2008 CFN Memphis Preview
Memphis DT Clinton McDonald
Memphis DT Clinton McDonald
Posted May 2, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Memphis Tigers

Memphis Tigers

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN Memphis Preview | 2008 Memphis Offense
- 2008 Memphis Defense | 2008 Memphis Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Memphis Preview | 2006 CFN Memphis Preview

Head coach: Tommy West
8th year: 41-44
14th year overall: 72-72
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 26, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Tiger Players
1. WR Duke Calhoun, Jr.
2. WR Carlton Singelton, Jr.
3. OT Brandon Pearce, Sr.
4. DT Clinton McDonald, Sr.
5. WR Maurice Jones, Sr.
6. FS Brandon Patterson, Sr.
7. OG Malcom Rawls, Jr.
8. LB Greg Jackson, Jr.
9. DT Freddie Barnett, Sr.
10. SS Tony Bell, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2008 Record:

Aug. 30 at Ole Miss
Sept. 6 Rice
Sept. 13 at Marshall
Sept. 20 Nicholls State
Sept. 27 Arkansas State
Oct. 2 at UAB
Oct. 10 Louisville
Oct. 18 at East Carolina
Oct. 25 Southern Miss
Nov. 8 at SMU
Nov. 22 UCF
Nov. 29 Tulane

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Ole Miss L 23-21
Sept. 15
Jville State W 35-14
Sept. 22 at UCF L 56-20
Sept. 27 at Arkansas St L 35-31
Oct. 2 Marshall W 24-21
Oct. 13
Middle Tenn L 21-7
Oct. 20 at Rice W 38-35
Oct. 27 at Tulane W 28-27
Nov. 3 East Carolina L 56-40
Nov. 10 at So Miss W 29-26
Nov. 17
UAB W 25-9
Nov. 24 SMU W 59-52 3OT
New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 21 Memphis L 44-27

Although winning seven games and returning to the postseason was a pleasant surprise, head coach Tommy West realizes that Memphis is not going to contend for a league championship until it toughens up on defense. 

The unit has been abysmal the last two seasons, responding poorly to constant coaching changes and forcing the offense to air it out more than the staff would like.  West has changed coordinators again, hiring former Miami assistant Tim Walton, who was also offered this job following the 2006 campaign.  He inherits a defense that has potential up front, but needs a complete overhaul in the back seven.  Defense is one of West’s trademarks, which has made the last couple of years especially maddening for the coach.

Last fall’s unexpected turnaround was a big boost to a program that had reached a crossroads in the post-DeAngelo Williams era.  The Tigers only lose 14 seniors from that team, returning enough depth and experience to be right back in the hunt for a mid-level bowl game.  And with a little help from the defense and a retooled backfield, the schedule just might help usher Memphis into East Division contention.

What to watch for on offense: The Tigers feature a veteran offensive line that believes it can be the most dominant in the West era.  Exactly who the group will be blocking for has yet to be determined. Underappreciated QB Martin Hankins needs to be replaced after throwing 43 touchdowns over the last two seasons.  Since the strength of the team is at wide receiver, the staff must uncover an able distributor. Versatile Matt Malouf brings an interesting blend of run and pass.  The wild card, however, is JUCO transfer Arkelon Hall, a former Washington State signee and one of the highest-rated pocket passers of 2005.  The running game has been ravaged by graduations, defections, and injuries, creating opportunities for transfer Curtis Steele, sophomore Jeremy Longstreet, and redshirt freshman Mike Davis.

What to watch for on defense: The strength of the Tiger defense resides on a line that returns all four starters and is led by all-league candidate Clinton McDonald, a penetrator from the inside.  The unit will need to be extra special to compensate for a back seven that has holes at linebacker and is virtually defenseless versus any passing game with a pulse.  The Tiger defensive backs like to take chances and play aggressively, accepting the occasional blown coverage for takeaways that go the other way. Unfortunately for the defense, the corners get burned regularly, but the momentum-changing plays have been non-existent.  Walton’s lofty goal for Memphis is to maintain that frenetic, high-energy personality, while improving its tackling and fundamentals.   

The team will be far better if… the defense generates more pressure up front.  After finishing 11th in the league in sacks and tackles for loss, the talent is there for Memphis to spend more time in opposing backfields.  And so is the need.  Saddled with a suspect group of linebackers and defensive backs, the Tigers need to make more plays up front before they even have a chance of reaching the second and third levels.

The Schedule: The Tigers have as good a league schedule as they could reasonably ask for with Southern Miss and UCF coming to the Liberty Bowl, and getting Tulane and SMU from the West. If they can get to November with a relatively decent record, they should be fine with two off weeks in a three week span before finishing up with UCF and Tulane. Tough dates against Ole Miss and Louisville are offset by relative layups against Nicholls State and Arkansas State.

Best offensive player: WR Duke Calhoun.  On a program that’s flush with talented receivers, Calhoun is the best of the group.  An outstanding all-around athlete at 6-4 and 185 pounds, he has the speed to run past defensive backs and the hops to soar above them on jump balls.  A future pro, Calhoun paced Memphis a year ago with 62 catches for 890 yards and five touchdown receptions.

Best defensive player
: DT Clinton McDonald.  The defensive catalyst in every imaginable way, McDonald sets the tone up front and is a team captain.  Despite being just 6-3 and 265 pounds, he can beat double teams with a quick first or with his underrated strength.  The winner of the offseason Iron Tiger Award given to the program’s most complete athlete, he runs a 4.7 in the 40, squats up to 615 pounds, and can out jump most of the receivers.

Key players to a successful season
: The defensive backs.  Memphis needs more from its secondary.  A lot more.  In last year’s six losses, the pass defense allowed 13 touchdowns and picked off just three passes, routinely putting the Tigers in comeback mode.  Although the front seven has potential, for this defense to approach West and Walton’s expectations, the defensive backfield must tighten up and create more turnovers.

The season will be a success if
... Memphis contends in the East and returns to a December bowl game.  A spot in the Conference USA title game would be nice, but it’s not a must for a school that’s still a step behind UCF and East Carolina.  If the Tigers can find some answers in the offensive backfield and earn a second straight postseason invite, they’ll have officially turned the corner on the 2-10 low point in 2006.

Key game
: Oct. 18 at East Carolina.  If the Tigers have any designs on winning the division, it’ll help knocking off the Pirates, one of the two favorites in the East.  The Memphis defense has been shredded by East Carolina for 91 points over the last two seasons, a trend that has to be reversed if the Tigers are going to engineer the upset in Greenville.   

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Punt returns average: Opponents 17.8 – Memphis 9.4
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 5.1 – Memphis 3.8
- Fumbles: Opponents 21 (lost 13) – Memphis 13 (lost 4)