2007 Memphis Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 18, 2007

Preview 2007 Memphis Tiger Offense

Memphis Tigers

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Memphis Preview | 2007 Memphis Defense Preview
2007 Memphis Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Memphis Preview

What you need to know: The offense had its moments, but it was consistently mediocre and not nearly explosive enough. The ground game struggled behind a bad offensive line, and now the hope fill be for Joseph Doss to get more room behind a more experienced front five. The passing attack should shine, led by veteran quarterback Martin Hankins and the usual array of tall, athletic Tiger receivers. Duke Calhoun is a rising star touchdown maker, while Earnest Williams is a solid target to keep the chains moving.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Martin Hankins
266-377, 2,550 yds, 18 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Joseph Doss
224 carries, 910 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Duke Calhoun
42 catches, 681 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Joseph Doss
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Martin Hankins
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Steven Black
Best pro prospect: Sophomore WR Duke Calhoun
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Doss, 2) OT Brandon Pearce, 3) Calhoun
Strength of the offense: Experience, passing game
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line depth


Projected Starter: Unlike last year, there’s no doubt who the starting quarterback will be when Memphis opens the 2007 season.  Senior Martin Hankins will be back under center a year after an up-and-down debut that saw him throw for 2,550 yards and 18 touchdowns, but also get picked off 13 times.  While his arm Strength isn’t an issue, he’s spent the off-season polishing up his footwork and mechanics with new coordinator Clay Helton in order to reduce his turnovers.  Above all else, a second season in the system after playing two years at I-AA Southeastern Louisiana should help slow the game down for Hankins.     

Projected Top Reserves: Hankins will be backed up by junior Will Hudgens, the hard-luck Tiger hurler who has broken his leg in each of the last two seasons.  A terrific all-around athlete who also pitches on the Memphis baseball team, he’s an unselfish veteran who won’t implode if pressed into action this fall.  The future at quarterback belongs to redshirt freshman Matt Malouf who spent all of last season digesting the Tigers’ spread offense.  At 6-3 and 212 pounds, he has good size, but can also make plays outside the pocket with his 4.5 speed.                    

Watch Out For… a noticeable drop in interceptions compared to last year.  That’s been the singular focus of the quarterbacks this off-season and Helton will be sure that message sinks in throughout 2007.
Strength: Arm strength.  Both Hankins and Hudgens can sling it downfield, allowing an up-an-coming Memphis receiving corps to stretch a defense without worrying whether the quarterback can reach it.
Weakness: Turnovers.  The Tigers don’t have enough talent and depth to overcome a spate of interceptions so it’s imperative that Hankins improves his decision making this fall and cuts down on his mistakes.    
Outlook: With veterans Hankins and Hudgens and Malouf preparing to take the torch, there’s a good mix of talent at quarterback this year.  In a league that lost its top three quarterbacks to graduation, Hankins has a chance to fill the void in 2007.            
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: After finishing 93rd nationally on the ground in 2006, Memphis is committed to controlling the clock and running the ball more efficiently in 2007.  Thrust into the impossible position of following in the footsteps of all-time great DeAngelo Williams, senior Joseph Doss responded last year with 910 yards rushing, 25 receptions and a team-best nine touchdowns.  Not DeAngelo, but not bad.  A shifty 5-9 speedster with quick feet, he’ll be the catalyst of the running game this fall.  Although Doss injured his posterior cruciate ligament during spring ball, the coaching staff is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be at full strength when practice resumes in August.             

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore T.J. Pitts made a strong pitch for the 2008 starting job with his play over the spring.  One of the premier recruits in the class of 2005, the 205-pounder is the one Tiger back capable of hitting the hole quickly and picking up the tough yards between the tackles.  After gaining just 98 yards on 22 carries a year ago, his role in the offense is about to expand in 2007.  Sophomore Miguel Barnes is the long ball threat of the reserves with the burst and finesse to get into the secondary in a hurry.  Before injuring his knee midway through last season, he was making a strong push for more playing time.  In short yardage and near the goal line, the offense might turn to bruising senior Greg Hinds, a 6-1, 233-pound pile mover who moves like a fullback and used to play linebacker.          

Watch Out For… the carries to be spread out more than they were in 2006.  Although Doss was a workhorse last fall, he’s not all that big and is at his best when he’s well-rested.  The emergence of sophomores Pitts and Barnes will provide him the breathers needed to stay fresh throughout the season.
Strength: Diversity.  Doss is quick and versatile.  Pitts can get yards inside or outside.  Barnes is a burner.  And Hinds is a plower.  Together they give the Tiger offense far more options than it had on the ground in 2006.     
Weakness: Line support.  The backs are capable of destroying last year’s team rushing total, but only if the line gets more physical and creates more space.  Losing two of last season’s best blockers, Blake Butler and Willie Henderson, won’t make the challenge any easier.
Outlook: If the offensive line cooperates, Doss and his two understudies can collectively rush for 1,800 yards in 2007.  If not, the pressure will be on the passing game to keep the Tiger offense from sputtering.        
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: It’s becoming customary for Memphis to have a number of big, fast receivers dotting the two-deep.  Leading the way this year from the X position will be 6-4 and 185-pound sophomore Duke Calhoun, the best reason to watch a Tiger game this fall.  After pulling down 42 passes for 681 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman, making him an even bigger part of the offense will be a priority this year.  A terrific all-around athlete with good speed and bounce, Calhoun is on the brink of becoming a Conference USA star. 

