The Tigers are continuing to focus on the upcoming season opener versus Mississippi State on Thursday, Sept. 1. The squad practiced this morning at the Murphy Athletic Complex and will have Thursday off before continuing the game plan for the Bulldogs in what will be viewed more as "game week" starting on Friday.
If the Thursday game doesn't throw a few people off, maybe this will -- Friday will be a Tuesday practice and Saturday will be a Wednesday practice, while Sunday and Monday will be two Thursday practices for all those following at home.
Coach Larry Porter was very pleased with practice today, and many out on the field were pleased with the weather as it was overcast most of the morning - a much welcomed break from the heat that the players have battled all through camp.
"Today was probably our best practice of fall camp," said Porter. "I thought we had a very high level, great execution on both sides of the ball. We had great intensity and enthusiasm. It was a really good day."
A full contingent of media came after practice to talk to Coach Porter, presumably to find out if he was ready to name the starting quarterback. By the smile on his face when the question was asked, he knows. But he went with the cliffhanger and told everyone he would make that announcement on Friday after practice. Adding later in the conversation that "it would only be fair to tell the two QBs before he tells the media."
"We have settled in on who that guy is," said Porter when pressed about the starter. "Both guys (Andy Summerlin and Taylor Reed) looked good today. They engineered our offense and kept the guys focused on the task at hand. They were sharp in their decision making and their throws."
Coach Porter explained that there are three qualities that he is looking for in a starting quarterback. 1)ability to manage our offense; 2)decision making; and 3) their productivity throughout camp.
"Andy has been somewhat inconsistent, but when you see him today, that's the guy we need out there on game day," explained Porter. "And you see a young guy in Taylor Reed who has gradually gotten better and truly opened my eyes to some things. I am happy with both guys. I think both are very capable of leading this offense."
One position that Coach Porter also spoke about today was linebacker, which is a spot that the Tigers lost two major contributors in Jamon Hughes and Winston Bowens. Right now, senior Terrence Thomas and junior college transfer Kenyata Johnson are running with the ones, while Khiry Battle, who started one of nine games played last season, and true freshman Charles Harris are running with the twos. Porter explained that Johnson has speed and athleticism and that Thomas is "a veteran guy who can get our guys lined up and set the defense for us." He also likes that Battle has starting experience and Charles is a very intelligent player.
As the training camp blog comes to a close, it's time to mention the support staff that spends countless hours assisting and making sure that practices, meetings and games run smoothly. This includes the equipment managers, athletic trainers, video staff and strength and conditioning staff. From setting up the practice field, to taping ankles to stretching the players, to laundry duties to cutting game film for the coaching staff, this group of about 40-plus behind-the-scenes "team players" are a valuable group each and every day.
The end of training camp is near as the Tigers worked their 20th practice since opening training camp on August 4th. The squad has battled through extremely warm temps, two-a-day sessions and two major scrimmages and will see their efforts all come together in just nine days down the road at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Coach Larry Porter has been installing the game plan for the Sept. 1 meeting with the Mississippi State Bulldogs the last couple of days.
"I think we are ahead of schedule in terms of game plan," said Porter. "Now we just need to close in on the little things. I think that is the difference in terms of us executing extremely well. I look forward to tomorrow being a better day with the little things and us continuing to move forward with this game plan."
The Tigers appear to be in good shape coming out of camp from an injury standpoint as several players that had been out early in camp have been major factors on the field this week. The most recent returnee to the field is running back Jerrell Rhodes, and Coach Porter reinforced the fact that Rhodes is back out on the field and doing well and feeling good.
The squad will be out in shells for Wednesday's practice in the morning and will be off on Thursday. Going out in the morning tomorrow gives them more time to rest and recover before returning to business on Friday. Wednesday will be the official end of training camp, and game week will basically start this Friday because of the short week with the Thursday night meeting.
This will be the 44th overall battle between Memphis and Mississippi State on the gridiron. The two squads last met each other in Memphis during the 2002 season. To purchase tickets, please contact the Tiger Ticket Office at 901-678-2331 or purchase online through GoTigersGo.com.
