The Tigers are coming off an awful 1-11 season. They lost their starting quarterback, Ryan Williams, to transfer. No Tiger made the preseason All-Conference USA football team.
They were recently named one of the most utterly unwatchable teams in recent memory by SBNation.com: "You could cite the rankings, sure: their 116th ranked rushing offense, 119th ranked scoring offense, 115th rank in total defense, or their 118th ranked turnover margin. Any of those would suffice, but focus instead on the only enjoyable element of Memphis football: players celebrating wildly after making marginally good plays while losing by thirty points."
Senior defensive lineman Frank Trotter, whom Memphis delegated as its representative at last Sunday's C-USA Media Day, isn't oblivious to his program's circumstances.
In order for things to turn around, however, Trotter said he and his teammates need to act like last season never happened.
"Our attitude has to change," Trotter said. "We can't keep thinking about 1-11. We have to keep it in our mind, but we don't want to keep dwelling on it. We have to have a mindset that we can beat big-name teams, that we can go to the C-USA championship."
But even during the best years in program history, when DeAngelo Williams was bursting out of the backfield and Danny Wimprine was passing for program records, the Tigers couldn't quite reach the Liberty Bowl. And, since then, the Tigers have only created more distance between themselves and the C-USA title.
"We know that everybody's looking for us to have another bad year," Trotter said. "We're just feeding off that. It just gives us more energy, making us more competitive and making us want to work harder. The whole summer, we've just been focusing on becoming a family and one unit. Nobody's worried about individual (stats) because we're one big team."
When Memphis coach Larry Porter was hired two years ago, he was not only charged with turning a depleted roster into a half-competitive one but also changing the entire culture of the program.
Porter hasn't been as successful with the former, but say this for the second year head coach: He's made believers out of his roster.
"At first, it was very difficult because everyone was all for themselves," Trotter said. "After we realized that we had to come together to win games, everybody was buying in to turn around the tradition. Whatever we're asked to do this season, we're going to do it."
Whether or not the Tigers' newfound complicity translates into victories remains to be seen. What has materialized for Porter and the Tigers, though, is significant wins in recruiting battles recently, and that alone gives Trotter peace.
"I'm excited for the program regardless of whether I'm here or not," Trotter said. "We want Memphis to be good overall, so when I come back I can be like, ‘Yeah, I played for them and they're a good team.' I'm just excited and glad they're always going to be making improvements."