MTSU Quarterback Brent Stockstill Takes on Unique Challenge

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Brent Stockstill was named Middle Tennessee State’s starting quarterback Monday, five days out from the Blue Raiders’ 2015 season opener against Jackson State. The coach doing the naming?

Rick Stockstill.

Yes, MTSU’s new starting quarterback is the head coach’s son. Stockstill beat out Austin Grammer, who was the Blue Raiders’ starter in 2014. Grammer finished last season with decent numbers — 17 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, a completion percentage over 65, and 445 yards rushing — but he was also inconsistent in MTSU’s final, 1-3 stretch.

Six of his 12 interceptions were thrown in November losses to BYU, FIU and UTEP. That tumble knocked MTSU out of contention for a bowl bid and denied the Blue Raiders a third straight winning season.

“I believe in competition and what you did yesterday doesn’t matter,” Rick Stockstill said in Monday’s press conference, via GoBlueRaiders.com. “You have to improve and earn it every day.

“Just because you name a starter, doesn’t mean the other guy did bad,” the MTSU coach added. “Austin had a good camp. I don’t want to get into specifics, but overall when we looked at total production, we just felt that Brent [Stockstill] was more productive.”

The winner of a quarterback competition faces inherent pressure. A reserve who threw all of three passes the season prior and beat out the returning starter faces pressure on top of that. When the reserve is also the head coach’s son, the pressure is at a level few can understand.

That old adage about the back-up quarterback being the most popular guy on the roster holds especially true when the starter is someone outsiders assume isn’t worthy of the job. I wrote about the challenges of being a coach’s son during the NCAA Tournament, when Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter and UCLA’s Bryce Alford were stars in their teams’ advancement through the Field of 64.

Alford’s been a favorite target for scrutiny in his career. The noxious UCLA blog Bruins Nation pushed the hashtag #DaddyBall to criticize Alford in his time at Westwood. I suspect the first time Brent Stockstill is intercepted, the disgruntled among the MTSU fan base will similarly dismiss the quarterback’s credentials for running the offense.

It’s a difficult position to be in, no doubt. The added pressure will force Brent Stockstill to be that much better. His efforts get a boost from a veteran offensive line, which returned four starters from the 2014 lineup. MTSU also has a stable of running backs Rick Stockstill says, “could start for a lot of teams across the country.”

Brent Stockstill gets to settle into his new job by facing FCS Jackson State, but travels to Alabama for his second career start. Escaping Tuscaloosa relatively unscathed is key for the Blue Raiders, who embark on Conference USA season the following week — and it’s in C-USA where Stockstill’s naming of Stockstill the starting quarterback will truly count.

MTSU is an intriguing dark horse to contend with front-runners Western Kentucky and Marshall in C-USA East. The Blue Raiders also draw Power Five opponents Illinois and Vanderbilt midway through the season, both of which are winnable games.

If Son can live up to the pressure and validates Dad’s faith in him, the Blue Raiders will be right back in the hunt for a bowl bid.