NEW ... 2010 Memphis Preview
Memphis WR Marcus Rucker
Memphis WR Marcus Rucker
Posted Jul 24, 2010 2010 Preview - Memphis Tigers

Memphis Tigers

Preview 2010

- 2010 Memphis Preview | 2010 Memphis Offense
- 2010 Memphis Defense | 2010 Memphis Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Larry Porter
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 17, Def. 26, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Memphis Players
1. LB Jamon Hughes, Sr.
2. DT Dontari Poe, Soph.
3. RG Dominik Riley, Sr.
4. FS Marcus Ball, Sr.
5. WR Jermaine McKenzie, Jr.
6. LT Ronald Leary, Jr.
7. RB Lance Smith, Sr. (Inj.)
8. C Brad Paul, Sr.
9. DE Winston Bowens, Sr.
10. WR Marcus Rucker, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Miss St
Sept. 11 at East Carolina
Sept. 18 MTSU
Sept. 25 at UTEP
Oct. 2 Tulsa
Oct. 9 at Louisville
Oct. 16 Southern Miss
Oct. 30 Houston
Nov. 6 Tennessee
Nov. 13 at Marshall
Nov. 20 at UAB
Nov. 27 UCF

It's a good thing that new head coach Larry Porter is only 38 years old. He's going to need all the time he can get in order to turn things around at Memphis.

When Porter left his job as LSU's running backs coach, he knew the size of the task he was facing. He also realized that this is a program with potential and not far removed from playing in five bowl games in a span of six years. However, the Tigers had been showing signs of slipping for some time under Tommy West, bottoming out last year with their second two-win season since 2006. It was clearly time for a change. Enter Porter, who brings a youthful energy, a proven track record as a recruiter, and a lot of big-game experience in the Big 12 and SEC. There's heavy lifting to be done, but also considerable upside if the ground floor is laid properly.

Yes, Memphis has lofty goals in 2010. Who doesn't? Realistically, however, this season is more of a staging ground for 2011 and beyond. The Tigers aren't likely to win Conference USA or even return to the postseason, but that doesn't mean they can't be more competitive than a year ago. The roster has a surprising amount of talent, littered with players, like RB Lance Smith, WR Jermaine McKenzie, LB Jamon Hughes, and FS Marcus Ball, who transferred in from major programs. Tangible progress is going to require a resolution in the three-man race at quarterback and noticeable strides from a defense that's been stumbling for years.

Having located the basement last fall, Memphis is determined to begin building back up with a new leader on the sidelines. Porter, like many of his new starters, is adapting to his promotion and preparing for an interesting baptism under fire.

What to watch for on offense: Who wins the quarterback derby? Coming out of spring, it was a virtual dead heat involving sophomores Cannon Smith and Tyler Bass, and true freshman Ryan Griffin. Smith comes by way of Miami and spent a big chunk of April with the first-team. Bass has the most experience and best overall athleticism. Griffin was the biggest offseason surprise, thrusting himself into the race just months after leaving high school. Stay tuned to what should be a riveting battle in August.

What to watch for on defense: The emergence of FS Marcus Ball. He has one more shot to play like a former can't-miss high school recruit, and plans to make the most of it. The senior is a Florida State-caliber athlete participating in Conference USA and pining for an opportunity to impress NFL scouts. After showing glimpses of his ball skills and intensity out of the secondary, he's liable to put it all together this fall and give that Tiger secondary some much-needed attitude and intimidation.

The team will be far better if… it can make dramatic changes in the turnover equation. The Tigers had just 17 takeaways, next to last in the league, and were 107th nationally in turnover margin. No team, certainly not this one, has enough talent to overcome those types of numbers and expect to win more than it loses.

The Schedule: The Tigers don't get any real breaks in interdivsion play having facing Tulsa and Houston (along with UTEP), and the divisional game against East Carolina is on the road, but Southern Miss and UCF are at home. The non-conference play doesn't see many breaks starting out at Mississippi State and going to Louisville in the middle of the conference campaign. Tennessee is at home as is a date with Middle Tennessee, but it'll be a fight to win either one..

Best offensive player: Senior RG k Riley. Either Riley is a future draft choice or Memphis is painfully short on proven players. Yeah, go with the second one. Now, that's not to suggest that Riley isn't a quality player by Conference USA standards. He is, earning letters in each of the last three years and honorable mention all-star recognition in 2009. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, he's one of the strongest players on the team and an asset on power running plays.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Jamon Hughes. After showing hints of his full potential, especially in November, Hughes is poised to become a household name in league circles. He absolutely erupted down the stretch, becoming the physical and emotional leader of this defense. Instinctive and strong enough to stand up pulling guards, he's the right player in the right defense to rack up well over 100 tackles and land on the All-Conference USA squad.

Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Lance Smith. He broke his leg in the spring, so naturally, his availability in the fall is a question mark. When healthy, the former Wisconsin Badger is the kind of runner who's capable of taking pressure off the inexperienced quarterbacks and giving well-deserved breathers to the defense. Memphis has to run the ball effectively this fall, making Smith's recovery a focal point of the next couple of months.

The season will be a success if ... Memphis puts out a more competitive product, especially in the second half of the year. Again, 2010 is not so much about the wins and losses as it is about Porter putting his stamp on the program and getting the kids to buy into his message. Whether that equals four or five wins is not relevant if the Tigers haven't corrected the sloppiness and inconsistency that's plagued both sides of the ball for the past few years.

Key game: Oct. 9 at Louisville. By Week 6, this will be a nice test to see how far the Tigers have come under the new staff. The Cardinals have issues of their own, so it's not as if an upset of a Big East opponent would be completely out of the question. Beating a former Conference USA rival on the road could be the type of game that provides a spark and a confidence boost that carries Memphis throughout the second half of the year.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Memphis 21.8 – Opponents 34.8
- Yards per reception: Memphis 10.7 – Opponents 14.6
- Red zone scores: Memphis 77% - Opponents 93%

- 2010 Memphis Preview | 2010 Memphis Offense
- 2010 Memphis Defense | 2010 Memphis Depth Chart
- Memphis Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006