Coach Justin Fuente took his squad through their final practice of the spring today, but he continues to stress to the team that this is certainly not the end of working towards being ready to play this fall. He stressed that this time will be for maintaining their studies in the classroom and finishing out the semester strong as well as working out in the weight room and running.
The team went through 10 periods of practice in shorts and helmets and then Fuente spent a period of time instructing the players on how to go through Thursday and Friday practices in the fall. He finished by calling the team up as he does at the end of each practice and went through his expectations for this team to be successful.
"It has just begun for us," said Fuente after practice. "We have several months in front of us for preparing and getting better and that is just what I finished telling them (the team). The next several months will be very important for this team and how they do and how committed they are to getting bigger, faster and stronger and getting in the kind of shape it is going to take for this squad to play."
Check out the interview with Coach Fuente below as he talks more about his expectations for his Tigers.
The spring practice blog comes to an end today as the Tigers have their final of 15 spring practices under Coach Justin Fuente. There could not have been better weather for the team to work through drills and scrimmages this spring, and the crowd at the Liberty Bowl last weekend for the Blue-Gray Game was the largest in many years. It is a new era of Tiger football under Coach Fuente and this is just the first step in bringing this program up. The players will now transition to the off-season workout program with the strength and conditioning staff in order to be ready for fall camp in August.
We met with several players before meetings today and they talked about the end of spring and what needs to get accomplished in the 150 days leading up to the season opener against UT Martin. And while the players have worked through many grueling practices this spring, quite a few have said they are not happy that today is the last day of practice. Check out the video interviews below with safety Cannon Smith, linebacker Khiry Battle, offensive lineman Jordan Devey and receiver Jamere Valentine.
Coach Fuente took his squad through 19 periods of practice today and said that he was pleased with the way the team responded to having practice after already having played the spring game over the weekend.
See the video below for Fuente's comments after practice.
Receiver Keiwone Malone was back out at practice after having been suspended internally by Fuente. Fuente addressed the questions regarding Malone's return by saying that "It is up to him (Keiwone). He has to do right every time. He is back but he needs to prove to everybody that this is important to him."
Fuente will work his squad through their final practice on Wednesday and indicated that they will go over more of what they should expect out of Thursday and Friday practices in the fall. The Tigers will be in just helmets for their final workout.
A great crowd turned out for the 2012 Blue-Gray scrimmage at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday. The Tigers have just two more practices of the NCAA-allowed 15 workouts for the spring session. They practice this afternoon and Wednesday afternoon before shifting the focus to the off-season conditioning that runs throughout the rest of spring and into summer.
Today we sat down with corner Bobby McCain and linebacker Reggis Ball before meetings to get their take on spring practice.
McCain played in 11 games and made nine starts at corner in 2011 as a true freshman. He logged 29 tackles, four pass breakups and a forced fumble in addition to a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tulane. Ball, the brother of former Tiger safety Marcus Ball, redshirted last season partly because of an early injury he suffered in fall camp. Ball has been commended by several teammates this spring for his ability to grasp the system and for flying around on defense and making plays.
Although it was a controlled scrimmage, first-year head coach Justin Fuente's Tigers showed some offensive fireworks in the University of Memphis' Blue-Gray Game Saturday, before an estimated crowd of 4,000 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis ran 82 plays in the spring game, but afterwards, Fuente saw room for improvement.
"There was some good and some bad, and something to be learned from all of it," said Fuente following the scrimmage. "I still don't think we understand offensively quite the tempo that we want to get in and out and move around with. I think the kids are trying, but it is hard for them to do it consistently."
The Tigers offense had 16 offensive series with quarterbacks Jacob Karam and Taylor Reed leading the squad eight times apiece. Karam, a junior transfer from Texas Tech, was 7-of-16 passing for 159 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Reed, a returning sophomore, went 8-of-16 for 58 yards through the air.
After each quarterback had two series, Karam led the Memphis offense on the fifth drive to a touchdown. Karam was 4-of-5 passing for 68 yards on the 11-play drive, which was capped off with a three-yard scoring toss to Alan Cross. Earlier on the possession, a Karam-to-Cross 17-yard connection on fourth down kept the drive going.
Four possessions later, Karam led the Tigers offense to its second score, but in a quicker fashion. On the first play of the drive, Karam lofted a pass down the right sideline that Kevin Wright hauled in over the defender around the 40 yard line and then raced to the end zone for the touchdown. The play covered 70 total yards.
The Tigers' final score came on the last series of the game. Starting from 35 yards out, Karam hit Tyriq Patrick on an out pattern for a 24-yard gain to the 11 yard line. From there, redshirt freshman Clarence Marshall picked up the last 11 yards on a scoring scamper into the end zone.
"I think Jacob (Karam) moved around and made some plays today," said Fuente. "I think he forced one ball. He has to learn not to hold it so long, and that it is not a bad thing to throw it away sometimes. He did make some plays today, and so did Taylor (Reed).
