The 2021 campaign for the Memphis Tigers football program started on a high note. First, they defeated an SEC program, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 31-29. The win over the Bulldogs was viewed as a potential launching point for a stellar year for Memphis. However, things would drastically turn when the Tigers lost the following week against UTSA. The defeat would lead to a three-game losing streak and place them out of the running for an AAC title game. Memphis would finish the season with a 6-6 record after winning three out of their last six games.
Their bowl game against Hawaii was canceled because of a Covid outbreak within the Rainbow Warriors football team. The Tigers’ offseason was filled with many changes within the program. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns left the Tigers to become part of the Duke Blue Devils coaching staff.
His role with Duke will be the same as it was with the Tigers, which was the offensive coordinator. On the defensive side, coordinator Mike MacIntyre left Memphis to become the head coach at FIU. But honestly, are the Tigers missing anything of value that Maclntyre both to the table as DC? The program may have an upgrade in new defensive coordinator Matt Barnes, who served as the defensive backs coach at Ohio State. Regarding actual production on the football field, the Tigers will have big shoes to fill when it comes to replacing Calvin Austin lll. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected the standout wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. Today, Strike 7 Sports will list four critical factors that will determine the Tigers’ level of success in 2022.
The Growth of Seth Henigan Playing in His Sophomore Year
Seth Henigan was given the Tigers starting quarterback job after Grant Gunnel could not begin the season due to an injury. Henigan would take over and would not look back. His freshman season was exceptional. He threw for 3,325 yards, and 25 TDs, against eight interceptions. Outside of the head coach, the quarterback position is essential in college football. Their growth from year one to year two is critical for team success. Henigan’s progression when operating a new offense will determine how productive the Tigers can become this season.
Filling the Void Left Behind By Wide Receiver Calvin Austin
As previously stated, the Memphis native and star receiver are now in the NFL. Austin played a pivotal role in what the Tigers did on offense for the past two seasons. He closed out his final year with over 1,149 yards, 74 receptions, and eight TDs. Memphis utilized the transfer portal to fill the void that Austin left behind.
Former Iowa State receiver Joseph Scates is a name to pay close attention to as the Tigers head into the 2022 campaign. Scates is an efficient route runner and knows how to create separation that can allow him to be productive. The offense will also need another productive year out of wideout Jaylon Ivory. The Grove Hills, Alabama native recorded 29 receptions, 413 receiving yards, and three touchdowns last season.
The Timing of How Long the New Offensive and Defensive Coordinators Schemes Will Set In
Under the guidance of Kevin Johns, the Memphis offense performed at its highest peak. Memphis ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories in 2019, and it finished 17th in passing and 22nd in total offense in 2020. Johns is now the offensive coordinator for the Duke Blue Devils. Whether college or pro, new offenses can take time for personnel to understand fully. Taking over for Johns will be Tim Cramsey.
Cramsey comes over from the University of Marshall. Under Cramsey’s watch, the Thundering Herd averaged 456.5 yards and 33.0 points last season, the 16th and 30th in the nation. As for the defense, Matt Barnes will be taking over for Mike MacIntyre. Before arriving at Memphis, Barnes was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State. His top priority will be to figure out a way to minimize the Tigers’ ineffectiveness when stopping big plays. Memphis gave up 418 yards and 29 points per game last year.
The Effectiveness of the Running Game
The vaunted Memphis Tigers rushing attack was not up to standard in 2021. Running back, Brandon Thomas finished the season with 669 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman. Before the regression of the running game last season, the Tigers had one of the better rushing attacks in college football. The team has a 19-0 record when rushing for 160 yards or more. In 2021, the Tigers only hit near 160 once in the final ten games. Transfer portal talent Jeyvon Ducker may be a tailback that can get the Tigers rushing attack back to its historical levels. In his freshman season at Northern Illinois, Ducker rushed for 1,184 yards and three touchdowns. Also, tailbacks Asa Martin and Rodrigues Clark return for the senior seasons with the program.
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