Week 1 Matchup - Memphis vs. Miss State
Memphis DT Frank Trotter & MSU DT Fletcher Cox
Memphis DT Frank Trotter & MSU DT Fletcher Cox
Posted May 12, 2011

Looking ahead at the Week One Matchups - Memphis vs. Mississippi State

Preview 2011

Week 1 - Memphis vs. Miss St

- 2011 Mississippi State Preview | 2011 Mississippi State Offense
- 2011 Mississippi State Defense | 2011 Mississippi State Depth Chart

- 2011 Memphis Preview | 2011 Memphis Offense
- 2011 Memphis Defense | 2011 Memphis Depth Chart


Offense: The only direction is up for the Memphis offense ... at least statistically. The Tigers were among the nation's feeblest attacks, ranking 119th nationally in scoring and 117th in total offense. In an attempt to address myriad issues, the staff is moving from a pro-style approach to more of a spread system. Apparently, it didn't meet the approval of starting QB Ryan Williams, who has decided to transfer, leaving the school with unproven Andy Summerlin and Will Gilchrist to compete for the job. Whoever gets the ball will try to get it in the hands of RB Jerrell Rhodes and WR Marcus Rucker, Memphis' two best threats, as often as possible. Even more than the uncertainty behind center, the Tigers need to address an offensive line that got trucked regularly in 2010 and returns few familiar faces. While there's speed and upside potential at the skill positions, it'll get lost in the mix if the front wall can't do a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.

Defense: After having absolutely nothing go right in 2010, Memphis is seeking a defensive do-over. The Tigers were shredded in every way imaginable, ranking no higher than eighth in Conference USA in run defense, pass defense, scoring D, sacks, or takeaways. The promising news for second-year coordinator Jay Hopson is that he used a ton of young players throughout last season. DL Frank Trotter, NT Dontari Poe, and LB DeRon Furr will continue to be the mainstays, but there's hope that last fall's freshmen have grown up. Underclassmen, such as DE Corey Jones and corners Lonnie Ballentine, Taurean Nixon, and Mohammed Seisay represent hope for better days down the road. It's hard to imagine things getting any worse for a unit that was treated like a piñata in 2010.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Marcus Rucker. Rucker became the Tiger quarterbacks' best friend a year ago, using his size, speed, and leaping ability to blossom into one of the league's young stars. Despite working with a rookie quarterback and getting increasing attention during the year, the 6-4, 180-pounder still managed to catch 41 passes for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. Although he'll be working with a new passer this fall, no one expects his production to take a hit.

Best defensive player: Senior DL Frank Trotter. Ahhh, if only the Tigers had a half-dozen or so more players like Trotter. Versatile, hard-working, and productive, he's a coach's dream on the defensive line. While only 6-2 and 265 pounds, he's equally effective inside as outside, using his athletic ability and honed fundamentals to rack up 80 tackles and 16.5 stops for loss a year ago. Always playing to the whistle, he's also a model performer for the younger Memphis defenders.

Mississippi State

Offense: The offense took the leap forward that everyone was hoping it would. Under head coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning, MSU went from 115th in the nation in scoring in 2008, to 72nd in 2009, to 45th in 2010, and went from 113th in total offense in 2008, to 65th in 2009, to 42nd last year. The running game became dominant, rolling for 215 yards per game, and while the passing game wasn't special, it improved over the last half of the season. The quarterback situation is tremendous with Chris Relf a rising superstar and Tyler Russell a top talent pushing for the job, while the receiving corps is experienced, if not spectacular. Vick Ballard is a scoring machine who leads a deep group of backs, and they'll get to work behind a strong line that should be terrific at four spots, but has a major issue at left tackle with Derek Sherrod off to the NFL.

Defense: There wasn't much of a pass rush, the secondary got lit up for over 200 yards a game on a regular basis, and there were too many problems over the second half of the year against strong attacks, but the Bulldogs managed to finish 21st in the nation in scoring defense and were terrific against the run. Now there's work to do. The secondary gets everyone back led by two nice corners in Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks, but they need more help from a pass rush that isn't likely to come from a line that loses Pernell McPhee to the NFL. The defensive tackles, Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, are going to be terrific against the run, and they'll have to be with concerns at linebacker. Chris White and K.J. Wright did everything for the linebacking corps and the defense, and they'll be almost impossible to replace early on.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Chris Relf. When was the last time the SEC West saw a huge, mobile quarterback with a live arm and rare skills? No, Relf isn't going to be Cam Newton, but he turned into a strong all-around playmaker and leader as last year went on, and he could be poised for a national breakout year if he can continue to hold off hotshot sophomore Tyler Russell. As good as Relf is, Russell might turn out to be even better once he starts to become a better decision maker.

Best defensive player: Junior DT Fletcher Cox and/or Junior DT Josh Boyd. The two are almost the same size, and while they're not huge widebodies for the interior, they get the job done. Cox is a bit quicker at getting into the backfield and is a bit more disruptive, while Boyd can also drop a ballcarrier behind the line without a problem. It's a stretch to call these two anchors, but they're two very good, very productive rocks to work around.