Next Monday, Aug. 29, will be a busy day as Coach Porter will hold his first media luncheon at noon. He will attend the Highland Hundred meeting at 6 p.m. at the Botanic Garden, and then will travel down the road to Brookhaven Pub for his weekly radio show with Forrest Goodman from 7-8 p.m. The radio show airs on WREC AM600. The press luncheon will be carried live on Memphis Tiger Vision on GoTigersGo.com.
The Tigers are only three days from the official end of training camp and Coach Larry Porter was looking for a bit more intensity than he got today as the staff begins to focus on the opponent - Mississippi State.
"I thought today's practice was good, but it could have been better from an intensity standpoint," said Porter. "I thought we started a little flat, and it's days like this when you need your leadership to step up and propel us to greater heights. Although it was good, it could have been better."
Coach Porter spoke about starting to prepare for the season opener with Mississippi State that is now just 10 days out. He said he liked today's practice from the standpoint of having a mental edge as they start working on the game plan.
"At the end of the day, it is about the process of preparation and that is what phase we are in," explained Porter. "It's all about preparing to play this game. It's a process every single day. We are throwing situations at them. It's too far out to start having emotions right now about this game. It's great to be fired up about practice, but as we prepare for Mississippi State, we need to be totally focused on the task at hand."
Coach Porter again addressed the quarterback situation, saying that true freshman Taylor Reed continues to play stronger and stronger. He is in an intense battle with junior college transfer Andy Summerlin and fifth-year senior Skylar Jones, who transferred in this fall from Wake Forest.
Coach Porter has continued to see good things out of Reed, though he is not surprised being that he is from a family of football coaches and his "football IQ" is very high. Porter has also made references to Reed staying in his playbook constantly striving to get better.
"Just to see the growth of that young man, and where he was; where he is now; and where he is headed, is good," said Porter. "For me, it's like being a proud poppa. It's always good to see your quarterbacks doing well. He (Reed) had a good day today, especially at the end of practice, which is why it is so fresh on my mind."
Also notable today was that running back Jerrell Rhodes, who had missed a couple of practices and last weekend's scrimmage with an injury, was back out on the field today.
It's time to get those tickets and fill the Liberty Bowl when the Tigers host the Bulldogs on Thursday night, Sept. 1. That game will be carried on SportsSouth with a kick time of 7 p.m. The student body is being challenged to set a record with more than 5,000 students attending the game. The first 10,000 fans will receive pom pons, schedule cards and posters. There will also be a post-game fireworks show to stick around for. Come on Tiger Nation ... Join the Revolution! Wear your Tiger blue and come support your hometown team. Tickets are available online at www.GoTigersGo.com, or by calling (901) 678-2331.
The Tigers made the short trip to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for their second major scrimmage of training camp. Coach Porter took his squad through about a 120-play workout, which also included a short lightning delay near the end.
The scrimmage was very run-heavy today as Porter tested his young backs Artaves Gibson and Joe Price. Porter had said earlier in the week that those two guys had been making a case for early playing time, and today proved that once again.
Gibson, a true freshman out of Mitchell High in Memphis, rushed 18 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. His score came off a four-yard run on the 99th play with true freshman quarterback Taylor Reed in. On that drive from the 20, all of the yardage was on the ground with runs by Price, Reed and Gibson. Gibson had a couple of power runs, racking up gains of 22, 18 and 15 yards. Price, out of Madison Central High in Madison, Miss., toted the ball 16 times for 65 yards, and posted a long run of 13 yards.
OK, that was mostly because Coach Larry Porter cut the afternoon practice about 30 minutes short to get the guys some much-needed rest before tomorrow's closed scrimmage. He said after practice that he felt like the team was continuing to fight and not giving in to fatigue so he thought it would be good to cut things a little short.
"I thought this morning was very productive and this afternoon was very competitive," said Porter. "I think the guys are putting themselves in position tomorrow to have a very competitive scrimmage so I am excited about that."
