Coming off an 8-5 season, the Memphis Tigers feel good about where their program is heading. With a plethora of experience returning, the Tigers are on the verge of adding an outstanding recruiting class on top of it.
Memphis currently has 21 recruits, and the best recruiting class in the Group of 5 as they are ranked 55th in the nation according to 247Sports. Coach Mike Norvell made plenty of splashes last year, and continues to do so in 2017.
Their top recruits include four star OT Obinna Eze, who should compete for a starting spot, and two three star defensive backs in CB TJ Carter and S Quindon Lewis. Norvell focused on defense this year, as 13 of their 21 recruits will line up defensively.
Even with a successful recruiting class, there are still a few positions of need that will should be addressed by signing day. Here’s a look at the Tiger’s strengths and needs heading into National Signing Day.
Areas of Strength: Running back, Wide receiver, Offensive line, Safety
Areas of Need: Quarterback, Linebacker, Punter
This could potentially be a problem for Memphis. Senior Riley Ferguson returns, and is a tremendous talent, but there is little experience behind him with just two sophomores waiting. If Ferguson gets hurt, that could spell trouble for the Tigers. It will be hard to add another player, but it is definitely a position they should think about addressing .
Should something happen at quarterback, the running backs and receivers should be able to carry the load. The top three rushers (Doroland Dorceus, Patrick Taylor Jr., and Darrell Henderson) all return next year. Norvell added an All-Purpose back to the 2017 class in Timothy Taylor as well.
Easily the best position on the team, as the returners are all dangerous. Star Anthony Miller will draw most of the attention next year, so it’s up to Phil Mayhue, Daniel Hurd, and the dynamic Tony Pollard to relieve some of that pressure. With 11 sophomores and juniors on the roster, this position is solidified for a year or two.
There figures to be plenty of competition at this position in 2017. With the top returning only recording nine catches and 85 yards, the position is wide open. Adding in 6’4”, 255 pound recruit Jared Edwards into the mix should give the Tigers plenty of depth.
The youth this season will become valuable experience with 6 freshman and sophomores getting playing time. That being said, there is still plenty of opportunities for incoming recruits to grab a spot. Of the three prospects, four star tackle Obinna Eze figures to compete for a starting role immediately.
Sophomore Jonathan Wilson and Senior Ernest Suttles will lead a group that will need to improve for the Tigers to achieve success defensively. Four of the top six tacklers last year were in the secondary, which says more about the front line than anything. Like the offensive line, the defensive line has plenty of youth that should turn into experience, making it difficult for incoming recruits to find the field.
Memphis has figured out a way to recruit players that can play hybrid positions so they can recruit an in-between player and put him into that role. With the KAT (defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid) and STAR (linebacker/defensive back hybrid) positions in place, the Tigers don’t have to recruit too many true linebackers. They need to add depth, and like the defensive line, need to improve in order to keep the defensive backfield from making all of the stops. Newcomers JJ Russell and Cade Mashburn will push the starters for playing time.
Losing six corners may be a problem for some teams, but Memphis has prepared for these losses well. Including five underclassmen already on campus, four recruits are added led by TJ Carter and a lengthy recruit in Marcus Green.
Four incoming safeties give the position, plus the STAR spot plenty of options. Memphis brings in two potential STAR options in 6’2” 200 pound Malik Smith and 5’11” 203 pound Alec Long. There is plenty of depth ahead of these recruits, so they can be shown the ropes until they’re needed.
Kicker Jake Elliot has exhausted his eligibility, leaving the job up for grabs. Senior Spencer Smith will be challenged by incoming recruit Riley Patterson for the job. Punter will be a need next year as Smith and fellow senior Evan Michael will be gone, and the Tigers don’t have a recruit at that position. A possible option would be Patterson, but they will still need to bring in competition in the future.
Combined with their 2016 recruiting class, which ranked 62nd nationally and third in the American Athletic Conference, Memphis fans should be excited for the future in the AAC.
Mike Norvell has picked up right where Justin Fuenete left off and as this team is in a great position this year and down the line.