2009 CFN Memphis Preview
Memphis RB Curtis Steele
Memphis RB Curtis Steele
Posted Jul 22, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Memphis Tigers

Memphis Tigers

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 CFN Memphis Preview | 2009 Memphis Offense
- 2009 Memphis Defense | 2009 Memphis Depth Chart
- 2008 Memphis Preview | 2007 Memphis Preview | 2006 Memphis Preview

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Head coach: Tommy West
9th year: 47-51
15th year overall: 78-79
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 25, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Tiger Players
1. RB Curtis Steele, Sr.
2. WR Carlos Singleton, Sr.
3. LB Greg Jackson, Sr.
4. WR Duke Calhoun, Sr.
5. S Alton Starr, Sr.
6. LB Jeremy Longstreet, Jr.
7. C Dominik Riley, Jr.
8. QB Arkelon Hall, Sr.
9. DE Jada Brown, Jr.
10. CB D.A. Griffin, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2009 Record:

9/6 Ole Miss
9/12 at Middle Tenn
9/19 UT Martin
9/26 Marshall
10/3 at UCF
10/10 UTEP
10/17 at Southern Miss
10/27 East Carolina
11/7 at Tennessee
11/14 UAB
11/21 at Houston
11/27 at Tulsa

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2008 Record:

8/30 at Ole Miss L 41-24
9/6 Rice L 42-35
9/13 at Marshall L 17-16
9/20 Nicholls State W 31-10
9/27 Arkansas St W 29-17
10/2 at UAB W 33-30
10/10 Louisville L 35-28
10/18 at East Carolina L 30-10
10/25 Southern Miss W 36-30
11/8 at SMU W 31-26
11/22 UCF L 28-21
11/29 Tulane W 45-6
St. Petersburg Bowl
12/20 South Florida L 41-14

Memphis Tigers has a familiar ring. Memphis Transfers, at least for this year, might be more accurate.

The program has been decent under Tommy West, but there’s an underlying feeling that it’s been treading water, topping out at seven wins and basically playing .500 ball over the last four years. In an effort to get over the hump, the Tigers have done an impressive job of securing talented, big-school players looking for a second chance. The imports come from almost every corner of the map. QB Arkelon Hall began his career at Washington State. RB Lance Smith was exiled from Wisconsin. TE DajLeon Farr and WR Jermaine McKenzie once wore ‘Cane colors. DT Justin Thompson originally signed with Oregon. And S DeRon Furr, LB Derrick Odom and LB Jamon Hughes all have SEC experience. Is it time to get a translator on staff?

Now that Memphis has upgraded its talent level, it’s time to parlay it into something more than a St. Petersburg Bowl blowout loss. The key to knocking down new barriers is a defense that too often gets pushed around and yields game-changing plays. The offense will keep the Tigers in most games, but the defense, with the help of those transfers, are being challenged to make a few more stops and a lot more turnovers. If it delivers, an East Division crown is not out of reach.

What to watch for on offense
: QB Arkelon Hall. As long as the retooled line blocks, Hall is poised to have a breakthrough final season in Memphis. He’s a talented dual-threat, who’s surrounded by a bevy of exciting backs, receivers, and tight ends. Before injuring his thumb and losing his momentum last fall, he was just beginning to heat up as a passer. Now that he’s healthy and better acclimated to his surroundings, he could be one of Conference USA’s biggest surprises of 2009.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Actually, you might need the Hubble telescope to get a glimpse of this feeble Tiger pass rush. Top sacker Clinton McDonald is gone from a unit that got to the quarterback just 23 times in 2008, and had almost no production from the edge. Memphis doesn’t have the cover guys in the secondary to blitz too often, so it’ll be up to the linemen to get a push on their own. Recent JUCO transfers Justin Thompson and Demetrius Culpepper, in particular, are being counted on to provide a spark for this group.

The team will be far better if… it gets out of the blocks faster. It’s been five years since Memphis has gotten out of September with a winning record, forcing mad late-season scrambles for bowl eligibility. The Tigers have to capitalize on an early-season slate that’s conducive to a 3-1 start and a little more margin for error once the schedule stiffens.

The Schedule:
It's not all that bad over the first half, and then comes the hammer. If the Tigers aren't 5-1 going to start, a bowl game might not happen with this brutal finishing kick: at Southern Miss, East Carolina, at Tennessee, UAB, at Houston, and at Tulsa. Three of the final four games are on the road, and Memphis will be the underdogs in all three (maybe by double digits). If MU can beat one other team than UAB over the final six weeks it'll be a major success.

Best offensive player: RB Curtis Steele. Arriving from junior college with modest expectations, Steele solidified the ground game in his debut, giving the Tigers their best runner since DeAngelo Williams graduated. An instant hit in Memphis, he slashed his way to 1,223 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging a robust 5.6 yards a carry. If the blockers block and the passing game provides a diversion, he’s capable of leading the league in rushing in his final year of eligibility. 

Best defensive player: LB Greg Jackson. Now that DT Clinton McDonald has graduated, Jackson becomes the new catalyst of the defense. He’s an exceptional athlete, as linebackers go, using his speed and quickness to rush the passer and make stops for minus yards. Coming off his best season as a Tiger, 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles, and four sacks, he’ll again be asked to wreak havoc on a defense that struggles to get pocket pressure.

Key player to a successful season: Hall. Yeah, Tommy West is always preaching defense, but if this program is to get over the hump, it’ll do so with offense. Although Memphis can run the ball with Steele and transfer Lance Smith, it’ll be doubly dangerous if Hall ushers in a degree of balance that keeps defenses guessing. If Steele and receivers Carlos Singleton and Duke Calhoun are able to flourish, there aren’t many Conference USA defenses that’ll shut these guys down.

The season will be a success if
... Memphis contends in the East and returns to a December bowl game. East Carolina may be the favorite to repeat in the East, but that doesn’t mean the division is off limits to the other six teams. The Tigers would love to get over the hump by getting to the league title game. Short of that, a sixth bowl invitation in the last seven years will at least keep the momentum going for another year.

Key game: Oct. 27 vs. East Carolina. If the Tigers have designs on taking the East Division, it’ll help to knock off the reigning conference champs and one of the frontrunners to repeat in 2009. The Memphis D has been gutted by East Carolina for 121 points over the last three seasons, all losses, a trend that has to be reversed if it’s going to engineer an upset in the Liberty Bowl.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 73 for 724 yards - Memphis 59 for 519 yards
- Time of possession: Memphis 32:48 - Opponents 27:12
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 11-of-13 (85%) - Memphis 10-of-19 (53%)

- 2009 CFN Memphis Preview | 2009 Memphis Offense
- 2009 Memphis Defense | 2009 Memphis Depth Chart
- 2008 Memphis Preview | 2007 Memphis Preview | 2006 Memphis Preview