2008 Record: (6-7, 4-4)
2008 Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl vs. South Florida (L 14-41)
Coach: Tommy West (47-51 at Memphis, 82-86 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Clay Helton
Defensive Coordinator: Kenny Ingram
Rushing: Curtis Steele, RB, 1,223 yards
Passing: Akrelon Hall, QB, 2,275 yards
Receiving: Carlos Singleton, WR, 791 yards
Tackles: Alton Starr, S, 90
Sacks: Greg Jackson, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Greg Jackson, LB, 1; Deante' Lamar, CB, 1; Alton Starr, S, 1; Josh Weaver, DE, 1
Other Key Returnees: LB Winston Bowens, DE Jada Brown, WR Duke Calhoun, CB D.A. Griffin, LB Jeremy Longstreet, K Matt Reagan, G Dominik Riley
Key Losses: DT Freddie Barnett, C Philip Beliles, WR Steven Black, G Michael Denning, DT Clinton McDonald, DE Corey Mills, S Brandon Patterson, OT Brandon Pearce, TE Brett Russell, OT Cody Stubblefield, WR Earnest Williams
Memphis may have had higher expectations last year than a 6-7 record, but any time they can make a bowl, it is a good thing. Coach Tommy West has a losing record during his tenure with the Tigers, but he does enough to give the fan base hope every single year. This season might not be the breakout year, but it could happen sooner or later.
Yet, this offense has the potential to be extremely explosive. Quarterback Akrelon Hall had a solid season, completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,275 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hall is also a capable runner and that dual-threat ability is a big bonus in this offense. When Hall is not running, Curtis Steele will be. The 6-0 senior rushed for 1,223 yards and seven touchdowns during his first year at Memphis. With the return of Carlos Singleton, who has 19 career receiving touchdowns, the Tigers offense has all the tools they need to be successful. A big year from 6-4 receiver Duke Calhoun would help too. Using his size Calhoun, who ranked second on the team with 40 receptions a year ago, should be a quality target in the red zone.
But the offense will not be as effective if the offensive line cannot fill some huge holes. Center Dominik Riley is the lone returning starter and he has to step up and become a leader of the unit. The Tigers only gave up 1.31 sacks per game last year and while some of that is due to Hall's ability to scramble, the line certainly deserves a ton of credit. The defense was decent last year, and should be again this year, but most of the front line needs to be replaced. Tackle Clinton McDonald was the best pass rusher on the team and now he is gone. Corey Mills and Freddie Barnett have also run out of eligibility and this team needs to find a few players who can get into the backfield or the entire defense will suffer.
The Bottom Line:
The secondary is in good shape with Alton Starr, Deante Lamar and D.A. Griffin returning and the linebackers could end up being some of the best in the conference. Greg Jackson is ready to emerge as a superstar, Winston Bowers is now an experienced upperclassman, Jeremy Longstreet is a tackling machine and Derrick Odom, a transfer from LSU, might be the most talented of them all. However, all the quality and experience in the back seven will do Memphis no good at all if Jada Brown and Demetrius Culpepper cannot get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
2008 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 194.85 (22nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 222.38 (51, 7)
Total Offense: 417.23 (26, 5)
Scoring Offense: 27.15 (48, 6)
Rushing Defense: 152.85 (76, 5)
Pass Defense: 200.92 (52, 3)
Total Defense: 353.77 (57, 3)
Scoring Defense: 27.15 (68, 4)
Turnover Margin: .08 (55, 5)
Sacks: 1.77 (72, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (21, 2)