Kyle Shurmur vs. Brent Stockstill Round Three: Inside the QB showdown

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Kyle Shurmur vs. Brent Stockstill Round Three: Inside the QB showdown

The Vanderbilt football team plays at Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Photo by Claire Barnett/ Vanderbilt Hustler

The Vanderbilt football team plays at Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Photo by Claire Barnett/ Vanderbilt Hustler

Claire Barnett

The Vanderbilt football team plays at Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Photo by Claire Barnett/ Vanderbilt Hustler

Claire Barnett

Claire Barnett

The Vanderbilt football team plays at Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Photo by Claire Barnett/ Vanderbilt Hustler

Ryan Sheehy

When Vanderbilt takes the field Saturday night against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, it will mark the beginning of Kyle Shurmur’s final campaign leading the Commodores. On the opposite sideline, redshirt senior quarterback Brent Stockstill will also begin his final season with MTSU, where he has played and studied since 2013.

For Shurmur, this season will provide some perspective on his solid campaign in 2017. He set career highs in yards, yards per attempt, completion rate, and touchdowns, despite some inconsistent play down the stretch. Last year marked a breakthrough for Shurmur, who struggled at times during his first year as a starter, but he really took control of the offense in his second and third seasons and looked like a top SEC quarterback when he was on his game.

Shurmur enters the 2018 season without running back Ralph Webb as well as wide receivers Trent Sherfield and C.J. Duncan, all of whom were major offensive contributors, leaving him with few other veterans as playmakers. Given the running game’s struggles last year with Webb, without him there is sure to be even more responsibility placed on the shoulders of Shurmur in his final season.

There has been talk of Shurmur being scouted for next year’s NFL Draft (his father is New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur), and his ability to lead a young offense or even carry it, if need be, will be integral to a potential pro career.

Brent Stockstill will be beginning his sixth and final season at MTSU this fall. The Blue Raider captain will be hoping to continue building on his legacy at the school where he already owns the records for passing yards, touchdowns and completions. After an injury forced him to miss six games last year, he will also be hoping to stay healthy and lead MTSU to its fifth bowl game in six seasons.

Stockstill has lead the Middle Tennessee air raid-style offense for three years. The pass-first offensive scheme has both given him a greater opportunity to develop as a passer and given the team a capable signal caller to orchestrate the attack. Over his years under center, Stockstill has racked up almost 9,000 yards passing with a 3.08 TD/INT ratio, including a 4,000-yard campaign in 2015. He has led the team to a bowl game every year since becoming the starter, and he’ll seek to make it four straight bowls by the time he leaves.

The two play-callers will meet for the third time in three seasons this Saturday in Nashville as Vanderbilt and MTSU conclude a four-year stretch of matchups. Vanderbilt won both previous duels between Shurmur and Stockstill convincingly, 47-24 in 2016, and 28-6 last year.

Shurmur was excellent in last year’s contest, throwing for 296 yards and three scores, but he acted as more of a game manager in 2016.

Stockstill set single-game MTSU records for completions and attempts to go with 399 yards and three touchdowns in 2016’s losing effort. 2017 could not have been more different as the MTSU offense stalled for only 166 passing yards and one touchdown through the air.

The veteran Blue Raider likely won’t find his job any easier this year as Vanderbilt returns much of last year’s defense and added Jason Tarver as defensive coordinator, providing even greater focus on that side of the ball.

For Shurmur and the Commodores, this matchup could be an early indicator of how the fresh-faced passing game will fare this season. If Shurmur and his receivers struggle against a Conference USA opponent, Vanderbilt will likely be in for a long season in an SEC that’s riddled with defensive talent.

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