Preview 2007 - Offense
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2006 CFN Memphis
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.