The other outside receiver will be junior Steven Black, a talented junior college transfer who originally signed with Louisville out of high school.  A first cousin of Terrell Owens, he’s 6-3 and 210 pounds, runs sharp routes and is very physical after the catch.  Unlike Owens, Black is a quiet kid with a great work ethic and a desire to keep getting better. 

Back in the slot for the second straight year will be junior Earnest Williams who was third on the team last season with 26 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns.  While not the biggest or the fastest of the Tiger receivers, he’s a reliable target and one of the team’s best workers. 

When Memphis is using a tight end, junior Brett Russell will get the nod.  A quality pass-catcher coming off a solid spring, he’ll be better utilized than when he caught just nine balls in 2006.       
Projected Top Reserves: When the offense ditches the tight end for a fourth receiver, senior Taz Knockum will be elevated from a backup to the starting lineup.  At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he’s way too fast to have caught just six passes up to this point in his career.  Still very raw, Carlos Singleton has the size that Tiger quarterbacks are going to find impossible to ignore.  Although the wiry 6-8 sophomore still has a ways to go, he’s going to be a match up nightmare after debuting in 2006 with 22 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns.  Although he’ll be a backup in 2007, the Tigers have high hopes for Deven Onarheim, a 6-7 redshirt freshman tight end with the pass-catching skills of a wide receiver.             

Watch Out For… Calhoun and Black to light it up on the outside this year.  While Calhoun has already establish himself as a big-play weapon, Black will be the program’s Newcomer of the Year, giving quarterback Martin Hankins a couple of dangerous options in the passing game.
Strength: Size.  The Tiger receivers are a physically imposing group that looks as if it belongs on John Calipari’s roster.  They’ll spend the better part of the year playing above and going through overmatched defensive backfields.
Weakness: A proven No. 2 receiver.  Until Black actually fulfills expectations, Memphis doesn’t have a slam dunk second receiver that can deflect attention away from Calhoun.  
Outlook: Calhoun will develop into an all-league receiver and shed some of his anonymity while getting ample support from an underrated cast of pass-catchers.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: On Tommy West’s short list of priorities during the off-season will be to toughen up a line that was outstanding in pass protection, but weak at creating running lanes for the backs.  Losing all-league guard Blake Butler and massive tackle Willie Henderson makes that objective just a wee bit more challenging.  Three starters return, headed by right tackle Brandon Pearce, a 6-6, 280-pound junior who played his way on to the all-Conference USA third team in 2006.  Very quick and light on his feet, he’s ready to become one of the league’s better pass blockers. 

Next to Pearce will be senior guard Andy Smith, the emotional leader of this group and an 11-game starter in 2006.  A quality athlete at 6-4 and 307 pounds, he’s one of those Tigers that needs to show a little more nastiness in run blocking.

Senior left tackle Abraham Holloway will have Martin Hankins’ back after doing a bang up job of protecting the quarterback last season.  The 6-4, 300-pounder with the athletic lower body was a big reason why Memphis allowed a league-low 14 sacks in 12 games last fall. 

The fate of the line will undoubtedly rest on the two new starters, junior Phillip Beliles at center and junior Michael Denning at left guard.  While inexperienced, Beliles picked up some extremely valuable reps last year after Stephen Schuh was injured, lending hope he won’t take long to adjust to his full-time role this season.  Denning, on the other hand, redshirted in 2006 to rehab injuries and as Butler’s replacement, could be the weakest link of this group.           

Projected Top Reserves: The most heated competition will be at left guard where redshirt freshman Dominik Riley is coming off a breakout spring that earned him the offense’s Most Improved Player award.  With continued progress in August, he’s primed to bump Denning to the second unit or at least get plenty of snaps in the rotation. 

The staff is very excited to have sophomore Malcolm Rawls, a Tennessee transfer who sat out last season and will be eligible in 2007.  A quick learner with tremendous size, he’ll learn behind Smith this year before taking over at one of the guard spots in 2008. 

A pair of JUCO recruits, juniors Cody Stubblefield and Terrence Echols, will add depth at tackle and center, respectively.  Both are big, physical linemen that should contribute to the Tiger interior right away.     

Watch Out For… Riley.  Tommy West made it clear that he was unhappy with the play of the line in 2006, and Riley’s strides since the end of last season could earn him a starting assignment by the time Ole Miss visits on Sept. 1.
Strength: Pass blocking.  Offensive line coach Rick Mallory has done a sensational job the last two years, coaching up a group that’s allowed just 23 sacks over the last 24 games.
Weakness: Run blocking.  Boy, this part of the job was a whole lot easier when DeAngelo Williams was on campus.  The Tigers were not strong off the ball last year, something that has to be addressed if the running game is to improve in 2007.
Outlook: While there’s a nice foundation with Pearce, Smith and Holloway, the line will grade out poorly if Beliles doesn’t step up at center and the entire group doesn’t become more physical in the trenches.               
Rating: 5.5


Related Stories
2007 Memphis Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Memphis Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Memphis Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007

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