Junior receiver Marcus Rucker looked like he hadn't missed a beat at practice, making several nice grabs today. There are several young players making a case for early playing time. Some of the players on offense that Coach Porter has continued to tout are running backs Artaves Gibson and Joe Price. With Jerrell Rhodes out right now, those two guys are getting plenty of reps. Today, Coach Porter also talked a bit about defensive backs Bakari Hollier and Bobby McCain.
"There are a few battles going on," explained Porter. "We have to settle this quarterback position. Our young running backs are making a very strong case for early playing time and I think they will receive that. There are some young guys in our receiving corps that are in a position to help us create a strong two-deep as well. You look at Bakari Hollier and Bobby McCain; they have done a good job of stating their case. I think those are two tremendously talented young men. There are some areas that I see our two-deep being strengthened coming out of this scrimmage and I am excited to see what is going to happen."
Coach Porter also praised the offensive line, which has been a work-in-progress as senior Ron Leary is the only returning lineman with a wealth of experience in the starting lineup. He has started 24 of his 32 career games, and is one of only two Tigers with 20 or more starts under his belt entering the 2011 season opener against Mississippi State. The other is Tommy Walker, who has made 20 starts on the O-line over the last two years, but has moved back to the defensive line for his senior season. The only other Tiger with starts on the offensive line is Michael Antonescu, who has started five of 24 career games. A couple of linemen who may see starts early are A.J. Antonescu and Chris Shuetz, who are battling each other at center, as well as sophomore transfer Nick Chartain, former defensive lineman D'Angelo McCray and JuCo transfer Jordan Devey.
"I like the progress of the offensive line," said Porter. "I like the toughness and the physical element that they bring to practice every single day. They are starting to play together as a unit."
And the day would not be complete without an update on the quarterback race that appears to be between Andy Summerlin and Taylor Reed, although Porter has also said several times that packages are being put together for fifth-year senior transfer Skylar Jones.
"Andy is doing a good job of managing our offense and his decision-making," explained Porter. "His productivity is above the other two. But I keep telling everyone that Taylor Reed is growing. Every day, he does something that strikes you and lets you know he is going to be a tremendous football player. So, although Andy is making a lot of progress in terms of running our offense, I don't think Taylor is going to give in and stop fighting. I am always evaluating our team and trying to find ways to make us better."
Severe thunderstorms entered the Memphis area Thursday morning, forcing changes to the practice schedule. The squad was supposed to be out on the field around 9 a.m., but got through meetings before storms hit and Head Coach Larry Porter decided to move practice later in the afternoon instead of trying to get everything done in the turf room.
A break in the weather allowed the team to get through walk-throughs and 25 periods of practice, so it was a very productive day. The team will have its third two-a-day session of the week tomorrow, before going into a closed scrimmage on Saturday.
After practice, Porter said that he was pleased that the quarterbacks had put together back-to-back decent days, and that the running game was starting to settle in.
"I like the physicality of our guys up front," said Porter about what he is seeing in the run game. "Our decision making with our backs is really growing and getting better. Some of the young guys like Joe Price and Artaves Gibson are making good decisions and they are scoring in practice. Billy (Foster) is a natural in terms of vision and being instinctive."
The Tigers continue efforts in training camp to prepare for the season opener against Mississippi State on Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Liberty Bowl. The game is being carried live on SportsSouth with a kick time set for 7 p.m.
"With this game being two weeks away, there is a sense of urgency to keep pushing and pressing for our guys to continue to grow and put ourselves in position, coming out of the scrimmage, where we can truly focus on Mississippi State," said Porter. "Right now it is about us. We are almost there. We have two practices left and then we go into Saturday's scrimmage and that is enough to define some things for us in terms of what we need to get done on the back end of this week."
The things that Porter said he will be looking for in this scrimmage will be rhythm, continuity, efficiency on offense, and having everybody operating on the same page. He also wants a clean scrimmage with limited mistakes on both sides of the ball. Defensively he wants to key in on discipline, tackling and pass defense.
