who was thrown in at corner as a redshirt freshman last season, is expected to start. The emergence of junior college transfer Jimmie Anderson and the return of KeJuan Phillips from academic ineligibility should help fill out the secondary.

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