What you need to know ...
It's hard to lose a back like DeAngelo Williams and be
better, but that might be exactly what happens to Memphis thanks
to the return of quarterbacks Patrick Byrne and Will Hudgens
from broken legs and the emergence of JUCO transfer Martin
Hankins as the probable starter. Maurice Avery filled in
admirably last year, but he didn't bomb away and he wasn't able
to utilize all the tall, fast receiver targets like the current
quarterbacks can. All five
starters return to an outstanding offensive line that'll pave
the way for a big season from new starting RB Joseph Doss. There
are several talented backs ready to work into the rotation to
replace Williams' production.
Passing: Will Hudgens
33-62, 413 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Joseph Doss
85 carries, 440 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Ryan Scott
37 catches, 577 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Senior OG Blake Butler
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior RB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Brett Russell
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Willie Henderson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Butler, 2) Doss, 3) WR
Strength of the offense: Offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Running back experience
Let's try this again. Memphis quarterbacks had the life
expectancy of a Spinal Tap drummer last season with a ridiculous
injury problem striking early on. Fortunately, Patrick Byrne and
Will Hudgens broke their legs early enough in the season to give
them time to heal fully coming into this year. Byrne should
shine with his ability to spread the ball around and find the
open man allowing the offense to run like it's supposed to. Will Hudgens
is more than good enough to take over the starting job if
needed. Martin Hankins looked good in spring ball and was named
the starter, but he'll still have to produce this fall.
The key to the unit: Stay healthy. There are three
experienced passers, but Memphis doesn't have a Maurice Avery
this year to step in and save the day if disaster strikes.
Quarterback Rating: 6
- Martin Hankins, Jr.
The JUCO transfer stepped in this spring and won the starting
job. At SE Louisiana under Hal Mumme, Hankins threw for 7,777
yards and 65 scores in just two seasons. He has a nice arm and
learned the offense in a hurry last year while waiting to become
eligible. While he won't run much, he'll throw for a ton of
- Patrick Byrne, Sr. - 1-1, 4 yds
Byrne is a long-time veteran in the system with more than enough
practice time to know the offense inside and out. He got the
starting nod going into last year, but he broke his leg on the
third play of the game against Ole Miss and was out for the
season. He's 100% now and should pick up where he left off as
the star of the 2005 off-season showing accuracy and good
decision making ability. A big passer at 6-3 and 213 pounds,
he's also mobile.
- Will Hudgens, Soph. - 33-62, 413 yds, 52.2 %, 3 TD,
Hudgens is the team's most talented quarterback, but he doesn't
know the offense like Patrick Byrne does and he hasn't been able
to stay healthy. He suffered a torn ACL a few years ago and
broke his leg last year early in the season. The 6-4 sophomore
has a live arm and great mobility to buy himself time against
the pass rush.
- Billy Barefield, Soph. - 33-53, 223 yds, 62%, 1 TD, 1 INT, 23
carries, 99 yds
Barefield was thrown into the mix after Patrick Byrne and Will
Hudgens went down leading the way to a big win over UTEP. He's
the runner in the group with good quickness, but despite his
accurate numbers from last year he's not a pure passer. On the
plus side, he got his feet wet last season and can play if he
has to adding a different dimension to the attack.
Memphis doesn't have anyone to run for 1,964 yards and 18
touchdowns like DeAngelo Williams did, but there are plenty of
good backs to keep the ground game rolling. Joseph Doss is a
speedy playmaker who should blow up now that the full-time gig
is his. Jamarcus Gaither has waited his turn for the last few
years, but he'll have a hard time getting too much more work
with star redshirt freshmen T.J. Pitts and Miguel Barnes ready
The key to the unit: Using all the quick backs to
combine for 2,000 yards. It's asking for a lot, but it's
possible with this group.
Running Back Rating: 6
- Joseph Doss, Jr. - 85 carries, 440 yds, 5.2 ypc, 2 TD
He's not DeAngelo Williams, but don't be stunned if the 5-9,
193-pound junior cranks out a 1,000-yard season and becomes one
of Conference USA's new stars. He has the quickness and speed to
blast through the hole like Williams did, and he has a veteran
offensive line to operate behind that'll be sure to give him the
room he needs. He wasn't used much as a receiver, but he has
decent hands and needs to get the ball in space. How good can he
be? He stepped in when Williams was out against Tennessee and
ran for 77 yards against one of the nation's best run defenses.
He added 56 yards on nine carries in the bowl win over Akron.
- Jamarcus Gaither, Jr. - 6 carries, 29 yds
Gaither has had a hard time seeing the field with DeAngelo
Williams taking all the carries, but he'll play a key role
behind Joseph Doss this season. He's a quick back built like
Doss, and now he needs more carries after only getting it six
times in the second game of the year against UT Chattanooga.
- T.J. Pitts, RFr.
Pitts was the team's star recruit last year after rushing for
2,422 yards and 29 touchdowns as a high school senior. He's a
durable back with good vision and better quickness through the
hole. It'll take a lot to keep him out of the rushing mix.
- Miguel Barnes, RFr.
Barnes adds more power than the rest of the runners. He's not a
bruising back even though he's 6-2 and 220 pounds, he's a speed
back with home-run hitting potential.
Once again Memphis is loaded with plenty of
tall, fast targets to give the quarterbacks several options.
There's plenty of experience with the top three receivers
returning and several backups who saw quality playing time last
year. Ryan Scott emerged as the main man last year and will be
the leader on the outside, but his backups, Maurice Jones and
Carlos Singleton, are potentially more dangerous. The return of
talented junior Mario Pratcher from a knee injury gives the
corps another top weapon. Tight end John Doucette is gone, but
Brett Russell will add more to the passing game.
