2019 Memphis Football Season Preview
Memphis football has been one of the better teams in the Group of 5 over the last five years and despite losing some key pieces from last year’s squad, the Tigers are back and ready to compete in the AAC in 2019.
2018 Record: 8-6 overall, 5-3 in American Athletic
Head Coach: Mike Norvell, 4th year, 26-14
The offense was very good last season–something a Mike Norvell-coached squad always excels at. Memphis led the AAC and finished fourth in the nation averaging 523 yards per game, and was seventh in the country in scoring averaging 43 points per contest.
To be that efficient again, replacing their stud running back duo will be a priority. Darrell Henderson left early after averaging close to nine yards per carry with 1,909 yards and 22 scores, and do-it-all star Tony Pollard is done, too. The starting job will fall on Patrick Taylor’s shoulders who rushed for 1,012 yards and 15 scores last season–depth will be the question however, as redshirt freshman Kenny Gianwell and sophomore Timothy Taylor will be next in line for touches.
Quarterback will not be a concern as long as former Arizona State signal caller Brady White stays healthy. His first season as a Tiger went very well as he completed 63% of his passes for 3,296 yards and 26 scores with nine picks. He isn’t the most savvy with his legs, but he puts the ball where it needs to be consistently.
His receiving core returns a lot of talent as well. The unit is led by junior Damonte Coxie who caught 72 passes for 1,174 yards and seven scores last year. Joey Magnifico is a really good tight end averaging over 17 yards per catch with five scores. Pop Williams is a smallish short range receiver coming off a 33-catch season, and the running backs all get involved in the passing game.
The Tiger line might not crush opponents with a ton of power, but it’s great at opening holes for the home run hitters to fly through, and it’s great at keeping White upright. They will be replacing both of their tackles, so the question marks will need to be solidified during fall camp.
Memphis was solid, but unspectacular a season ago. They beat up on bad offenses and were beat up by good offensive units. The Tigers had a nice pass rush and was fourth in the conference against the run, but it allowed 31 points or more eight times in the last 12 games. With ten of the top 12 tacklers back, the experience is there to be even better.
The defensive line is solid and experienced–the combination of 300-pound junior O’Bryan Goodson and 290-pound junior John Tate will work on the nose, and 280-pound senior Jonathan Wilson and 275-pound junior Joseph Dorceus will be on the outside.
The linebackers are the leaders of the defense though, led by do-it-all guy Bryce Huff who knows how to get after the quarterback. He is joined by a trio of solid and experienced players in Austin Hall, Tim Hart and JJ Russell.
The secondary brings up the rear in terms of talent and production. They failed to produce enough takeaways last season only picking off nine passes, and lacking in the passes defensed category. TJ Carter returns at one corner spot, but they will need to replace Tito Windham. Junior safety Tyrez Lindsey is the team’s leading returning tackler with 71 stops, and 205-pound Josh Perry plays the rover roll very well–reminds me of a linebacker with speed playing safety.
Memphis has excelled under Mike Norvell but always seems to come up short–specifically in bowl games (0-3) and against UCF. Luckily, this year UCF is not on the regular season schedule but the Tigers have to visit Houston, USF and Temple—certainly no cake-walks. A non-conference opener against rival Ole Miss will also provide a challenge to start the year.
The offense lost a lot, but can easily reload and put up insane numbers with QB Brady White, WR Damonte Coxie and TE Joey Magnifico leading a strong passing attack, and RB Patrick Taylor being just as good as Darrell Henderson.
The defense will need to force more turnovers and get off the field on third-down, but they returned a lot of talent and can be better than a season ago.