Expectations will be flying high in Memphis this season, the second ranked offense in the conference last year returns a majority of their playmakers and an experienced defense. The Tigers have a bit of a chip on their shoulders from their ugly loss to South Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl last season.
Akrelon Hall returns at quarterback where last year he passed for 2, 275 yards and rushed for 200. As long as Hall keeps his thumb healthy, he has the talent to become one of the better quarterbacks in the conference. The downside is the line is only returning one starter from a year ago, where the line averaged giving up only 1.31 sacks per game. Other guys have to step up in order to protect Hall.
Great talent in the backfield and at receiver surrounds Hall. Leading rusher, Curtis Steele, returns for his senior season. Last year, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and was named the 2008 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year. He averaged 5.6 yards a carry last season and looks to put up similar numbers as long as the line provides the blocking.
Carlos Singleton and Duke Calhoun should be the primary targets for Hall through the air. Singleton returns having led the team last year in receiving yards (791) and receptions (52). Calhoun holds the school record with seven career 100-yard games and has caught a pass in each of his 37 games as a Tiger. This duo should provide excellent weapons for Hall.
Similar to the offensive line, the defensive line will lack some experience. The top guys are gone from a year ago, so the Tigers will look to JUCO transfers Demetrius Culpepper and Justin Thompson to provide pressure upfront. Greg Jackson, at linebacker, will be the heart and soul of the defensive. He finished with 52 tackles, four sacks and was named the team’s 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.
Alton Starr, Deante Lamar and D.A. Griffin will bring experience, talent and speed to the secondary. Griffin not only player corner, but also finished 2nd in the conference in punt return average with 8.3 yards per return. Starr led the team in tackles with 90 last season and was a 2008 All-Conference USA Honorable Mention.
Most of the playmakers on either side of the ball our seniors, so they have the experience, talent and knowledge of what it takes to be successful. The Tigers have this going for them and I think Memphis will be striving to improve upon last year’s record.Prediction: 7-5