We are less than twenty-four hours away from MSU's season opener at home against Monmouth. I took a look at three of the key match-ups fans will want to look for on Thursday night.
The most interesting match-up will be when the Monmouth Hawks offense takes the field for the first time. The Bobcats defense has been hit hard by injuries in the off-season, so how the defense responds will be vital.
It will not be an easy task for the Cats as Monmouth has brought aboard a new starting quarterback this season. Brandon Hill, a transfer from the University of Massachusetts, will be at the helm for the Hawks offense. There is little video of him for the team to watch due to his transfer and this being the first time MSU has ever played Monmouth.
One thing that the team does know is that he is big and he can throw. He is a 6'5 quarterback so not very mobile but he will be able to get the ball over the defense.
"Obviously with his size he's gonna be able to get the ball over the line," said MSU head coach Rob Ash. "Those kind of guys can stand in the pocket and withstand the rush and we won't be able to bat balls down at the line of scrimmage."
"He's more so a thrower, not so much a runner," said senior defensive back Steven Bethley. "With our offense DeNarius is capable of running. With Brandon, coach Marshall told us he's more of a cheat game type so to be aware of the bubble screens to the receivers."
Speaking of receivers, Neal Sterling from Monmouth will be one to keep an eye on lining up for the Hawks. He can line up on the outside as a deep threat or on the inside, making it much more of a challenge for the Bobcats secondary to see who will match-up against him on each down. Last year Sterling was third on the team with 33 catches, 386 yards for the season with 5 touchdowns.
"That was the guy that popped off the screen," said Bethley. "6'4, 235 pounds at receiver. We don't go against receivers like that all the time so it will definitely be a challenge."
Receivers will need to get open for the Bobcats if they want to win Thursday night, which will not be an easy task. Monmouth pulled in a transfer from a big time school this season. Tevrin Brandon, a transfer from the University of Connecticut, who in his first year on the team has already been named a team captain.
"The thing that sticks out to me is him being a team captain," said MSU senior wide receiver Tanner Bleskin. "I've been here five years and I got voted team captain. I can't imagine being at a place for one year and being voted team captain. Obviously a guy coming down from UConn, he's played some big time football."
There will be lots to watch on all sides of the ball tomorrow evening, which Coach Ash says will tell a lot about his team.
"You find out more about your team in the first game than any other point in the season because it's all new."