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Middle Tennessee 2019: Players to Watch

The Wolverines will face some experienced veterans on the Blue Raiders roster.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines will play the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a night cap at 7:30 p.m. in the Big House on Aug. 31.

Michigan is clearly an early favorite, but the Blue Raiders certainly have some guys who the Wolverines will need to watch out for. Here are three guys Michigan needs to slow down in order to obtain victory.

Ty Lee, WR

Lee enters this season as the NCAA’s active leader in career receptions with 213. Lee also has 2,537 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in his first three seasons at MTSU.

Lee is small, quick and runs efficient routes. He earned a preseason First Team All-C-USA spot from Athlon. The receiver was also named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List as the nation’s top wideout.

Lee will be the No. 1 target against Michigan, there is no doubt about it.

Michigan’s secondary is one of the biggest question marks on the team this upcoming season. Josh Metellus and Lavert Hill will be the highlights of the pass coverage, but outside that, there could be some holes to fill.

The way this game goes south is if MTSU can get Lee going early and often.

The other two guys to watch come from the defensive side of the ball.

Reed Blankenship, S

Blankenship finished with 107 tackles last season and is an excellent closer in the secondary for the Blue Raiders. He swallows up running backs trying to break free and tackles wide receivers in space after bringing in the football. He also is excellent in coverage with four interceptions and 11 passes defended in 2018.

His task against the Wolverines will be extremely difficult. He is going to have to lead the Blue Raiders secondary to slowing down a pass-happy offense from Josh Gattis. What makes it even worse is Blankenship and MTSU will have no idea what is truly coming because there is no definitive film of Gattis as an offensive coordinator.

Gattis will have an artillery of weapons to choose from with Shea Patterson tossing bombs to Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. The spread offense will also open up the run for guys like Christian Turner and Zach Charbonnet.

Blankenship and the Blue Raiders secondary will certainly have their hands full, but if he can help eat up big plays that will be a step in the right direction for MTSU.

Khalil Brooks, LB

The senior is entering the 2019 season No. 5 on the program’s history for sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (33.5).

Brooks made the Second Team All-C-USA squad last season and was a preseason First Team member this year.

He had 6.5 sacks last season and is a formidable force in coverage as well. Brooks made the switch to linebacker from corner in his sophomore season and had six passes defended in 2018.

These three will have the toughest tasks as the leaders of the Blue Raiders squad. If they want to play upset against one of the top teams in the country, the visitors will look for these three to make some big plays in the inaugural game of the season.