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Murray State Racers facing high expectations
Murray State is facing some high expectations for the 2011 season, thanks to a lineup full of returning starters.
Second-year coach Chris Hatcher isn’t sure if the Racers are deserving of those expectations, but he’ll take them anyway.
“We’ve got an old saying that we’d rather be clotheslined by a high bar than trip over a low bar,” Hatcher said. “Our expectations are high no matter what.”
With 10 offensive starters and nine defensive starters returning this season, Murray State has been picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference this season. The Racers are also looking for their first Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot since 2002, the last season they won the league championship.
After winning five of its last six games in 2011, Murray State finished 6-5 and 5-3 OVC for its first winning season since 2004. The Racers lost only to Eastern Kentucky during the stretch and won 72-59 in a record-setting homecoming shootout with Missouri State.
Hatcher plans to build on that late-season success with his high-powered “Hatch Attack” offense that will prominently feature OVC preseason offensive player of the year and Walter Payton Award candidate Casey Brockman at quarterback and senior running back Mike Harris.
Brockman, a former walk-on and hometown favorite who ran the spread offense at Murray’s Calloway County High School, started the Racers’ final six games in 2010, passing for 2,442 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for seven TDs.
Harris rushed for 904 and 10 touchdowns in seven games but had to sit out the final two with an injury.
“I really feel like if we win an OVC championship, the player of the year will be Mike Harris,” Brockman said. “If we have a lot of success, that means he’ll be running for 1,800-1,900 yards, which I won’t be mad about.”
All-American return specialist Dontrell Johnson, also an all-OVC cornerback, boasted a national-leading 22.8-yard average on punt returns last season. Kienan Cullen is a three-time All-OVC punter and kicker.
Murray lost All-American receiver Marcus Harris but returns senior receiver Dexter Barnett and sophomore Arthur Brackett who set team freshman records with 62 catches, 617 yards, 3 touchdowns. Junior center Brock Rydecki anchors the offensive line.
The Racers will need more consistent play on defense, where end Jamal Crook is a fourth-year starter. Another Murray native, Brandon Wicks, was the leading tackler as a freshman strong safety and is moving to outside linebacker.
Murray opens at Louisville on Thursday, Sept. 1, in a game nationally televised on ESPNU.
By Evansville Courier & Press