Season and single-game tickets are available by calling the Ticket Office at 901-678-2331 or by checking out www.GoTigersGo.com.
The second of three two-a-day sessions for this week had the Tigers on the turf field for practices 13 and 14 because of light rain showers that rolled in. It rained for the first few periods of the morning practice, but the rain also brought some cooler temps. That was, until things heated up for the afternoon practice.
Coach Larry Porter was more pleased with the afternoon workout.
"I thought this afternoon's practice was better in terms of focus, attention to detail, discipline and intensity," said Porter. "We got a lot more done today. In certain situations I thought guys were really clued in and focused, and as a result it was very competitive."
"I like where we are defensively," explained Porter. "We have to continue to build depth in certain areas and get a couple of bodies back out there, but I like where we are. In today's second practice, I thought we did some good things offensively. We have to continue to gain progress with our quarterbacks. I am not ready to say that I am happy with where we are because we have work to get done. We have to have consistency for our offense to be productive overall."
In addition to the cooler temps, another positive on the day was that receiver Marcus Rucker was back in the mix after being sidelined with an injury. Rucker is the Tigers' leading returning offensive threat this season. He enters the 2011 season on a 12-game receiving streak after leading the Tigers in 2010 with 41 catches for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. The next-leading returning offensive scorer, running back Jerrell Rhodes, scored 12 points as a true freshman last season.
Coach Porter had an interesting take on Rucker's absence and why it may have actually helped the growth of the quarterbacks.
"Marcus is a tremendous player, but it has probably helped us out some with him being gone because it has forced our quarterbacks to go through our progression and not lean on him so much to make plays for us," said Porter. "As a result, they have grown. You can see our offense starting to get in sync and in rhythm, which is what we need. Yes, we missed him, but it has helped with us getting him back and still staying in sync with distributing the ball, and we can continue to build and go forward."
Kicker Paulo Henriques continues to showcase his leg strength during camp. He kicked a 52 and 50 yarder in practice today, and Porter had said earlier in the week that he plans to try him from 55 yards out. Henriques led the Tigers in scoring with 59 points in his first season booting field goals and PATs. His kickoffs have consistently been deep during camp also. With Henriques stronger; and punter Tom Hornsey continuing where he left off, the Tiger special teams unit should be an advantage. The key component left to fill are the return specialists, and Porter has said repeatedly in training camp that he feels he has a stable of talented and speedy players to fill those roles.
Coach Porter also spoke highly of freshman running back Artaves Gibson, saying that he had two good practices today and was starting to settle in and get some things done. He also felt like Gibson was gaining confidence through these practices.
The Tigers had a better day than yesterday as far as Coach Porter was concerned. After not being pleased with the intensity of the workout during the first two-a-day session on Monday, Porter had this to say about today's practice:
"Today was better than yesterday even though we had some mistakes out there," said Porter. "We scrimmaged some situational things and it was back-and-forth in terms of balance on offense and defense."
Porter also said that the quarterbacks still need to step it up a bit, but the running game got a boost today from Billy Foster. Foster is a truly versatile player for the Tigers who will make plays on the ground, via the air and on special teams. He got extensive work in the run game in the spring as the Tigers were left with only Jerrell Rhodes in the mix in the run game. Foster had nine carries for 41 yards in 2010, as well as 14 catches for 175 yards. He also rolled off 323 yards on 17 kick returns as a junior.
"Billy was back there at running back today and he did some good things," said Porter. "He is definitely going to be a spark for us back there. He continues to show us that we will be able to use him in a number of ways."
"Billy and Jerrell (Rhodes) can be a dangerous tandem for us," added Porter. "Those young guys (at running back) continue to grow and battle and get better, so that is starting to become a healthy position for us. We would like to have all of them out there together. We have saved Billy up until this point to evaluate some of these young guys, but he is starting to come into the fold and do more at that position."
