Quarterback may be a big question for the Memphis Tigers heading into the 2018 season, but shouldn’t concern fans too much. Mike Norvell’s team still has a ton of talent to utilize at every other position. Brady White and David Moore will continue to battle for the opportunity to replace Riley Ferguson, and whoever wins will step into an offense ready to roll. New coordinator Kenny Dillingham may not have much experience either, but his first offense shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. Today, we take a look at five players who will star for the Tigers in the 2018 season.
Trevon Tate, Tackle
Center Drew Kyser and guard Dustin Woodard should also be on this list, because all three linemen will be great this year. Last year, the offensive line was the X-Factor that determined how far the offense went. They were up to the task, and gave the Tigers one of the best offenses in the country. Now, they are even more experienced with this trio returning. Kyser will be the steady leader, Woodard will be the bruising run blocker, but Tate will be tabbed to protect the quarterback again. He was a big reason why the Tigers improved on the number of sacks given up (35 in 2016 to 21 in 2017), and should be even better in 2018.
Sean Dykes, Tight End
Joey Magnifico started the year as the potential star at this position, and could be considered for this list as well. When injuries limited the Tigers starter, Dykes stepped right in. He’s more of a pass catcher than a blocker, but adding size to his frame will do wonders for both aspects. His clutch catch against Houston last year gave them the winning touchdown, and he had 161 yards receiving in the AAC Championship Game. Now a junior (as is Magnifico), Memphis has yet another option to find downfield.
Tony Pollard, Wide Receiver/Returner
It seems that the college football world finally got to know Tony Pollard the kick returner (finally) last year, but they may get to know him in a different role this season. Pollard is the best kick returner in the country, but his role will expand now that Anthony Miller and Phil Mayhue are gone. The junior was used in multiple ways last season, and we should expect him to get more touches in 2018. Pollard caught passes downfield, caught screens as a running back, and ran jet sweeps for the Tigers offense. He rushed the ball 30 times for 230 yards (7.7 yards per carry) with two touchdowns, and also caught 36 passes for 536 yards (14.6 yard average) with four touchdowns. Now, he may be the primary option at receiver, which will only increase those numbers. So even if teams try to avoid kicking to him, which they should, Pollard will still have an impact on every game.
Darrell Henderson/Patrick Taylor Jr, Running Backs
You can’t have one without the other. Henderson is lightning to Taylor’s thunder. Taylor, thunder to Henderson’s lightning. The two are a perfect combination in the backfield, and showed us why last year. With Memphis needing the run game to evolve in 2017, Henderson and Taylor took the reins and never looked back. The juniors, yes juniors, accumulated 2,394 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and they may be called upon much more this year. With the quarterback situation unsettled, the run game might need to carry the offense until a winner emerges. That won’t be a problem with a veteran offensive line and the backs to carry the load. Oh, and we could see this combination again next year.
Damonte Coxie, Wide Receiver
Coxie showed tremendous potential last year, making many clutch catches towards the end of the season. The 6’3”, 175 pound sophomore has the tools to take over for Anthony Miller, and now gets the reps to prove he can. He averaged 15.4 yards per catch, which led the team of anyone with 20+ catches. While the quarterback will determine much of the passing success, Memphis is blessed with plenty of options at receiver and tight end. Coxie could be the best of them all, and he’ll finally get a chance to burn defenses on a regular basis.
Which player will be the biggest star for Memphis’ offense in 2018?
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