HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Murray State.
MURRAY STATE (3-8)
The OVC (MSU was T7th in the OVC in 2017)
COACH: Mitch Stewart – 4th year (10-23 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 21.1 ppg (82nd in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 29.3 ppg (88th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: Just in time for Murray State returning 13 starters, all 4 specialists and 51 letterwinners total — the Ohio Valley Conference looks like it will have as much parity as it has in years. Remember when a game against Austin Peay was a gimme win? Well, stuff like that is not to be taken for granted in 2018. Remember when at least a handful of the teams looked like "checkmark" wins in the preseason? Well, name a few of those this year — times up! The good news for the Racers is they have a great core back — especially on offense where 8 starters and incumbent QB Shuler Bentley return to run the spread attack, and special teams will definitely be a strength this year.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: The tools are here to break through to the program's first winning season since going 7-4 in 2011, when current head coach Mitch Stewart was an assistant coach. The problem is, games against last year's No. 2 and No. 3 OVC teams (Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois) are on the road, and there don't seem to be any breathers on this schedule — except the open date on Sept. 22. Where are the guaranteed wins? That's the big question for everybody in the OVC this year.
TOP RETURNEE: QB Shuler Bentley (1,789 yards passing, 13 TDs)
THE NEXT BEST: DL Kenney Wooten (10 sacks, 6 hurries); PK Gabriel Vicente (2nd Team All OVC – 14 FGs); DB Quincy Williams (57 tackles); WR Jensen Feggins (top returning receiver); OL J.R. Burns (returning starter); OL Cam Carter (returning starter); DB/KR/PR Marquez Sanford (3 INTs, 36 tackles); RB D.J. Pennick (431 yards, 3 TDs).
TOP NEWCOMER: DB Davonta Wilson (No. 5 overall prospect in the HERO Sports 2018 recruiting Top 250 in February – Miami native had two SEC offers – 3-star prospect)
DID YOU KNOW?: Murray State has been quite the stopping off point for future Power Five conference head coaches. Mike Gottfried, Ron Zook, Frank Beamer, Ralph Friedgen, Houston Nutt and Justin Fuente have all served on the Racers' staff.
THE QUOTE: "We are in a lot better shape, Coach [John Michael] Clay, our strength and conditioning coach, has done a tremendous job getting those guys in shape … That's probably the biggest thing, this team is a lot more physically tough, a lot more mentally tough and a lot closer." — head coach Mitch Stewart said this spring
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #GoRacers
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @racersfootball
— MurrayStateFootball (@racersfootball) July 18, 2018
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