During some of the live action work today, a few plays stood out on both sides of the ball. Offensively, receiver Kevin Wright pulled in a few nice catches and true freshman running back Joe Price rolled off a 25-yard run during redzone work. Defensively, true freshman Bobby McCain logged a pick, as did Mitch Huelsing. Taurean Nixon also came up with a turnover for the defense.
The Tigers will have a double session on Wednesday as they continue to prepare for the season opener against Mississippi State. That game is slated for Thursday, Sept. 1, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. According to the marketing department, there will be a post-game fireworks show, and the first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive pom pons, posters and schedule cards. For tickets, please go to the PURCHASE TICKETS link on GoTigersGo.com, or call (901) 678-2331.
Check out the interviews below with punter Tom Hornsey and Billy Foster.
The Tigers returned to the field Monday morning for their first two-a-day session at the Murphy Athletic Complex. The squad was in full pads in the morning and shells for the afternoon session.
Coach Larry Porter was not pleased with the energy of the morning practice and was expecting much more of his squad for the second workout.
"I thought they were flat today," said Porter. "I didn't think we had enough intensity to surge us through practice and execute at a level that we needed to. Mentally, we have to be prepared to take the field every day that we practice. There are no excuses for that, and they have to understand that."
On a side note, throughout both practices, work continued on fields two and three, which are being upgraded this fall. Work is expected to be completed in early October as long as the weather cooperates. Right now, the squad has use of the turf field and field one, which is grass.
The second practice didn't go as well as Coach Porter would have liked either.
"I am not happy with this first two-a-day," reiterated Porter. "We need more of what we had last week. I think it kind of tailed off and we need to get them going again. We just weren't playing at a level that I thought we had surpassed and were ready to take off."
Coach Porter was happy to see a few guys back on the field, including Lonnie Ballentine, Frank Trotter and A.J. Antonescu.
The Tigers will have single sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and two-a-days on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
The Tigers open the season on Thursday, Sept. 1, against Mississippi State. The game, which is slated for broadcast by Fox Sports Network (FSN), is set to kick off at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to GoTigersGo.com or call (901) 678-2331.
While the offense struggled to really find continuity throughout the 100-plus play scrimmage at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, several offensive players did stand out, including sophomore running back Jerrell Rhodes and receiver Keiwone Malone.
Rhodes rushed for over 150 yards, and broke off several long runs while toting the ball about a dozen times. Rhodes had three runs for over 40 yards, including a 58-yarder about 30 plays into the scrimmage. Rhodes also posted a 43-yard touchdown run on a 3rd and 2 situation from the 43.
"Jerrell Rhodes has done what he has done every single day since we started practicing," said head coach Larry Porter. "What I saw today, I have seen for nine straight practices. We just have to continue to stay the course with him, and allow him to stay in that rhythm that he is in now."
Malone, who is eligible to practice with the team after transferring from Alabama right at the start of camp, had four receptions for over 100 yards receiving on the day. He showed tremendous speed as he sprinted into the end zone on a 79-yard touchdown from transfer QB Skylar Jones. He also had a 36-yard pickup on a pass thrown by Andy Summerlin. Malone's game eligibility status has not been determined at this point.
Hello from Kingsport again! The season is winding down up
here and we are in a very heated playoff race. With 18 games to go, we are two
games back of the Elizabethton Twins for the western division wild card spot.
You can always tell when it's getting late in the season and your team is
succeeding because the manager starts getting very uptight, just ask Coach Rock,
The Tigers rolled through practice eight at the Murphy Athletic Complex, and while it was still 95 degrees, it felt pleasant compared to other days of camp so far.
Coach Larry Porter wasn't as pleased with today's practice, but is looking forward to tomorrow's scrimmage at the Liberty Bowl to start seeing position battles play out in more of a live game scenario.
"It wasn't as crisp as the last two days, but there were some good things," said Porter. "We had some guys made some plays in the redzone, and on third down, I thought the defense held firm."
When questioned about what he wants to get out of tomorrow's scrimmage, Porter indicated that he would like to see how much the team has grown over the nine days, and also is expecting to heavily evaluate the quarterbacks during this workout.
