MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee Christian’s pass-happy offense has led to big seasons for its young receivers
Three receivers — junior Oakley Starling and sophomores Justin Winn and Austin Melton have combined to catch 51 passes for 583 yards. All of the Cougars’ receivers are underclassmen.
“We’ve got other guys that do a great job catching the ball too,” MTCS coach Brian Stewart said. “We’ve done a good job distributing the ball to different guys. Everybody has a couple catches with four or five different ones catching it a game.
“We’ve had to rely heavily on if we can throw the football. Here’s the thing. Everybody has drops. But when we have drops, it just kills us. Our guys almost have to be perfect.”
That wasn’t the case last week in a disappointing 41-0 loss to Community. Quarterback Brent Hofbauer was just 7-of-22 passing for a season-low 62 yards and had three interceptions against the Vikings.
Luckily, the Cougars had a season-high 195 rushing yards on 32 carries.
Winn and Starling are the Cougars’ top receivers. Winn leads the team with 22 catches for 270 yards. Starling has 18 catches for 196 yards.
“We have relied heavily on them,” Stewart said. “And they are our big-play receivers. They are the guys that we get it down the field more to them. But the offensive line did a good job opening holes where we could rush for almost 200 yards. If we can do that and hold on to the football, we can win some games.”
MTCS (0-6, 0-2) plays at Forrest (3-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Winn and Starling led the Cougars in receiving in 2011. Winn caught 27 passes for 345 yards a year ago. Starling had 14 catches for 246 yards.
“I think Hofbauer has done a great job getting the ball to all of our receivers,” Starling said. “We have a good balance.”
Starling said the potential of a better run game will help the passing attack.
“If we can establish the run game, that could really open up the passing game,” he said.
Winn also has practiced at quarterback and Stewart said he could play some at quarterback this week against the Rockets.
Quarterback Brent Hofbauer has struggled at times this season. He currently is 67-of-155 passing for 660 yards. However, he has 13 interceptions with just two touchdown passes.
Winn said his viewpoint as a quarterback helps him at receiver.
“I think being a previous quarterback helps me because I know where (Hofbauer) likes to throw it,” Winn said. “Being able to judge the ball in the air and knowing where he wants me gives me an edge over the defense.
“The experience I had as a freshman has been huge for me. It’s helped me this year.”