2011 Memphis Preview
Memphis OT Ronald Leary
Memphis OT Ronald Leary
Posted May 12, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Memphis Tigers

Memphis Tigers

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Larry Porter
Second year: 1-11
Returning Lettermen
Off. 16, Def. 19, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 29
Ten Best Memphis Players
1. DL Frank Trotter, Sr.
2. WR Marcus Rucker, Jr.
3. DT Dontari Poe, Jr.
4. RB Jerrell Rhodes, Soph.
5. LT Ronald Leary, Sr.
6. LB DeRon Furr, Jr.
7. CB Mohammed Seisay, Soph.
8. DE Corey Jones, Soph.
9. P Tom Hornsey, Soph.
10. PK Paolo Henriques, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 at Miss St
Sept. 10 at Arkansas St
Sept. 17 Austin Peay
Sept. 24 SMU
Oct. 1 at Middle Tenn.
Oct. 8 at Rice
Oct. 15 East Carolina
Oct. 22 at Tulane
Oct. 29 at UCF
Nov. 12 UAB
Nov. 19 Marshall
Nov. 26 at Southern Miss

Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither will Memphis be.

The Tigers were horrendous last season, finishing 1-11 and suffering more losses than any team in school history. Other than the fact that Larry Porter's debut at his alma mater is mercifully over, there were few silver linings. Memphis located rock bottom in 2010, coming within two touchdowns of the upset in just one of those defeats. The key now will be to start the slow and methodical climb back to respectability that feels very far away.

Porter knew what he was inheriting when he left LSU as an assistant and a respected recruiter for Conference USA. Under Tommy West, Memphis had become stale, losing at least five games in five consecutive years. The bar had been lowered and the overall talent was slipping. This was going to be a reclamation project at a school that dreams of vying for titles and attracting the interest of bigger leagues. Yet, Porter took it on anyway.

The Tigers simply couldn't compete a year ago, lacking the skill or depth to even keep games close. Worse yet, the true freshman quarterback that the school went with in 2010 decided to transfer to Miami when the offense shifted to the spread in the offseason. His replacement, Andy Summerlin, is a former JUCO transfer who missed all of last season with a shoulder problem. This situation behind center alone pretty much encapsulates where the program is at these days.

Brighter days await Memphis because, hey, they simply can't get any worse. As expected, Porter remains upbeat, hitting the recruiting trail hard and always working on the psyche of his young team. He used a ton of kids last year, who won't be nearly as wide-eyed this fall. The recovery, however slow and painful it might be, will largely be initiated by those Tigers who haven't been with the program much longer than their coach.

What to watch for on offense: The Rhodes more travelled. In an ideal world, Memphis will be able to feed the ball to its sophomore back 20-25 times a game. Not only would it mean that the Tigers aren't constantly playing from behind, but he's worth that many touches. Symbolic of the level of talent Porter is trying to attract to the campus, he has the size, speed, and balance of running backs more typically found in larger leagues, such as the ACC or the SEC.

What to watch for on defense: More help from the D-line. Relatively speaking, the strength of Jay Hopson's defense is up front, where three starters and eight letterwinners are back. Frank Trotter is the program's most consistent overall player, NT Dontari Poe has an NFL body, and Corey Jones is the young leader of an athletic group of ends. While it won't be enough to erase the problems of one of America's worst units, it will make life a little more bearable for the members of the back seven.

The team will be far better if… it can make some kind of stride in turnover margin. For the second straight year, Memphis was abysmal in this key area, creating a measly 13 takeaways in a dozen games. That just won't cut it for a program that's already fighting an uphill battle in terms of talent and depth. Any positive shift in turnover margin is going to have a direct and immediate impact on the Tigers' bottom line in 2011.

The Schedule: The Tigers don't get many big breaks, but they miss Tulsa and Houston from the West. That's about it, though. If there were any dreams of shocking the world and winning the East, they could be dashed late in the year with road trips to UCF and Southern Miss. On the plus side, those two are losses no matter where they're played, so they might as well be on the road. Geting UAB and Marshall at home could bring November wins to pull the year out of a tailspin, but starting out the Conference USA season against SMU will hurt. Austin Peay is a layup in non-conference play, but going to Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee won't be layups. Forget about the season opener against Mississippi State.

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.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Andy Summerlin. If the new spread attack is going to click, it'll need a capable manager to run it. Summerlin looks as if he'll be in charge now that Ryan Williams is playing for Al Golden. While miracles aren't being promised so early in his Memphis career, he will need to make plays this year and effectively get the ball in the hands of the team's playmakers. He'll have to shake off some rust and a history of injuries going back to his high school years.

The season will be a success if ... the Tigers are more competitive on the field than they were a year ago. Forget the record. It's not particularly relevant to a school that has so much rebuilding left to be done. With Austin Peay on the schedule, Memphis has a shot to surpass last season's lone victory, but what will that prove? No, this school is more interested in delivering a better product and taking another baby step closer to being relevant again in Conference USA.

Key game: Nov. 12 vs. UAB. By the first game of November, we'll know if Memphis has made any progress in 2011. The freshmen will essentially be sophomores and the new quarterback will no longer be so green. This is the kind of home game that the Tigers should have a shot of winning in the second half. If, however, they're still getting schooled by average opponents at the Liberty Bowl, it'll be a really bad omen for Porter and the rest of his coaching staff.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Yards per game: Memphis 285.0 – Opponents 460.7
- Total touchdowns: Memphis 19 – Opponents 61
- Third down conversion %: Memphis 32.3% - Opponents 49.4%

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