May 21, 2024

Memphis Spring Football Preview 

Starting at 7 pm the University of Memphis will hold its annual Spring football game tomorrow from the newly named Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, formerly known as Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Tigers Head Coach, Ryan Silverfield, will look to improve on the 6-6 final record in 2021 that ended in a bowl “win” in Hawaii {Memphis has the trophy, so it counts} to increase the streak to 8 consecutive bowl games. On Friday night, Tiger fans will see new faces in jerseys and on the sidelines. What new coaches will be roaming the sidelines in this upcoming 2022 season? 

In all of College Football, there are only six schools that retained their entire coaching staffs going into this season. This has become a nationwide trend like the transfer portal for players. Memphis had to replace three assistants in the offseason in some key roles and in my opinion, Silverfield hit three home runs. 

Who is in what role? 


 Tim Cramsey from Marshall was pegged to replace Kevin Johns who took the same position at Duke. This hire will be one that all eyes will be on as Cramsey’s offenses while with the Thundering Herd were quite prolific and high scoring ranking 65 in rushing offense and 18th in passing nationally in 2021. Tiger fans have become accustomed to a team that strikes fast and can score at a blistering pace. Fans have questions about this offense and Friday we will have them answered and get a sneak peek into what this offense will look like. Will it be a new-look offense with all the talent on that side of the ball? 


Matt Barnes comes to Memphis from Ohio State University. Barnes replaces former DC Mike Macintyre who departed for the head coach position at Florida International. Barnes served at the DC in Columbus for the final games down the stretch for the Buckeyes. During this stretch, they were ranked in the top 5 in multiple categories and played with ferocity and tenacity. Barnes will take over a Tiger defense that seemed to gel as the season progressed. Can Barnes take this defense to the next level? 


If you look at the recent names of running back coaches at Memphis, you will see some names of up and comers in the coaching world. Former coach Carlos Locklyn is now at Oregon leading their backs with former Memphis defensive coordinator Dan Lanning at the helm. This offseason saw the door of assistant coaches open as Sean Dawkins from Charlotte would come to replace Anthony Jones who departed for TCU. The running back position room is quite full this season and will look to improve on a season that was not up to the standards at the position for Memphis. Will Dawkins get Memphis running back in the right direction? 

2022 Season Outlook – Offense

In 2021 the offense for Memphis started with one question and that was who would play quarterback. We received our answer in the opening game against Nichols State when Arizona transfer, Grant Gunnel, was injured. Out trotted True Freshman Seth Henigan to lead this team. Henigan would grow up in front of Tiger fans by finishing the season with 3,322 yards passing with 25 Tds and 8 interceptions and finished with a quarterback rating of 147. The Tiger’s total yardage for the 2021 season was 5,300 yards while averaging 438 yards per game and roughly 6 yards per play. They would have an average time of possession per game of 28:13. 

The Tigers would start red hot running the ball out of the gate for 585 yards against Nichols State and Arkansas State respectively. Memphis last season according to in the 4 games Memphis was leading by 15 or more points would only rush the ball 44 times for 153 yards. To put this into perspective Alabama in their 10 games leading by 15 points or more ran the ball 194 times for 958 yards. This part of the offense will have to improve for the Tigers to be successful in 2022. 

Memphis finished the season rushing 416 attempts for 1,645 yards. The Arkansas State game would see the Tigers’ longest rush of the season when Freshman Brandon Thomas broke a 75-yard run for a TD. The trip to Jonesboro would also see the season-long record pass of 75 yards from Henigan to Calvin Austin for a Td. This would be repeated later in the season when Eddie Lewis would score against East Carolina at home. 

The Tigers finished 2021 with a RedZone scoring percentage of 82% {36/44}, Redzone Td of 59% {26/44}, and a point after percentage of 90% {37/41}. 

The schedule will feature a spread of seven home games to five road games with Memphis not playing conference opponents Cincinnati and South Florida. 2022 will open with a trip to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Bulldogs from the SEC. This will be a good test for this team to start the season. We have talked about the new coaches now let’s talk about some new Tiger players and who will be returning to join them. 

