Now that we have taken a look at the offensive players from this year's class, let's take a look at the defensive specialists and athletes that will be calling Murfreesboro home for the next few years.
The Blue Raiders went into the offseason looking to fill some major holes in the defense. In locking down eight commitments and one special teams specialist, MT finds themselves feeling a lot better about the defense moving forward.
To start, lets take a look at the ones that everyone has been talking about - the two new hams on the defensive line:
Darious Bennett - The 6'1", 287-pound product out of Carver HS in Columbus (GA) was a surprise in some ways. GoMiddle.com knew MT was high on his list, but our inclination was that Bennett was heading to Colorado State or Arkansas. To our surprise, the MT coaching staff secured his commitment. Some will look at Bennett as a late replacement for Mike Minns, who signed with Bowling Green, but that would be incorrect. Bennett was always a top priority for the Blue Raiders - and understandably so. Bennett earned All-State and All-Region honors in both his junior and season campaigns. In 2011, he was also named as a member of the Georgia Top 125. Bennett will get a chance to see the field real early, and could become one of the more productive DT's that Middle Tennessee has had in a while.
Shaquille Huff - Perhaps the player with the most upside of any in the 2012 class, the 6'1", 300-pound Huff will be another key element of the defensive line for years to come - and for good reason. All Huff has ever done is succeed in football. Huff followed a solid junior season with an impressive senior campaign - one that garnered him first team All-State, All-Region, All-Area and All-County recognition. Huff was voted the Region Defensive Player of the Year after compiling 65 tackles, 16 TFL's, and eight sacks in 2011. Huff held offers from schools like Louisville and Cincinnati, but turned them down in favor of the Blue Raiders - something Middle fans will forever be grateful for. Like Bennett, Huff will get an opportunity to contribute early and often in his career.
Raynard Felton - At 6'4", 240 pounds - Ray Felton looks the part of a defensive end at the collegiate level. His size could get him on the field early, but look for him to probably red shirt next year. Coach Rick Stockstill sees the potential to add a lot more mass to Felton's frame - enough which could potentially move him to the interior line before his days at Middle Tennessee are over. Felton is an athlete above everything else, though. A three-year starter for Ribault HS (Fla) in football and basketball, Felton excelled on the gridiron. He received All-Conference accolades in both his junior and senior seasons. In 2011, he registered 75 tackles, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, 14 TFL's, eight sacks, and a touchdown that he returned for a touchdown.
Moving right along, we come to our next group of signees - the linebackers:
T.T. Barber- Middle Tennessee wanted some larger linebackers out of this recruiting class, and that is exactly what they got in T.T. Barber. At 6'1", 215 pounds, Barber is a physical player who lowers his shoulder and lays the wood on a regular basis. Barber received honorable All-State accolades while also being tabbed the 1-A Defensive Player of the Year coming out of Miller County HS in Colquitt (GA). Barber was quite the versatile player in high school, taking snaps at QB, RB and LB. Over his last three years, he averaged over 90 tackles a year. Even more impressive was his off-field activities, as Barber was the vice president of his senior class and a member of the FCA.
Iman Smith - For a player who only started playing football during his senior season, things sure worked out great for Iman Smith. His lone season was enough to garner some serious attention, though. As Signing Day neared, it appeared that Smith could have been heading to the University of Miami. The offer from the Canes never materialized though, and Middle Tennessee pounced on him. At 6'1", 215 pounds, Smith is another large LB that plays a very physical style of football. He would benefit greatly from a redshirt year in order to learn some more nuances of the game, but after that he could potentially be a consistent contributor to the Blue Raider defense. Smith played both sides of the football at Pinellas Park Sr. HS in Oldsmar (Fla) - an attribute that head coach Rick Stockstill is a big fan of.
Next up on the list is the defensive secondary, where the Blue Raider inked commitments from two safeties and a cornerback:
Anfornee Stewart - How can you not be a fan of someone with the nickname 'Freeze'? Coming out of Duluth HS in Duluth (GA), Stewart was mainly known in the recruiting ranks as a standout QB. However, he was also an excellent defender in the secondary. Stewart received All-State, All-Region, and All-County honors in his senior year, and was even selected to participate in the Army All-American Combine. Stewart picked up early offers in the process from Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Purdue and UCF, and reports had him planning a visit to Michigan State the weekend before Signing Day. Nothing came of it though, and Stewart stuck with his commitment to the Blue Raiders, whom he had committed to the week before. Stewart played four different positions in high school, and has a deep knowledge of the game, which will certainly suit him well going forward. Look for him to compete for a spot in the secondary early in his career.
Chris Brown - While he's not your favorite (or least favorite) R&B singer, Brown is a stellar athlete, and perhaps the steal of the class for the Blue Raiders. Brown is another athlete who played both sides of the ball in high school. For Seminole County, he broke the school rushing record this past year, amassing 1805 yards rushing and scoring an astounding 33 touchdowns as well. Brown is also an outstanding coverage safety. He was named first team All-State by the Associate Press as a running back, while the Atlanta Journal Constitution named him to the All-State first team as a defensive back. If not for a hip injury that cost him his junior season, Brown would have had to beat off his potential suitors with a stick. Even with that injury, he received heavy interest from Georgia and Georgia Tech before eventually signing with MT in the late hours of the recruiting process. Keep an eye on Brown over the next few years, as he will be one to watch for in the secondary.
Demetrius Frazier - A 3-star cornerback, Frazier selected the Blue Raiders over an offer from UAB. He also had heavy interest coming late from Kentucky, but ultimately sided with Middle Tennessee. Yet another two-way player in high school, Frazier projects as a CB for the Blue Raiders. As a senior for Brunswick HS (GA), Frazier collected 1175 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, he tallied 48 tackles and five interceptions. While he could potentially vie for playing time early in his career, a redshirt would probably suit Frazier best, as he would benefit from a year in the weight room to tack on some extra mass to his frame. His closing speed and coverage abilities are well above average, though. After watching his highlight reel, it is not hard to see that Middle Tennessee got a special talent in Demetrius Frazier.
Finally, we come to our final position that was filled by the Blue Raiders on Wednesday - the long snapper:
William Eads - When you hear the name Hoover HS out of Hoover (Ala), you immediately think of the success that program has had over the years. Middle Tennessee has recruited the grounds of Hoover before, and got an even better connection this year with the signing of Eads. Long snappers are not the most glorified players by any means, but they are perhaps one of the most important. In that aspect, MT could not have done any better than William Eads. Ranked as the top long snapper in the state, and in the top 10 nationally, Eads was also a finalist for the 2011 Long Snapper of the year award. Eads will provide an accurate snap on anything on all special team duties. Aside from football, Eads served as the president of the FCA in 2011 and was named the FCA Athlete of the Year in 2010.
So there you have it - GoMiddle.com's complete breakdown of the offensive and defensive signees of the 2012 recruiting class. As always, for all the latest news and notes regarding any and all Middle Tennessee athletics, make GoMiddle.com your #1 choice.