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Murray State aims to become OVC contenders

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm •  Published: July 28, 2014
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Fifth-year Murray State coach Chris Hatcher has returned the program to OVC relevance thanks to his exciting "Hatch Attack" offense.

The Racers will need more results if they hope to be serious contenders.

Murray State averaged nearly 400 yards and 30 points per game in finishing 6-6 last season. All-American receiver Walter Powell is gone to the NFL, but returning wideouts Jeremy Harness, Paul Rice, Nevar Griffin and Janawski Davis combined for 122 catches.

The Racers return seven starters on offense and six on defense after beating both Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky in the same year for the first time. But they'll begin this with a new starting quarterback for the third straight season.

Senior Travis Taylor heads up a strong linebacker corps. Taylor forced a fumble on the opening drive of the season at Missouri and led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss along with 4.5 sacks.

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Here are five things to watch as Murray State tries to move up in the OVC:

ARMS RACE: Murray State's QB options are senior Parks Frazier, who threw for 666 yards in seven games with a pair of starts, while South Alabama transfer C.J. Bennett had a solid spring. K.D. Humphries redshirted last season after playing in five games as a freshman.

PERSEVERENCE: The Racers played three overtime games last year, knocking off this year's OVC preseason favorite Jacksonville State 35-34 and EKU 34-27 in the finale. Murray State fell 37-34 in triple OT at Southeast Missouri.

BACK IN BACKFIELD: Juniors Pokey Harris and Jalen Harrington both return to running back after playing receiver last season. Sophomore Marcus Holliday is the top returning rusher, and Kent State transfer Roman Clay is eligible after sitting out in 2013.

OFFENSIVE ANCHORS: Three-year starter Drew Kelley played every game the last two seasons at left tackle after action at both tight end and tackle as a freshman. Kamalie Matthews returns at right tackle, and guard Robert Olive also started all 12 games.

D-LINE TRANSFERS: Greg Clark spent the previous four seasons at Tennessee, and Jamaine Brooks missed last season after starting six games for Louisville in 2012.

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Predicted Ohio Valley Conference finish: Sixth