"It is time to truly start molding this team," said Porter. 'We have spent nine days together. We have seen some good things and we have seen some not so good things but overall, I have been pleased with the progress. "
Porter has also said that over the last four days, the quarterbacks have really grown. There are four guys in the hunt right now, and none have taken a snap in a game for the Tigers. Andy Summerlin and Will Gilchrist both have more experience with the Tigers, while Taylor Reed has come in as a true freshman and is making a strong case for playing time. Also in the mix is Skylar Jones, who transferred in from Wake Forest.
"Now, set the coaches on the sidelines, and let's see where they really are," said Porter. "We need to see how well they make decisions, how well they manage the offense and overall, how productive are they."
"One of the other positions that we have to settle with the quarterback is our wide receivers," added Porter. "We have a number of guys competing and a number of guys with talent but I don't think there is any one guy who has separated himself. I have seen flashes from a lot of different guys, but the day to day flash of stability and a high level of productivity, I haven't seen as much as I would like."
When asked about how hard camp has been and how he keeps the players from "hitting a wall" during this time, Coach Porter indicated that the team is handling things very well through the first nine days.
"They had a great summer, but even in today's practice tensions are starting to grow and guys are starting to push and shove a little bit more but in terms of hitting a wall, the things I look for are body language," explained Porter. "I hadn't seen that. I know the guys are working extremely hard and are pushing themselves as well. The thing that I find the most fortunate is our injuries are very limited, and that is critical. If we can sustain that for the rest of camp, we will really come out on the plus side of things."
Preseason has started once again. Here we all are, some of us finishing our fifth preseason and rounding off our time at Memphis, and some just beginning our first week of a long, successful career as a Tiger. Although preseason is a word that all of us cringe when we hear, truthfully, I remove it from my vocabulary for 11 months a year, it is really a great time to shape and discover yourself as a player, and us as a team. What we endure during the month of August is something that 99% of people will never be able to relate to. We push our bodies beyond their capability, and push our mental toughness to its full capacity. We have no life in preseason outside of soccer. We literally eat, sleep, and play soccer. Yes, we sacrifice half our summer to coming back to school early, we sacrifice sleeping in to practice at 6am, we sacrifice our bodies to 300-yard shuttles, we sacrifice our social lives by staying in a hotel disconnected from the outside world, but in the end, all these sacrifices are well worth it, as they add up to a chance at winning our fifth-straight championship.
It has taken a full week of camp, but Coach Larry Porter finally seemed to feel like the quarterbacks are turning the corner and had a much more productive day. That was evident with all the nice grabs that the receiving corps was hauling in throughout the workout.
"I thought our quarterbacks did a pretty good job today of executing situations today," said Porter. "They eliminated some of the mistakes that they had made through some of those first few practices."
Regardless of whom the starter is when Memphis hosts Mississippi State on Sept. 1, the signal caller should have no issues finding targets to get the ball to.
The receiving corps is again filled with talent and speed, and should have tremendous depth this season. While junior Marcus Rucker remains sidelined, returnees Curtis Johnson, Billy Foster, Cam Baker and Tannar Rehrer all have game experience heading into 2011, and are continuing to lead this group. In addition, Kevin Wright and Reggie Travis, who both redshirted in 2010, are making big plays and should see significant game action after having a year to learn behind the veterans. Several newcomers are vying for playing time and making their cases during camp, including Tyriq Patrick, LaMarvin Ashley, Ryan Byrd, Tevin Jones and Darius Poole. Alabama transfer Keiwone Malone is also looking like a prime target at receiver, though his eligibility status still is not determined.
Coach Porter also spoke highly of the offensive line, saying that he likes what they are doing out there.
"The offense is starting to grow, and I think that all starts up front," explained Porter.
