SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Memphis Tigers

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Tommy West (3rd year, 8-15)
2002 record: 3-9
C-USA finish: 9th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 115.8 ypg
(8th in C-USA, 95th in nation)
Pass: 239.0 ypg (2nd, 42nd)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 197.1 ypg (8th, 101st)
Pass: 165.8 ypg (9th, 108th)
Projected Starters
Offense (4 returning starters in bold)
WR   28   Darron White   Jr.  
WR  Maurice Avery  So. 
WR  81  Chris Kelley  Jr. 
WR  16  Darren Garcia  Sr. 
LT  53  Jeremy Rone  Jr. 
LG   75   Andrew Handy   Jr.  
76  Gene Frederic  Jr. 
RG  78  Jason Matthews  Jr. 
RT  73  David Davis  Jr. 
HB   82   John Doucette   So.  
QB   18   Danny Wimprine   Jr.  
TB  20  DeAngelo Williams  So. 
Defense (6)
DE  43  Marcus West  So. 
DT  79  Kenyun Glover  Jr. 
DT  50  Eric Taylor  Sr. 
DE   91   Treveco Lucas   Sr.  
WLB   44   Derrick Ballard   Sr.  
MLB   27   Shaka Hill   Sr.  
SLB  42  Greg Harper  Sr. 
CB   7   Cameron Essex   Jr.  
CB  39  Olen Whitely  Fr. 
FS   40   O.C. Collins   So.  
ROV   8   Scott Vogel   Jr.  
Special Teams
32  Stephen Gostkowski  So. 
35  Ryan Ivey  Jr. 
KR  20  DeAngelo Williams  So. 
PR  28  Darron White  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Tennessee Tech 
Sept. 6  Ole Miss 
Sept. 13  at Southern Miss 
Sept. 27  Arkansas State 
Oct. 4  UAB 
Oct. 11  at Mississippi State 
Oct. 18  at Houston 
Oct. 25  at Tulane 
Nov. 1  East Carolina 
Nov. 15  at Louisville 
Nov. 22  Cincinnati 
Nov. 29  South Florida 
Beginning his ninth year as a college football coach and his third at the University of Memphis, Tommy West doesn't mince words about the offseason addition of defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn. "It is the most significant hire I've made in my coaching career," West says.

A former successful defensive coordinator himself, West has reason to believe Dunn's presence will return the Tiger defense to the lofty status it last enjoyed under West. Three years ago, West, in his only season as Memphis' defensive coordinator, had the Tigers ranked first nationally against the run and fifth in total defense. Last year, the unit slipped to 101st in rushing defense.

The well-traveled Dunn came to Memphis from Mississippi State and is beginning his second stint at Memphis. He previously served as the Tigers' defensive coordinator in the early 1990s.

He's looking forward to returning, because he and West "think an awful lot alike. It's amazing that when we talked I found there were so many things we basically do the same," Dunn says.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Junior Danny Wimprine gives the Tigers one of the most productive returning quarterbacks in the conference. Wimprine passed for 2,820 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, breaking school marks in both categories. But he was intercepted 18 times and struggled on several occasions during crucial late-game situations. If he can become more effective in the final stages of the fourth quarter, the strong-armed Wimprine will give the Tigers an opportunity to end a string of eight straight losing seasons.

The Tiger backfield should be stronger with the return of DeAngelo Williams, one of the league's top freshmen a year ago, and the debut of LSU transfer Derron Parquet.

With the offseason loss of top wide receiver Tavares Gideon to an ACL injury, senior Darren Garcia will need to emerge as a big-play target. Gideon lacks speed but uses his size and strength to manhandle defensive backs. He also makes yards after the catch. Maurice Avery, a quarterback last season, moves to wideout and is expected to be a dependable target.

The biggest area of concern for the Tiger offense will be an inexperienced offensive line. Only one starter returns -- left guard Andrew Handy.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The most experienced group Dunn will work with is a linebacking corps that includes All-Conference USA candidate Derrick Ballard and former walk-on Greg Harper, a senior who is a consistent playmaker. Ballard is as capable of making the big hit as he is snatching an interception at point-blank range.

If former Alabama defensive lineman Albert Means becomes academically eligible, the Tigers will boast a formidable front. Means, who sat out last season to concentrate on academics, consistently drew double teams two years ago. Willie Henderson, a 6'7", 350-pound redshirt freshman was switched to the offensive line in the spring, but he may move back to defense in the fall.

While the linebackers have the upper hand in experience, the secondary may have the edge in potential. Free safety O.C. Collins is coming off a stellar freshman season.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The team's woeful punting situation was addressed with the spring signing of junior college standout Brandon Roberson. Stephen Gostkowski, who came to Memphis on a baseball scholarship, earned a football scholarship by winning the kicking job last fall. He was 9-of-12 last season between 30 and 50 yards.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

West's defense will be in the capable of hands of Dunn and could cause problems for C-USA teams. If a young offensive line matures in a hurry, the spread offense has enough weapons in Wimprine, Williams and Garcia to put points on the scoreboard. The Tigers also will be aided by the signing of a punter, giving them a chance to win field position. If all goes right, Memphis could compete for an elusive bowl bid.

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