"I am pleased with their work ethic and progress and dedication to the craft. Obviously, I still have to look at the film to see how they played, but I am happy with both of them."
Marshall led the Tigers rushing attack with 43 yards on five carries and a score, while redshirt junior Jaquise Cook had 40 yards on seven carries. Junior Jerrell Rhodes added 28 yards on 11 rushes.
Wright had 81 yards on three catches to pace the receiving corps. Marcus Rucker had two catches for 39 yards, and Reggie Travis grabbed one pass for 29 yards.
Senior defensive lineman Zach Gholson led the Memphis defense with four tackles and two sacks, while Reggis Ball added two sacks and Anthony Brown had two TFL.
"Defensively, I thought we gave up too many big plays," added Fuente. "We have to do whatever we can to get the guy on the ground in order to let us play another snap. I am certainly glad we have another practice on Monday. We have a lot of work to get accomplished."
The Tigers close spring drills with two practices Monday and Wednesday at the Murphy Athletic Complex.
"I think by and large, as a team, we have come a long way throughout the spring," said Fuente. "We have a long way to go, obviously, but I think from a level of expectations, from a level of work ethic and an accountability standpoint, I think we have made strides."
Post-scrimmage video interviews with Coach Justin Fuente, quarterbacks Jacob Karam and Taylor Reed, receiver Kevin Wright and linebacker Charles Harris posted below.
Coach Justin Fuente talked extensively with the media after practice today. See the video below as Fuente continues to talk about the progression of his team. He also answered questions about the quarterback situation and the competition between Jacob Karam and Taylor Reed.
Fuente also spoke about Saturday's scrimmage and feels this weekend is a great time for fans to come out and support this program.
"I would encourage fans to come out on Saturday and take a look at what our kids have been doing. I think fans should be excited. This is a new time for Tiger Football. This is a new time for Tiger Athletics and a new time for the city of Memphis. There are a lot of great things on the horizon in all sports with the new league and this is the first chance for them to come out and see our guys."
"This is a work in progress, but I think you will see guys go out there and play hard; and hopefully be fundamentally sound, physically fit and mentally tough, which is the Tiger code."
After today's workout, there will only be three practices remaining this spring for the Tigers, including this Saturday at the Liberty Bowl. We caught up with several players this afternoon before their meetings with the coaching staff to again get an assessment of how things have gone from a player-perspective this spring. Check out the video interviews below of quarterbacks Taylor Reed and Jacob Karam as well as linebacker Chris Bertucci.
The Tigers worked through their 11th of 15 total spring practices today at the Murphy Athletic Complex. Check out the comments from Coach Justin Fuente following today's practice as he discusses how the offense responded following last Saturday's scrimmage.
Fuente also spoke a bit about what fans can expect to see at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday.
In addition, Fuente was asked about the status of receiver Keiwone Malone. In response, Fuente explained that he has suspended Malone for a violation of team rules. Malone played in eight games in 2011 after transferring from the University of Alabama. He caught 12 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown.
The Tigers are on their final segment of spring practice as Coach Justin Fuente set up the schedule to break up the 15 practices into three segments of five workouts. The team has three practices this week, including the Blue-Gray Game on Saturday at noon, and two workouts next week following the scrimmage.
Saturday's Blue-Gray Game will be set up much like this past weekend's schedule with the team starting their practice at about noon and then going into a scripted situation scrimmage the remainder of the workout. The players will host a clinic for children eighth grade and under following the scrimmage and then players and coaches will be available for autographs. Many of the festivities on Tiger Lane will begin at 10 a.m. For additional details regarding the activities on Saturday, please CLICK HERE.
After last Saturday's scrimmage, Fuente again praised the defense and spoke highly of the defensive line. Today, we sat down with several defenders including lineman Zach Gholson, nickel back Akeem Davis and safety Mitch Huelsing to get their assessment of spring practice and what adjustments the defensive unit as a whole has made.
The Tigers spent the better part of today's practice on a scripted situation scrimmage that again saw the defense dominate the offense.
"The defense did a great job today," said Coach Justin Fuente following today's practice. "The defense beat up on the offense in every drill. The real discouraging part about the offense is that we cannot rebound. We don't have the confidence or toughness to rebound when things don't go very well."
Watch more of Fuente's comments about today's practice in the video below.
The Tigers have five more practices remaining in the spring session, including the Blue-Gray Game at the Liberty Bowl on March 31 at noon.
Fuente spoke more in depth about the offense and what he is seeing right now this spring.
"We had several instances where we should have had some good, easy plays, but we were unable to execute them," explained Fuente. "That is one of my biggest disappointments. That, coupled with our inability to bounce back. When we've got it, we have to make it. Offensively, we need to find a little bit of swagger."
Offensive linemen Jordan Devey and A.J. Antonescu, and corner Taurean Nixon talked earlier about the progress the team is making throughout the spring with the new coaching staff.