I’m glad to have this opportunity to write about Memphis football- a passion of mine for close to 30 years. I will say that if you’re looking for in-depth reporting and feature pieces…then I’m not your guy. There’s plenty of really great writers out there. I’m just a guy with some mild (OK, really strong) opinions. I’m also not a rah rah guy and I’ll call things as I see them. Most of my columns will be 1,000 words or less.
So with all of that out of the way, here’s how it begins…
As we approach the start of the Tigers football 2018 campaign, here’s what I’m most excited, most worried, and most intrigued about. Also what I am least excited, least worried, and least intrigued about.
I’m beyond excited to see the progress of the defense. It appears that TJ Carter is really stepping up as a leader. Carter and his teammates may need to carry some of the load- especially early, as the Tigers look to break in a couple of new pieces on the offensive side of the ball. Getting Jackson Dillon back and Austin Hall returning from injury should be a boost to give the defense some extra experience and toughness.
After a buy game against Mercer, the Tigers face a stern test in their AAC opener on the road at Navy in Annapolis. The Tigers look as though they have figured out the Middies in the last couple of meetings, but it’s a little concerning that the Tigers likely won’t have their offense 100% in sync in a such a critical game. The Tigers can recover from a loss that early (I still think all of their goals will be in front of them), but a win at Navy goes a long way in the confidence department.
I’ll argue with anyone that this Tigers football team has higher aspirations and expectations than any team in program history. How they handle those expectations is the real key to how far this team can go. They are deep, fast, and talented- probably more so than any team in the AAC- but the position of this program with having the target on its back is certainly rarefied air for Memphis.
There is so much to look forward to this year, but one of the things I am not looking forward to is CoachWatch 2018. No matter how much we scream from the rooftops there is a constant grumbling for some of the fanbase that will wring their hands over whether or not Mike Norvell sets sail for greener pastures. As people get tired of me saying, whether Mike Norvell leaves Memphis or not has very little to do with Memphis and more with the programs shopping for a coach. So just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I’d put the Memphis running back crew against any program in the country. That will hopefully serve the Tigers well especially early with a new quarterback and some guy named Anthony Miller catching passes for the Chicago Bears (BEAR DOWN). There is so much depth- and diverse depth at that- on this group. Patrick Taylor and Darrell Henderson are enough by themselves to make defensive coordinators stay up all night.
I’m not really that worried about replacing Anthony Miller’s production. If there is any concern at all with the WR corps is that a true leader hasn’t stepped up from that group yet. There’s plenty of time and talent. Miller was a beast, but between the wideouts, tight ends, and backs, no one has to be Anthony Miller- they just have to be themselves and that should be enough to keep the offense on track.
This looks to be an exciting season and it can’t get started soon enough.
Personal note: I’m thrilled to be writing about the Tigers and WWE for TBL and you can reach out to me with criticism, story ideas and anything else on Twitter @tigersjohnm