He also singled out sophomore transfer Nick Chartain for his productivity in camp. Chartain missed the first two days of camp but appears to be grasping the system even quicker than expected. The 6-5, 320-pound guard is originally from New Orleans and played one year of junior college ball at Independence CC. Porter also spoke of the battle at center between A.J. Antonescu and Chris Schuetz. Antonescu redshirted in 2010 after transferring from Holmes CC. Schuetz looked like he was going to redshirt as a true freshman last year, but was called into action midway through the season because of injuries in the line. He played two games before suffering an injury that required surgery. Schuetz was limited in the spring, but has been challenging Antonescu during this first week of camp.
The o-line also has a good bit of depth and Porter spoke of steady contributions from senior Ron Leary, transfer Jordan Devey and converted lineman D'Angelo McCray. McCray played nine games with the defensive line last season, but made the move to the offensive side of the ball in the spring. Leary has started 24 of his 32 career games for the Tigers, and Devey was a highly-touted JuCo transfer out of Snow College.
"This team is truly growing," said Porter. "The thing I am the most impressed with is how they are responding to adversity, especially when they are fatigued this late in practice. Their spirits are still high and they are still fighting through, and that is something we are going to have to have to become a better football team."
It's day six and the Tigers continue to work hard during fall camp to prepare for their season opener against Mississippi State on Thursday, Sept. 1. The squad opened practice with special teams work, and then worked through 24 periods with some live game action mixed in throughout practice.
Kicker Paulo Henriques and punter Tom Hornsey both looked ready to pick up right where they left off last season. Coach Larry Porter continued to commend the two for their efforts at practice. He is still trying out guys in the return game, which is a place the Tigers really struggled in 2010, particularly in punt returns. The Tigers averaged less than a yard on punt returns last season and just 18 yards per kickoff return.
"Our kicking game is continuing to step forward and be strong for us," said Porter. "As far as our return game, we are still trying to put ourselves in position to identify who those return guys are. We have a number of options and that is starting to clear itself up as well. Overall, I couldn't be more excited about where we are. We just have to continue to build."
Offensively, a couple of newcomers showed some flashes today, including receivers Tyriq Patrick and Tevin Jones who both had a few nice grabs. Running back Carl Harris also showed speed and strength in some of his runs. Junior receiver Curtis Johnson had a great catch and bolted down field for a touchdown in an impressive show of speed. Johnson is one of the top three returning wideouts for the 2011 season. He tallied 230 yards on 22 receptions, and was just behind Tannar Rehrer, who totaled 284 yards on 23 receptions. Marcus Rucker, who is still sidelined with an injury, led the Tigers last season with 704 yards and eight touchdowns on 41 receptions.
Coach Porter was again pleased with how the Tigers worked today.
"Again, today was another spirited practice," said Porter. "I thought they were really competitive and challenged each other. I thought both sides of the ball did some good things, as well as made some mistakes, but overall it was a good day for our football team in terms of growth."
The University of Memphis media relations staff released today the 2011 Memphis Football Fact Book. Currently, the guide is offered only electronically, but plans are being made to make hard copies of the guide available for purchase online in the near future. The media relations staff will alert the public when hard copies of the guide can be obtained.
The 2011 fact book contains information on the media, facilities, coaching staff, current roster and player bios, opponents, 2010 statistics, records and history. To view the electronic version of the guide, click here.
The Tiger football team added full pads for their Tuesday afternoon practice session on the turf at the Murphy Athletic Complex.
Coach Larry Porter was pleased with today's workout, calling it "the best day of camp so far."
"There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm," said Porter. "I thought both units were challenged with adversity and both responded and that went back and forth throughout the course of practice, and that is what we have to have. A number of guys made some plays and overall it was a good day."
"This was a day of progress for our team as a whole," added Porter. "There were still a lot of mistakes, but I felt like today we played together more as units."
Sophomore running back Jerrell Rhodes showed some big play ability in his runs today. He made several touchdown runs and showed speed and power running throughout the day. Rhodes is the leading returning rusher from last season. He rushed for 469 yards and one touchdown on 116 carries as a true freshman in 2010.
