For some time now, Ole Miss coaches have talked about the unknowns concerning the Memphis football team. Much of that comes from a group of players who have transferred in.
Those players have been waiting for their chance to get back on the field. Many were able to practice with the team last season but could not see game action until 2009. The group includes TE DajLeon Farr (Miami), DB DeRon Furr (Auburn), LB Jamon Hughes (Mississippi State), RB Darcel Johnson (Arkansas), LB Derek Odom (LSU) and RB Lance Smith (Wisconsin).
Furr was named the Defensive MVP of the 2009 Blue-Gray Spring Game after logging seven tackles and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown. Hughes and Smith both earned the Top Newcomer Awards at the spring game for their efforts.
In addition to the above players, the Tigers picked up a couple of transfers in August who are eligible to play this season. Kellen Heard transferred from Texas A&M, where he was a defensive lineman and earned his bachelor's degree. He made the shift to the offensive line during August camp. Marcus Ball, a transfer from Florida State, was cleared the last day of camp and is expected to see the field early.
Memphis had hoped to have the services of receiver Jermaine McKenzie, a transfer from Miami, but the NCAA denied his request for a waiver to play without sitting out. So he will be able to practice this season but cannot participate in games.
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said preparing for the "new" Tigers and also some new assistant coaches on the Memphis staff is challenging. But they look to the top of the program to try to gauge what it is that's happening within.
"It's just Tommy West to me," Nutt said on Monday of this week. "He's very involved. Knowing Tommy from year's past, his philosophy and what he does, that's how we prepare for it."
Much has also been made of the tall Tiger receivers and how the Rebels will defend them. Carlos Singleton is 6-foot-9, while Duke Calhoun is almost 6-5. Even tight end Deven Onarheim is 6-8.
Singleton, a senior, returns to the lineup and, along with Calhoun, gives Memphis its one-two punch in the receiving corps. Singleton can give opposing DBs fits and has the arm strength to go up top and pull the jump ball down. He opens the 2009 season tied for the school record in career TD receptions with 19. He and Calhoun should finish their careers as the top two receivers in school history as Singleton needs just 23 receptions and 266 yards to surpass the current record holders in both categories.
Calhoun, also a senior, opens the 2009 season with a 37-game active receiving streak. That ranks third nationally among active streaks heading into the ‘09 season. Calhoun has caught a pass in each of his 37 games in a Tiger uniform. In 2008, he ranked second on the team in receptions (40) and third in receiving yards (487).
Calhoun holds the school record with seven career 100-yard games. He also ranks second in career receptions with 144 and third in career yards with 2,058. He will need just four receptions and 66 yards to hold school records in both categories.
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said Thursday the Rebels will play their own game and try to do what they do best against the tall Tiger pass catchers.
"You can't defend size," Nix said. "You've just got to play your technique. You've got to play the way you're coached. You've got to play with your heart. If you can come up with the ball in your hands or keep the receiver from catching it, then you've done your job."
An old, familiar player to Ole Miss fans is
Will Hudgens. The 6-4, 225-pound senior suffered a broken leg in 2005 and again in 2006.
He's listed as the backup quarterback to starter Arkelon Hall for Sunday's game. Hudgens received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
Hall started last year's game in Oxford, but Hudgens saw considerable playing time in the Rebels' 41-24 victory.
Hudgens finished the game with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 8-of-15 passing. He also rushed for 27 yards on nine carries with one touchdown. His three TDs responsible for was a career high for the veteran from Ridgeway High in Memphis.
Tiger Transfers, Tall Receivers
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