2015 Memphis Tigers Football Preview

Paxton Lynch stands 6'7" and that only abets his strong owing arm.
Paxton Lynch stands 6’7″ and that only abets his strong owing arm.

Memphis Tigers
Head coach: Justin Fuente
2014 Record: 10-3; 7-1 AAC
2014 Bowl: 55-48 OT Win over BYU at Miami Beach Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 3 defense

Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +120000
Odds to win 2015 AAC Title: +280
Regular Season Wins: Over 8 (+150), Under 8 (-170)
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Memphis went for a high risk, high reward plan when it turned to Justin Fuente as its quarterback, but it’s starting to really pay dividends now.

Justin Fuente was billed as something of a project as a 6’7” freshman QB and he did initially struggle, but he started to show signs of brilliance last year when he passed for 3,031 yards to become only the third Memphis QB to pass the 3k mark in a season. It led Memphis to a 10 win season and its first bowl game since 2008.

At RB, Memphis loses Brandon Hayes, but it returns Doroland Dorceus, though he missed spring with knee issues. Sophomore back Jarvis Cooper is quick and powerful and will be a short yardage and goal line option. Junior Sam Craft will see time carrying the ball while also lining up as a WR.

Memphis returns its top receiver from last season in Mose Frazier. Frazier is a good consistent option and four of the team’s top six do return. TE Alan Cross was a first team all-league selection last year and could be even better this year.

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The Tigers were a top defensive unit last year but it loses eight starters from that squad. Barry Odom (defensive coordinator) is also out of the picture as he returned to Mizzou. LB coach and associate HC Galen Scott will handle the duties. He has to find three new starting LBs and will need two new starting DBs.

Bobby McCain and Martin Ifedi were be staples of the ‘D’ and Ifedi is the school’s career sack leader at DE. But both are gone. LB Tank Jakes was the league’s co-defensive player of the year and is another huge key in this defensive scheme and he’s graduated, too. That trio is a huge loss.

Dontrell Nelson at CB and DE Latarius Brady will be featured talents. Wynton McManis will likely line up at LB, too. All have played key roles as reserved, so there is moderate experience in the defense. The defense’s best talent is LB Jackson Lillion. He forced two fumbles last year and had nine tackles for loss. Nelson and junior Chauncey Lanier will start at CB. FS Reggis Ball is the only returning starter in the secondary.

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Memphis returns the Special Teams Player of the Year in Jake Elliot. Elliot hit a 54-yard field goal to tie the game in the first OT against BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. He hit 37 of 50 in his first two seasons, and also hit the game winner in the closing seconds at Temple which made Memphis Bowl-eligible. Punting will be strong. The kickoff unit has to be better and hasn’t returned for a TD since 1996. Sam Craft will handle kick off returns while Roderick Proctor is the punt returner.

The Tigers would love another 10 win season, but that’s a lot to ask with so much turnover and three key defensive studs all gone. Even so, Memphis has a chance to win the AAC West, though Houston and Navy are slightly favored squads. Even so, Lynch is a really good quarterback and the RB corp is strong, too.

This squad is actually limited by its defensive potential, because scoring probably won’t be too difficult with such talented standouts at the key positions. If the secondary excels and gels, this team returns to nine or ten wins. Oddsmakers set the O/U at 8 wins, but we’re going one more.

Prediction: 9 wins

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