2014 Memphis Preview: What You Need To Know
Memphis DT Martin Ifedi
Memphis DT Martin Ifedi
Posted Jul 26, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Memphis (Getty Images)

2014 Memphis Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 Memphis Preview 

What you need to know about the offense: This is an important year for head coach Darrell Dickey. It’s even bigger for offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, whose unit was downright feeble in 2013. The Tigers averaged just 19.5 points per game, while operating with a complete lack of efficiency. The hope around the program is that second-year QB Paxton Lynch will play at a higher level now that he has a full season behind him. Lynch and sixth-year RB Brandon Hayes are the headliners of a backfield that will attempt to lead the Memphis offense to a degree of respectability. Miracles are not being counted on. But gradual improvement will be, as the two-depth becomes older and better accustomed to the system. Plenty will hinge on an offensive line that returns three starters to a unit that too often got overpowered last season. The blockers will have to control the line of scrimmage to give Lynch and Hayes a shot to maximize their potential.

What you need to know about the defense: The Tigers aren’t fancy on defense, but they sure were effective a season ago, a trend coordinator Barry Odom plans to continue in 2014. Memphis yielded a respectable 24.6 points per game in 2013, bending more than it broke in its American debut. Odom welcomes back a handful of key cogs to that unit, such as underrated DE Martin Ifedi, route-jumping CB Bobby McCain and linebackers Tank Jakes and Charles Harris. The Tigers will be surprisingly tough and well coached in the front seven. But they need to evolve on the back end of the defense. Aside from McCain, the secondary was too soft n 2013, allowing opponents to complete more than 60% of their passes. Odom wants his kids to perform with added confidence this season by rising up on passing downs. The coach is looking for more pressure, up front and when his DBs are sticking to opposing receivers.

Players You Need To Know
1. DE Martin Ifedi, Sr.
Ifedi continued his relentless assault on quarterbacks in 2013, this time in the American Athletic Conference. Overlooked by just about everyone except opposing tackles, he dodged double-teams to achieve career-bests with 52 tackles, 14.5 stops for loss and 11.5 sacks. The 6-3, 265-pound Houston native isn’t the biggest or the fastest defender, but he has the long arms and the hot motor to return to the All-AAC First Team in 2014.

2. CB Bobby McCain, Sr.
McCain talks. And he backs it up, too. Despite missing three games, Memphis’ most dynamic playmaker in the secondary picked off a league-high six passes, broke up 10 throws and recovered a pair of fumbles. The 5-11, 190-pounder has fluid hips and the ball skills of a former offensive star in high school. McCain parlayed those six interceptions into 108 return yards and two touchdowns.

3. RB Brandon Hayes, Sr.
The Tigers received great news in January when Hayes was granted a sixth year of eligibility. The former walk-on missed 2010 with a knee injury and transferred to Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College for 2011 before returning to Memphis in 2012. The 5-8, 198-pound Chicagoan has led the team in rushing two straight years, topped by a career-high 827 yards and five scores on 190 carries a year ago.

4. LB Tank Jakes, Sr.
Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, which is usually the case, Jakes is going to make his presence felt. He’s a 5-11, 225-pound playmaker, who’ll fly around the field like a guided missile. Despite being in the lineup for just a pair of games in 2013, Jakes still managed to rack up 71 tackles, 8.5 stops behind the line and three sacks.

5. DE Ricky Hunter, Jr.
The staff is pleased with the development of Hunter as a pass-rushing complement to Ifedi. In 2013, he trimmed down to 6-3 and 275 pounds and continued to be a nuisance for opposing quarterbacks. Fast off the snap, and unlikely to quit on a play, he posted career highs with 36 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

6. LB Charles Harris, Sr.
Harris is a rock in the middle of the Memphis D. He’s led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons, making 74 stops in 2013. He arrived out of high school undersized, but has since bulked up to 6-2 and 243 pounds, giving him the added muscle and strength needed to hold up versus the run. Harris’ range entices the staff to occasionally drop him back into pass coverage.

7. NT Terry Redden, Sr.
While Redden’s output may never match his importance to Memphis, the program is thrilled to have him for one final season. The 6-2, 270-pounder is one of the defense’s physical and emotional leaders. He’s an unselfish Tiger, who started games at the nose and at defensive end in 2013. Redden pitched in with 26 tackles, seven stops for loss and three sacks a year ago.

8. OG Al Bond, Sr.
Bond is one of the anchors of an offensive line returning three of last year’s regulars. The 6-4, 300-pounder has been involved in nearly every offensive play of the last three seasons, starting 29 of the Tigers’ 33 games over that time. Bond’s athleticism, know-how and light feet afford him the versatility to play guard as well as tackle, if necessary.

9. WR Joe Craig, Sr.
Craig made an instant impact in his first year out of Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College. That impact would have been even bigger had he received better support from his young quarterback. Craig caught a team-high 37 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown in 2013. But he has the jets and the elusiveness to be even more dangerous on slants, dump-offs and wide receiver screens.

10. QB Paxton Lynch, Soph.
The concern is that Lynch needs to dramatically flatten the learning curve and improve his decision-making as a passer. The good news is that he’s just a sophomore, and he has a full season as the starter under his belt. Lynch struggled mightily in 2013, completing 203-of-349 passes for 2,056 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The staff expects improvement. If it doesn’t happen, Lynch is vulnerable to be passed by redshirt freshman Brayden Scott.

- 2014 Memphis Preview