Offensively the position rooms will be crowded with talent. Of all these positions the quarterback and running back have my interest the most coming into this season. Can Henigan keep progressing in this offense? Will someone beat him out? Who will be the bell cow in the trenches? Will it be by committee this season again? 

When you look at the Memphis quarterback position it is one that Tiger fans have quite honestly been spoiled at. From Riley Ferguson to Paxton Lynch to Brady White and others this has become and plug and play a type of position. While Seth showed why he deserves to be the starter based on his performance from the last season nothing is guaranteed at this level.

As I mentioned earlier, Tiger fans watched Henigan grow last season. What we didn’t see was a viable backup at this position. This is where this season is different for me. Arizona transfer Grant Gunnel has healed from his injury and looks to finally prove why he came to the bluff city.

Incoming three-star freshmen, Tevin Carter, and JC French will be hungry to compete right away. Carter comes in as an Elite 11 finalist from Memphis, Tn, and French from Roswell, GA, who ranks the 21st best dual-threat player in the nation. Whomever Silverfield announces at the opening day starter will be in a battle to keep that position. 

Running the ball is something that Memphis did by a committee in 2021. Brandon Thomas, Rodriguez Clark, Marquavius Weaver, and Asia Martin carried the load for the Tigers. In 2022 they have some incoming players who look to get a piece of the ground action. Memphis went to the transfer portal and got a star in Northern Illinois Jevyon Ducker. Ducker ran for 100 yards in 5 of his last 7 games for the Huskies in 2021. Incoming freshman and Marietta, GA native Sutton Smith look to bring his world-class speed and playmaking skills to this Tiger team. Sutton rushed for 748 yards on 140 carries in his senior season. Coaches Silverfield, Cramsey, and Dawkins will look to utilize these weapons in the best way possible.

The Wide Receiver position is one of an abundance of youth for Memphis. They will have to replace their top receivers from 2021 Calvin Austin and Sean Dykes, but I do not see that being an issue. Top returning receivers Javon Ivory, Eddie Lewis along with a freshman invasion in Koby Drake, Roc Taylor, Marycal Jones, and others will make up for their absence. These weapons will help whoever is under center be successful. 

2022 Season Outlook – Defense

Defensively fans want to see the one thing and that is consistency. When you look over the last two seasons, they have started slow and got better as the year has finished. The Tigers’ defense will be young and hungry to make a statement early in the season. Who remains and who has come in that can make an immediate impact in this new-look defense? 

Returning Senior Quindell Johnson ranked 48th nationally with 104 tackles {66 solos, 38 assisted} and will be looked to as a leader for this defense. He, along with Sophomore Corner, Greg Rubin, Senior Rodney Owens, Sophomore Cameron Smith, and others will be looking to start the season on a high note against a Mississippi State team that throws the ball essentially every play. Creating extra possessions for this Memphis offense will be key this season. The Tigers had 9 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries in the 2021 season. Memphis recruited the defensive back position heavily by bringing in three-star safety Trevor Hardy from Alabaster, Alabama, Dedrick Ball from Pensacola, FL, and Ladarian Paulk from Fort Smith Community College to bolster the back end of an already young and talented group. 

The defensive line will be led by seniors Wardalis Duckworth, Maurice White, and Johnny Westbrook and will look to cause havoc up front. Brandon White, Hank Pearson, and others will be looked on to make their impacts as well. Memphis will have to get more pressure on quarterbacks this season as they only had 37 hurries in the 2021 season. 

At the linebacker level, the Tigers are led by a 5th-year senior and Ecru, MS native Xavier “Zay” Cullens who had 70 tackles {45 solo and 25 assisted}, 2 sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2021. He along with an abundance of youth will look to be a force this season. 

On the recruiting trail, Memphis continues to grow and exceed yearly with this season being no different. Memphis bolstered their defense with talent at both the linebacker and defensive line positions. Incomings are three-star Milan High LB, Antwain Barham, three-star DL from Antioch, TN, Eric Gaston, three-star LB from Oakman, AL, AJ Odom, Highland Hills CC LB, Warren Peoples, and possibly the best defensive player in the class and four-star DL from Cedar Grove, GA, Joshua White.

Get out to the Liberty Bowl…oh sorry Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and support these players and coaches. Memphis Football is BACK!!! 

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