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Memphis Preview 2006
Memphis Tigers
Posted Aug 7, 2006

If Memphis can survive last year, it can survive anything.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

How many teams can lose their starting quarterback three plays into the season, lose the backup a few games later, start a wide receiver at quarterback for most of the year, have so many injury problems on the defensive line that the scheme had to turn to a 2-4-5 at times, and still be good enough to get to a bowl game?

The Tigers rode the legs of star running back DeAngelo Williams and got just enough big plays from the defense to pull off six wins before beating Akron in the Motor City Bowl. For a program that hadn't been to a post-season game since 1971, three straight bowl games is impressive, and now it's time to shoot for bigger things. 

Head coach: Tommy West
6th year: 32-28
12th year overall: 67-63
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 28, Def. 27, ST 2
Ten Best Tiger Players
1. FS Wesley Smith, Sr.
2. OG Blake Butler, Sr.
3. RB Joseph Doss, Jr.
4. P Michael Gibson, Sr.
5. WR Ryan Scott, Sr.
6. LB Quinton McCrary, Jr.
7. CB Jamaal Rufus, Sr.
8. OT Willie Henderson, Sr.
9. WR Maurice Jones, Soph.
10. WR Mario Pratcher, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at Ole Miss
9/9 UT Chattanooga
9/16 at East Carolina
9/30 Tennessee
10/7 at UAB
10/14 Arkansas State
10/21 Tulsa
10/28 at Marshall
11/4 Southern Miss
11/11 UCF
11/18 Houston
11/25 at UTEP

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-5
2005 Record: 7-5

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/5 Ole Miss L 10-6
9/17 Chattanooga W 59-14
9/24 at Tulsa L 37-31 OT
10/1 UTEP W 27-20
10/8 at UCF L 38-17
10/15 at Houston W 35-20
10/22 East Carolina W 27-24
11/1 UAB L 37-20
11/12 at Tennessee L 20-16
11/19 at So Miss W 24-22
11/26 Marshall W 26-3
12/27 Motor City Bowl
Akron W 38-31

Good enough to beat UTEP and Southern Miss, Memphis blew its shot to play for the Conference USA title with losses to UCF and UAB. With a little bit more consistency and no slip ups against the teams in the East, the Tigers should be good enough to finally get over the hump and play for the conference title.

if the team could go 7-5 last year with all the adversity, then shouldn't it be able to be a major contender this year? The schedule helps in a big way with Southern Miss and UCF coming to the Liberty Bowl, and the toughest road trip not coming until the end when the Tigers have to go to UTEP. The team has an influx of revitalized talent back after spending last year getting healthy, and there are good replacements for the lost starters.

Patrick Byrne and Will Hudgens return at quarterback coming off the broken legs suffered last year, while JUCO transfer Martin Hankins appears good enough to take over the starting job. They have big arms and are great at throwing the deep ball, so the attack should be more explosive with Ryan Scott, Mario Pratcher and the rest of the tall, fast receiving corps ready to put up bigger numbers. All five starters return to the offensive line that will pave the way for a good season for shifty back Joseph Doss, who'll pick up the slack with Williams gone. The defense won't be a rock, but five starters return to the secondary and there are good athletes up front.

A fourth straight bowl trip is a lock and there's nothing the team can't handle at this point, so that means there are big expectations. Memphis doesn't want to be one of those programs that got hot and then hit a plateau, it needs to show that the team was more than just DeAngelo Williams and show that this is a burgeoning power that's a few steps away from being something special. That step should be taken this year.

The Schedule: It couldn't work out nicer with four key league games (Tulsa, Southern Miss, UCF and Houston) at home and four of the five road trips against teams that didn't go to a bowl last year. The non-conference schedule has an interesting mix starting off at Ole Miss followed up by the layup against UT Chattanooga. The Tennessee game should be interesting with the Vols looking ahead to the showdown with Georgia the following week. Five of the final seven games are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior G Blake Butler. Able to play any spot on the line, the 287-pound Butler is the most versatile and talented player on the veteran front line. He's the team's most technically sound blocker and will be the key cog paving the way for Joseph Doss and the ground game.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Wesley Smith. The All-America safety made 98 tackles as a freshman, 89 as a sophomore and 82 last year earning first-team All-Conference USA honors in each season. He's big, fast, and as sure a tackling defensive back as there is in the country.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore PK Trey Adams, sophomore Kittrell Smith and freshman Matt Reagan. Seven of the Tigers' games were decided by seven points or less last year, and now all-star kicker Stephen Gostkowski is gone. A steady kicker could be the difference between a good year and a Conference USA title.

The season will be a success if ... Memphis wins the East. There are too many holes to fill and too much overall uncertainty on defense to demand a conference title considering how strong the West is, but there's no reason the Tigers can't win the East. The schedule and the firepower on offense should be enough to get it done.

Key game: Sept. 16 at East Carolina. Memphis should be good enough to win its second Conference USA game of the year at UAB, so a win over the Pirates in the league opener is key to hoping to get through the East unscathed. East Carolina is looking to make a statement and will be pumped up to get in the East race, too.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Memphis 123 - Opponents 61
- Sacks: Memphis 22 for 159 yards - Opponents 9 for 63 yards
- Passing yards per game: Opponents 279.8 - Memphis 130

The Last Time Memphis…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Motor City Bowl vs. Akron)
…missed a bowl game…2002
…pitched a shutout…2000 (UL-Monroe)
…was shutout…1999 (Ole Miss)
…scored 50 points…2005 (UT-Chattanooga)
…went undefeated…1963
…won a conference title…1971 (Missouri Valley)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2003 (Danny Wimprine)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (DeAngelo Williams)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1993 (Isaac Bruce)
…had a first-round draft choice…2006 (RB DeAngelo Williams)

Related Stories
Memphis Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Memphis Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Memphis Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 7, 2006

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