The Memphis Tigers are at a pivotal point in their football program’s history. The program was passed over by Power Five conferences, such as the Big 12, regarding realignment. Instead, the Big 12 has accepted schools such as Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston. All three programs will start competition in the Big 12 in 2023. Despite its exceptional resume in Group of Five competition, the Tigers will remain in the American Athletic Conference for the time being. The best that the Tigers can do is to continue to win big games and dominate the new-look AAC in the future.
But that dominance must start this season. Another 6-6 record will be a bad look for a program trying to position itself for acceptance into a Power Five conference. The Tigers had turnovers at both the offensive and defensive coordinator positions. However, they bring back many veteran players composed of the transfer portal and senior classmen.
Previewing the Memphis Offense
The Tigers’ offense will have to fill two major holes on their offense. Former players such as Calvin Austin lll and Sean Dykes were the main catalyst of the Tigers’ offense last season. The unit will take a receiver-by-committee approach to fill the voids left by both Dykes and Austin lll. Transfer portal prospect Joseph Scates shows a lot of promise as a potential big-play threat in the Tigers’ offense.
Junior wideout Javon Ivory is expected to have a bigger role in the Memphis passing attack this season. He was the Tigers’ third-leading receiver last year. Quarterback Seth Henigan returns as the team’s man guy under center. He closed out an exceptional freshmen campaign with over 3,322 passing yards, 25 TDs, and only eight interceptions. However, the position that needs to have the biggest impact on this team will be at running back.
The position had not featured a 1,000-yard rusher since 2019, when Kenneth Gainwell was with the team. Head coach Ryan Silverfield has announced that Brandon Thomas will be the Tigers’ RB1 to start the season. The sophomore running was off to a great start in 2021 until he dealt with injuries that limited his production. He closed out the year with 669 rushing yards and eight TDs. A player to keep an eye on is running back Jeyvon Ducker. Ducker transferred from Northern Illinois to the Tigers program during the offseason. He was a 1,000-yard rusher with the Huskies in 2021.
Previewing the Memphis Defense
Memphis will be utilizing the 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Matt Barnes on defense. Barnes takes over for Mike MacIntyre, now the Florida International head coach. He will be tasked with improving a Memphis defense that has not gotten any better over the past five seasons. The former Ohio State defensive backs coach inherits a unit with veteran players such as Quindell Johnson, Xavier Cullens, Rodney Owens, and Geoff Cantin-Arku. If the defense could show some resemblance of improvement from last season, the hiring of Barnes will go down as one of Silverfield’s best moves.
Mississippi State: September 3
Houston: October 7
East Carolina: October 15
Tulane: October 22
UCF: November 5
SMU: November 26
Win-Loss Projections: 8-4 (Bowl Game Appearance)
Expect the Tigers to bounce back from their mediocre 6-6 record from last season. A move to a Power Five conference is highly unlikely after this year. However, closing the year with a bowl appearance should silence any rumors of coach Silverfield being on the hot seat. Memphis will eventually transition to one of the super conferences, but for now, winning football games consistently will need to be their main focus.