Only one new starter had to be found on Middle Tennessee State’s offensive line this season, but Nick Nunez was not the first choice.
In fact, he wasn’t even the second option. But once Nunez made his debut as starting center, he has not left the lineup. He is slated to make his eighth consecutive start against Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl on Monday.
“I feel like I worked hard to get here. But I was playing some guard, and I just kind of fell into the center position,” Nunez said. “But I kept getting better andbetter at it every week, and I guess we are on a little bit of a roll right now.” MTSU has rushed for 2,500 yards this season, and its 208.3 yards-pergame average is the team’s highest since 2002. The bulk of that total has been gained with Nunez in the middle, including a 273yard average during MTSU’s current five-game winning streak.
The Blue Raiders also have given up just one sack in the past six games.
Coach Rick Stockstill said MTSU has followed a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality on the offensive line.
“There’s nothing superstitious about it. But wehave had the same guys in the offensive line the last few games,” Stockstill said. “So from a continuity standpoint and communication standpoint, you don’t want to disrupt that.
“But we have had success running the ball and protecting the quarterback, and (Nunez) has earned that spot. He has been very dependable up there and very consistent with his snaps.” Entering the season, center was the lone vacancy on a line that returned four starters.
Nunez, a junior college transfer last year, started this season as the No. 3 center behind redshirt freshman Josh Chester andsenior utility man Jesse Grisham. Both struggled through injuries early in the season, giving Nunez his shot in MTSU’s sixth game versus East Carolina.
The five-man front has now remained intact through MTSU’s fivegame winning streak heading into the bowl game.
Chester, who still earned Conference USA all-freshman honors, still plays at times, but Nunez remains the starter.
“When one of us has a hot streak, we’ll stick with that guy for a while,” Nunez said. “Our personnel has changed on the line and at running back this year, but we keep running downhill.”