Scouting Report

The Ole Miss Rebels kickoff the 2006 football season tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 against The University of Memphis Tigers in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Don Sheffield gives us some insight to the Tigers and the series history with a scouting report. Read about it inside.

The Ole Miss Rebels kick off their 112th football season Sunday versus the Memphis Tigers. It will be the second season for Ed Orgeron, 3-8, as head coach of the Rebels.

Memphis is coached by Tommy West, 32-28, who will be entering his sixth year at the helm of the Tigers, and 12th year as a head football coach. West began his head coaching career at Clemson, going 35-35 in six seasons. West, who graduated from Tennessee, coached one season at Ole Miss on Steve Sloan's staff as the running backs coach in 1979.

Memphis is coming off a 7-5 season and played in their third consecutive bowl game. The Tigers defeated Akron (Ohio) 38-31 in the Motor City Bowl to close out their season.

Memphis returns 14 starters and 56 lettermen to this year's squad. The two big losses from the Tiger squad of a year ago are DeAngelo Williams, the career leading rusher with 6,026 yards, and Steven Gostkowski, their sure-footed kicker.

The Ole Miss-Memphis series dates back to 1921, when Memphis was known as the West Tennessee Teachers College. Sunday's game will be the 56th meeting between the two schools with Ole Miss holding a decided 43-10-2 record over Memphis.

Ole Miss won the battle last year at the Liberty Bowl 10-6. The victory was preserved by Rebel LB Garry Pack's interception, ending the Tigers' last minute effort to pull out the win. In games played in Oxford, Ole Miss holds a 16-2 advantage over Memphis. The Tigers' two wins coming in 1984, 17-6, and 2004, 20-13. This game will mark the 34th time the Memphis-Ole Miss game has been the opening game of the season for both teams with the Rebels holding a 28-3-2 winning record over the Tigers. Ole Miss in home openers has a stellar 56-4 record.

Offensively, the Memphis Tigers like to spread the field, go no-huddle and throw the football. Randy Fitchner is the Tiger's offensive coordinator who has 21 years of coaching on his resume. Fitchner was a defensive back in college at Purdue, graduating in 1985.

Fitchner will likely start 3 seniors, 5 juniors, 2 sophomores and 1 freshman against Ole Miss. The Tigers' offensive line averages 296 pounds per man, their receivers average 213 and backfield averages 203 pounds. Memphis has experienced wide receivers, returning their top three from the 2005 team. Senior # 84 Ryan Scott, 6-4, 215, led the Tigers in receptions, catching 37 passes for a 15.6 yard average per reception with 3 touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore # 80 Maurice Jones, 6-4, 225, averaged 10.5 yards per catch, plus the Tigers have a redshirt freshman # 89 Carlos Singleton who is 6-8 and 215. Add to that list a true freshman #22 Duke Calhoun who is 6-4, a receiver Ole Miss recruited hard.

Tommy West earlier this week named #13 Martin Hankins, 6-2, 205, as the Tigers' starting quarterback. Hankins sat out last year after transferring from Southeastern Louisiana where he played two years under Hal Mumme. At SELA, Hankins led Division I-AA in passing his sophomore year, throwing for 4,240 yards. In two seasons he threw for 7,777 yards and 65 touchdowns. His style matches very well the offensive style of Randy Fitchner, plus he has excellent, experienced receivers to throw the ball too. Backing up Hankins will be # 7 Will Hudgins, who played against Ole Miss last year after the Tigers lost their starting quarterback in the game, Patrick Byrne. Byrne will likely handle the kickoff chores for the Tigers, possibly the placements.

Memphis losing DeAngelo Williams from last year's team is similar to Ole Miss losing Eli Manning after the 2003 season. The Tigers are counting on junior # 5 Joseph Doss filling Williams' shoes, but that is a tall order to fill for the 5-9, 200 pound running back. Doss was the Tigers' third best rusher in ‘05, gaining 465 yards while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. His longest run was 31 yards and he scored two touchdowns. The Tigers return three starters in the offensive line led by left guard # 63 Blake Butler. Butler is the son of former Tiger All-American linebacker, Keith Butler.

On the defensive side of the football, the Rebels must be prepared to face most anything from Memphis. Tiger defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn has been known to run some unusual defensive formations and use a wide range of defensive blitzes to confuse his opponent.

Dunn is entering his 28th year in coaching, having played defensive back and quarterback at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in the middle to late 1960's. In 2005, the Tiger defense was burned for 405.4 yards per game, 125.6 on the ground and 279.8 through the air. Dunn will likely start the game with 5 seniors, 3 juniors and 3 sophomores. The 3-3-5 Memphis defense will depend more on speed and quickness than size. The Tiger defensive front three average 260 pounds, their three linebackers average 232 and five defensive backs weigh 194 on average.

Leading the Memphis defense will be a former Lafayette County High School standout, # 45 Wesley Smith. The senior, 6-3, 210 pound Smith led the Tigers in tackles in ‘05 with 82 total. He was an All-Conference USA selection at free safety. Another Mississippi born player for Memphis is # 30, Quinton McCrary. McCrary, 6-2, 232, is a redshirt junior who prepped at Columbus and plays outside linebacker. He only played in two games last season before being lost to injury. A good cover corner for Memphis is # 26, Dustin Lopez. A senior defensive end, # 99 Rubio Phillips, played in only one game due to an injury. Two Tiger defenders will be former Rebels, defensive ends Jada Brown and Corey Mills.

The Tigers return one of the better punters in the nation from last season. Senior punter # 34 Michael Gibson is another Mississippi born Tiger who is being touted as a possible All-American candidate. Gibson signed with Auburn out of high school, returned to Itawamba Community College for his sophomore year, then signed with Memphis. Last year Gibson averaged 44.6 yards per punt with a long of 70 yards. Placement kickers are still undecided according to West.

Joseph Doss will likely handle the Tiger kickoff returns. In 2005 Doss returned 19 kicks for an average of 22.3 yards per return. His long return was 35 yards. A defensive back, # 8 Brandon McDonald, probably will return punts for the Tigers.

This game continues to be one many Rebel fans consider a no-win situation. Memphis traditionally gets sky high for the game because it is one of their biggest games of the season on their schedule.

Ole Miss must be alert for trick plays, the LB's must make their reads and cover their receivers. The entire Rebel team must tackle well one-on-one in the open field. On offense, the Rebs' new OC Dan Werner has declared he will try to establish a solid running game, but he knows he must mix in misdiretion, play-action and other means to spread the Tiger defense out.

Dave Barnett will do play-by-play, Bill Curry color and Dave Ryan will be on the sideline for the 3:32 P.M. central ESPN telecast.

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