Last night the Memphis Tigers capped off their spring practice schedule with their second annual Friday Night Stripes scrimmage at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. I usually try not and take too much stock in scrimmages but I do feel that there are some things that can be observed as things to come as well as points of emphasis moving forward. Below I will share a few thoughts on my takeaways from the scrimmage.
I admit fully that I am a Lynch guy. He had an ok freshman year, a good sophomore year, and I see no reason why the upcoming season can not cement him as a name to watch in college football. Lynch completed 17 of his 23 passes for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did not run the ball often but has shown in the past that he can make plays with his feet. The things I came away impressed with by Lynch were his increased accuracy, decision making, and arm strength.
Not many balls seemed to sail on Lynch. In fact, a couple of his incompletions hit receivers in the numbers but were simply not caught. A knock on Lynch this past season was that he let balls get out of control. Not only were control issues a problem but at times Lynch also had questionable decision making. He didn't seem to always make great decisions on when to throw the ball away as opposed to throwing in to traffic. Lynch showed better pocket awareness last night as well as sound decision making. The offense was well managed and although Lynch faced pressure, he did not wilt and make bad decisions with his throws. There were also comments from those around me on his increased arm strength. A Tiger fan near me told me, "I didn't know he had that type strength." My optimism in Lynch is rooted that he was good already but these improvements will make him next level good.
The wide receivers
In the past after games had concluded I would visit the Memphis message board titled memphistigers.org and read about how the receivers dropped too many easy catches. This did not appear to be the case tonight. The receiving corp appears to have put in some work on their hands and seem as if they will be pretty decent this season. The Tigers receivers did a pretty good job at hauling in several great catches. There were a couple of missed opportunities on SC top 10 type plays but overall the receivers caught the balls they should catch. If they remain consistent, with the talent they have in Lynch under center, this corp could be lethal...especially given the fast paced offense Memphis likes to run.
The offense did give up two fumbles in the game. The Tigers were doomed by fumbles just two short seasons ago so these fumbles should be cause for some concern. I understand that turnovers will happen in the course of a game, a season, but they have to be limited to find similar success to last seasons Tigers. Long drives ending in fumbles was almost common in 2013. Tiger fans need to hope this was just preseason jitters and that this bug does not carry over in to the season.
Were the turnovers a mental error by the offense or solid play by the defense? I entered the scrimmage with a question mark on the defense. Lets face it, they lost several key pieces both on the line and in the secondary. The defense, however, played a pretty crisp game. I noted early on how quickly the defense was penetrating and getting in the backfield. Once the offensive line settled in the Tigers D did have trouble finding the same groove. The defense, it appears, will still need some time to gel but the situation does not seem as big a question mark as it was a few weeks ago.
Looking back, Looking ahead
Memphis ended a record setting season just 4 short months ago. Although several key parts of that team have moved on there is no reason, after tonight's showing, to expect much drop off. In 5 short months the Tigers will take the field against Missouri State and look to build upon their programs success. Although I started earlier in this thoughts and notes section that, "I try not and take too much stock in scrimmages," I have to end on a different note. Given the Tigers success last year and their performance tonight it is completely understanding to have high hopes and expectations for the 2015 Memphis Tigers Football Team. Do not be surprised when this team is competing at a high level this fall.