The key to the unit: Making more deep plays after
averaging only 11.6 yards per catch. There's too much speed to
not hit more home runs.
Receiver Rating: 6.5
- Ryan Scott, Sr. - 37 catches, 577 yds, 15.6 ypc, 3 TD
At 6-4 and 207 pounds, Scott provides a big, veteran
target with very good speed and the ability to be a number one
target. He went from being a deep threat specialist to the
team's top receiver stepping up when Maurice Avery moved from
receiver to quarterback. He'll get the start at the X position
on the outside.
- Earnest Williams, Soph. - 17 catches, 131 yds, 7.7 ypc,
17 carries, 108 yds, 6.4 ypc, 2 TDs
Williams had a strong freshman season coming on over the final
five games as both a running back and a receiver from the H-Back
position. He's great in the open field and came up with some of
his biggest plays when the team needed them the most rushing for
a touchdown and catching a 42-yard pass in the bowl win over
- Taz Knockum, Jr. - 4 catches, 37 yds, 9.2 ypc
The former running back is a big-physical blocker at the Y
position. He didn't do much as a receiver failing to catch a
pass over the final four games, but he'll be used more this
season in the passing attack as well as in the ground game.
- Mario Pratcher, Jr.
Pratcher has the size and talent, but the 6-4, 220-pound Z
receiver can't stay healthy. He was knocked out with a
collarbone injury a few years ago, and now he's trying to come
back from the knee injury that held him out all of last year.
He's a great deep threat who was just starting to come into his
own when he tore up the knee in preseason practices, but now
he's back and ready to shine.
- Tight end Brett Russell, Soph. - 2 catches, 26 yds, 1
Russell saw plenty of action in two tight end sets last year,
and now he'll be used as more of a receiver than former starter
John Doucette was. Doucette was more of a tackle playing tight
end, while the 233-pound Russell is more of a pass catcher.
- Maurice Jones. Soph. - 15 catches, 137 yds, 10.5
ypc, 2 TD
Jones finished last season as the team's third leading receiver
despite playing a limited role. The 6-2, 214-pound sophomore is
a deep threat who needs to be used more on the outside behind
- Carlton Robinzine, Soph. - 8 catches, 131 yds, 16.4 ypc
Robinzine has the size at 6-3 and 202 pounds to overpower most
defensive backs, and he has the deep speed to blow past the
average ones. He was out of the last three games of the season
after making a bit of an impact for a three games stretch
catching two passes against Houston, East Carolina and UAB. Now
he'll back up Mario Pratcher at the Z.
- Antonio McCoy, Soph. - 8 catches, 45 yds
One of the smaller receivers in the mix, at least by Memphis
standards, the 6-0, 179-pound sophomore will battle for playing
time at the Z using his quickness to try to find openings in the
- Carlos Singleton, RFr.
One of the team's most intriguing receivers, Singleton is 6-8
and can fly. He's a rail-thin 195 pounds, but with his speed and
jumping ability he'll be too good to keep off the field for
long, especially around the goal line.
- Tight end Stacy Jones, RFr.
The 240-pound Jones is more of a blocker than starter Brett
Russell. He'll see time at fullback and in short yardage, two
tight end sets.
All five starters return to what was arguably the league's
best line last year. The Tiger front five only allowed nine sacks last
year and paved the way for D'Angelo Williams' 1,964-yard season.
Versatile guard Blake Butler is the best of the lot, but there's a lot
to get excited about on the rest of the line with sophomore Brandon
Pearce, Abraham Holloway and 335-pound mauler Willie Henderson good tackles to build
around. There's even a little bit of quality depth to count on.
The key to the unit: Take another step up. DeAngelo
Williams isn't there to block for anymore, so the line will have to make
the new starting running back look good.
Offensive Line Rating: 7
- OT Abraham Holloway, Jr.
Holloway was penciled in as the starter just before last year began, but
he ended up getting knocked out of the job by Brandon Pearce. At 301
pounds, he's a bigger option on the right side than the 270-pound
- OG Blake Butler, Sr.
Butler was one of the only returning players with any starting
experience last year, and he came through with a great season leading
the line. He's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line starting
the first half of last year at center before moving to right guard.
He'll be the team's main run
blocker on either side.
- C Stephen Schuh, Sr.
Schuh proved to be a major find last year taking over early on and
starting over the final seven games. He's a good-sized, 288-pound run
blocker who's one of the team's strongest linemen.
- OG Jared McGowan, Sr.
The former transfer from Kentucky has enough experience to step
either guard spot if needed. At 308 pounds he's the team's biggest guard
pushing for the starting gig on the left side.
- OT Willie Henderson, Sr.
The 6-7, 335-pound Henderson has been moved around from guard to tackle,
and now will get the start at left tackle where he'll use his long arms
to be a top pass protector. He has good athleticism and the toughness of
a defensive linemen, which he was when he came to Memphis.
- G Andy Smith, Jr.
Smith is an impressive combination of size, strength and speed bulking
his way up to 307 to be a more physical run blocker. He was growing into
the starting role as a sophomore before getting knocked out for the year
with a knee injury. His return will be a big boost to the line.
- T Brandon Pearce, Soph.
One of the rising stars of the line, Pearce is back at right
tackle after earning all-star honors last year with a great first year
at tackle. He's not huge at 270 pounds, but he can move.