Memphis hasn’t missed a single step since Justin Fuente’s leave to Virginia Tech, the Tigers are 26-14 in three years under Jay Norvell, and 2019 looks like it could be their best year yet.
Pretty much everyone is back from an 8-6 team that came a few plays away from ending UCF’s winning streak twice last year. The Tigers have played UCF four times in the past two years, seemingly getting closer each time but always falling short. They will not meet in the regular season this year but a third straight AAC title matchup feels likely.
All three coordinators are gone as is stud RB Darrell Henderson, but this team is projected to be favored in every game in what feels like it could be a program-defining year.
The new OC is Kevin Johns, who has served as the OC at Indiana, Western Michigan, and Texas Tech in recent years. He loses one of the best players in Memphis history, RB Darrell Henderson, who rushed for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns last year on an absurd 8.9 yards per carry.
Henderson’s loss will be felt, but the #2 from last year wasn’t too shabby either in Patrick Taylor Jr. (1,122 yards, 16 touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry). RB/Slot Kenny Gainwell is an absurdly quick redshirt freshman who could get some carries too.
The line loses a few pieces, but 1st team all conference IOL Dustin Woodard is back along with four-star sophomore Obinna Eze.
The passing game isn’t too shabby either. QB Brady White threw 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions last year and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt (13.4 yards per completion). Vertical threat and 1,000+ yard pass catcher Damonte Coxie (16.3 YPC) returns along with slot John “Pop” Williams. A few key guys are gone but there are a tantalizing group of underclassmen waiting for their turn.
The loss of Henderson will hurt, but they lost Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller last year and were still one of the most potent offenses in the nation. I expect that again.
The defense was fine last year, the offense’s high tempo style probably kept them on the field a little too long for them to fully realize their potential, but a lot of the key pieces return, and the new DC is Adam Fuller, who held the same job at Marshall last year.
11 of the top 12 tacklers return, including some incredible pieces like OLBs Bryce Huff and Austin Hall (11 sacks, 17 TFL combined), DEs Joseph Dorceus and Jonathan Wilson (six sacks apiece). Run stuffers John Tate IV and O’Bryan Goodson on the inside, and a talented secondary led by cornerback TJ Carter (12 PBUs, two picks) and nickelback Josh Perry (seven PBUs).
That’s not to mention tantalizing freshman EDGE Kayode Oladele, Auburn transfer John Broussard at corner, and highly touted safety Carlito Gonzalez back from injury.
There are so many potential studs on this defense as pretty much everyone is back from an already good group. I’m excited to see this defense play.
This team has a lot of potentials, and they have a schedule where if the potential is realized, this could be the third straight year the AAC produces an undefeated regular season team, only this time it won’t be UCF.
There are a couple reasons I’d still have Memphis slightly behind UCF for top dog in the conference, though. Both coordinators are new and they do lose an all-timer at RB, but a New Year’s Six Bowl is a very real possibility.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|14-Sep||at South Alabama||123||16.0|
Average Projected Record: 9.1 wins, 2.9 losses (5.8 wins, 2.2 losses)