Memphis Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Memphis Tigers
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Memphis Tigers Preview 2006 - Tiger Further Analysis

1st and Ten – New tires – After years of driving the brand new Lexus, eventually changing the tires becomes a necessity.  No matter how sweet that ride has been, the tires wear down and have to be swapped out at some point in its life span.  Consequently, that represents what the Memphis offense will encounter in year one AD – after DeAngelo.  Perhaps the greatest player in Memphis Tiger history, DeAngelo Williams leaves one heck of a legacy and filling his shoes is a lot like changing the tires.  The Memphis offensive car needs new wheels and needs them in a big way.  Williams couldn’t have more been dominant in his time as a Tiger, capping off a magnificent career with 1,964 yards and 18 touchdowns.  The offense revolved around Williams for so long that thinking about how the Tigers will find a replacement causes a headache.  But, the tires, okay, so enough for the analogy, the legs of Joseph Doss will be put to the test this season.  The good news is that Doss has electrifying and game breaking skills, but can he carry it 26 times a game as Williams did last year?  Not presumably, but Doss got plenty of experience carrying the football as Williams’ backup the past few years, piling up 440 yards at a 5.2 yard per carry clip in 2005.  Doss’s offensive line has experience and can open holes for the slashing junior back, but there shouldn’t be anyone expecting another nearly 2,000 yard season.  However, that shouldn’t mean that Doss can’t, and shouldn’t, be effective enough to counter the passing game that should emerge this fall.  The new tires may not have twenty inch Giovanni hubcaps, but they’ll fit the Tiger ride nicely.  Get it?  Good.

2nd and Seven – Q Mc is back – Throughout defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn’s career, his defenses have typically flourished when he’s able to unleash some speedy, nasty linebackers on opposing offenses.  After a strong 2004 season, Quinton McCrary missed the entire 2005 season with an injury, taking away some of the explosiveness that fits the JLD ‘D’ to a tee.  Q Mc’s speed and aggressiveness give Joe Lee the opportunity to run his complicated blitz schemes, getting pressure on the QB with McCrary or deftly putting him in position to make plays against the run.  The Tiger linebacking unit loses both Tim Goodwill and Carlton Baker and need a dynamic chess piece, so to speak.  With McCrary back, healthy, the Tigers have that in him.

3rd and Three – Sling it! – Knowing how talented and productive Williams was in the run game, it was easy to overlook the Tigers passing game shortcomings.  Very easy.  Add to that the fact that WR turned QB Maurice Avery had to take over at that position and it was surprising that the forward pass was even part of the game plan over the second half of 2005 (they actually beat Marshall last year throwing for a minus three yards – do you say that you threw for minus three yards?).  But, the days of flying Tigers may be back with the arrival of former Hal Mumme protégé Martin Hankins.  The junior transfer from SE Louisiana has already thrown for over 7,700 yards and his ability to sling it all over the Liberty Bowl should push the pass/run balance closer to the left (pass) than the right (run).  Will Hudgins, Patrick Byrne and Billy Barefield won’t give up the job willingly, but Hankins wowed the coaching staff this spring, putting himself into contention to take the first snap of the year at Ole Miss.  The man can throw it, that’s for sure and that might be the perfect tonic for the Tiger offense.

4th and One – Sustaining success – After not going to a bowl game for 32 years, the Tigers have gone to three straight behind the running of Williams and the leadership of Tommy West.  The question, especially with Williams off to Charlotte, is whether the Tigers can keep going to bowl games and keep winning them.  It’s not as if the Tigers have been playing in New Year’s Day bowl games, but start naming the teams that went to bowl games in three consecutive seasons and there are some teams you end up leaving out of the discussion – Tennessee, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Penn State, Nebraska, Clemson, Arizona State.  How’s that for company?  West’s challenge is to keep that flame lit without #20 and to sustain the success that has become as consistent as Memphis barbecue.

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