CoogFans' Opponent Preview - Memphis

There may be a winning spirit back in Memphis after the hiring of alum Larry Porter as the new head coach of the football team; however, that spirit may take some time before it turns into actual victories.

Memphis Tigers
Conference USA

2009 Record: (2-10, 1-7)
2009 Bowl: none
Coach: Larry Porter (First year at Memphis, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Price
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Hopson

Returning Leaders
Rushing: Tyler Bass, QB, 180 yards
Passing: Tyler Bass, QB, 673 yards
Receiving: Marucs Rucker, WR, 241 yards
Tackles: Jamon Hughes, LB, 87
Sacks: Dontari Poe, DT, 2.0
Interceptions: Marcus Ball, S, 2; Bryan Wright, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR Cam Baker, LB Winston Bowens, S Darius Davis, CB D.A. Griffin, OT Ronald Leary, LB Jeremy Longstreet, G Joel McCleod, TE Deven Onarheim, C Brad Paul, G Dominik Riley, DT Frank Trotter, OT Tommy Walker
Key Losses: DE Jada Brown, WR Duke Calhoun, QB Will Hudgens, LB Greg Jackson, CB Deante' Lamar, LB Jeremy Rockette, WR Carlos Singleton, S Alton Starr, RB Curtis Steele, DE Greg Terrell, DE Josh Weaver

There may be a winning spirit back in Memphis after the hiring of alum Larry Porter as the new head coach of the football team; however, that spirit may take some time before it turns into actual victories. But coming off of a 2-10 season, it should not be too difficult for the Tigers to at least show some improvement. Yet, just about all their skill players are gone, including running back Curtis Steele and receivers Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton, so there are a ton of holes that need to be filled.

Strengths:
One place where Memphis does not need to fill many holes is on the lines. On the offensive side of the ball, all five starters are returning, led by tackle Ronald Leary and guard Dominik Riley. Those two should make life much easier for the new offensive skill players. On the other side of the ball, the potential is there because of sophomore Dontari Poe. Poe was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise sketchy defense. With the return of Frank Trotter, Winston Bowers and Justin Thompson, the defensive line does not lack in experience. However, they did not do a very good job getting to the quarterback and that has to change if the defense hopes to improve. The linebackers are not too bad either led by Jamon Hughes. If Ricky Holloway can build off a relatively successful freshman campaign and Jeremy Longstreet can become a senior leader, the front seven will be in decent shape.

Weaknesses:
With all the skill players gone, the offense cannot bail out the defense again this season. Tyler Bass has the most experience in the system to take over the quarterback duties, but he only played in four games before going down with an injury in 2009. Bass will have some competition from Miami transfer Cannon Smith who is the more talented passer of the two, but lacks game experience. The running back situation is just as much of a mess. Steele carried this offense and ended up rushing for 1,239 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior campaign. Replacing him will not be easy. Bass is actually the team's returning rusher, but there are a couple of somewhat experienced running backs returning. Lance Smith is the most notable after tallying 149 yards on 46 carries a year ago. Marcus Hightower has some potential, but he will likely spend most of his time returning kicks. The wildcard in the race for carries is talented freshman Jerrell Rhodes. Yet, no matter who wins the starting job, nobody is going to replace Steele's numbers. The lack of playmakers at wide receiver will not make anything easier for an offense that will likely struggle much of the year. Cam Baker and Marcus Rucker are not bad players and Jermaine McKenzie could provide a nice spark after transferring from Miami, but Calhoun and Singleton are a tough duo to follow.

The Bottom Line:
While the offense adjusts to their new skill players, the defense will have to win some games. That puts a lot of pressure on the front four to actually get to the quarterback. This is a team that only tallied 1.58 sacks per game last year and that number has to go up or the secondary will again get torched in the pass happy Conference USA. The good news for the secondary is that they have experience, led by corner D.A. Griffin and strong safety Marcus Ball, but they could not stop anybody last year and it very well could be more of the same in 2010.

2009 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 158.25 (53rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 214.83 (64, 7)
Total Offense: 373.08 (63, 7)
Scoring Offense: 21.83 (95, 9)
Rushing Defense: 174.08 (96, 8)
Pass Defense: 283.42 (117, 11)
Total Defense: 457.50 (116, 11)
Scoring Defense: 34.83 (110, 10)
Turnover Margin: -.75 (107, 10)
Sacks: 1.58 (89, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (35, 4)


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