"Jerrell had a good day today," said Porter. "He did some really good things out there. As far as our backs go right now, though, we are a work in progress. I am not ready to label anybody until we are more of a cohesive unit. Those young players practice hard and they are a really good group, and I think in time they will serve us well."
Porter also talked about his quarterbacks having a better day today as far as making better decisions and their productivity.
Sophomore defensive back Lonnie Ballentine was back on the field practicing for the early part of practice. He worked the position drills but was on the sidelines once they started working more contact situations. Junior receiver Marcus Rucker is still rehabbing his injury.
The Tigers had a little break in the heat today by way of the weather, and by being on the grass field instead of the turf. There is more construction going on around the Murphy Athletic Complex as fields two and three are being leveled and having sprinklers installed. That project is supposed to wrap around the first of October.
The squad was in just shells for the final day as they will put on full pads for Tuesday's workout. Despite just being in shells, Coach Porter has noted quite a bit of contact already. He again sees more that he likes on the defensive side of the ball.
"I think defensively we continue to get better, but offensively we are still experiencing growing pains," said Porter after day four's practice session. "We have to put ourselves in position to clean some things up so we can start operating more efficiently as an offense."
"As far as quarterback play, today was an average day," added Porter. "We are doing some things and have guys showing some flashes, but we just have to put it together."
Porter did commend the special teams unit after practice, noting that he felt like punter Tom Hornsey and kicker Paulo Henriques were doing things well and that this group would "be an advantage for us." Porter is trying several guys out in the return game, and feels as though there are certainly capable and talented players vying for those roles.
Some of the players mentioned as returners were Bakari Hollier, Keiwone Malone, Bobby McCain, Reggie Travis, Trey Johnson, Billy Foster, Kevin Wright and some of the young backs such as Artaves Gibson, Joe Price and Carl Harris.
When asked why he felt this team would be better than last year, Porter had this to say:
"Right now, in terms of chemistry, continuity and execution, defensively we are better. We aren't giving up a bunch of big plays. I believe as a whole, we are better. You can literally see it out there. Offensively, I still think we are better at the offensive line; we are talented at receiver and we are talented at running back; and our quarterbacks are better as well. Again, it's about putting it together in a new system. We are having too many self-inflicted wounds. The receiving corps needs to step up. We are talented, but I haven't seen what I want to see in them yet. "
The Tiger Football team added shoulder pads for their third practice of fall camp. While practice was open, only a small group of folks came out to watch in the blazing heat. The squad practiced for about 24 periods on the turf, which certainly added a few degrees to the triple-digit temps already.
The athletic training staff was buzzing around providing water and Gatorade throughout the workout, and closely monitoring the players for any heat-related issues.
The Tigers will be out in shoulder pads again Monday before adding full pads on Tuesday.
Coach Larry Porter continues to like what he is seeing out of the defense but would like to see much more consistency with the offense. With four quarterbacks who have not taken a snap in a game for the Tigers vying for the starting job, there is a much expected pressure to have leaders emerge in that group to guide the offense.
"The first three days have been what I thought, not good, but we are seeing improvement and progress," said Porter. "Again, I am liking the direction we are going with the defense. We are more in sync in terms of chemistry and they are truly playing with a lot of energy out there."
"Offensively, there is just too much inconsistency," added Porter. "It's all about continuity and rhythm and we are not in sync at all. We've grown, but just not fast enough."
Coach Porter indicated that receiver Marcus Rucker and defensive back Lonnie Ballentine should be back out on the field soon. Both are nursing injuries that have sidelined them already during camp.
Though they were in just shoulder pads today, the hit of the day was delivered by Akeem Davis. He broke free through the line and caught freshman LaMarvin Ashley right as he took the handoff and several players on the sidelines gave him props for the stop.
Kicker Paulo Henriques was commended after practice for hitting a 50 yarder with pressure on during the special teams work. Henriques ended the 2010 season having hit his last nine field goal attempts, including five for 40 or more yards.
Please see the link below for photos from today's practice.
Hundreds of fans came out in the scorching heat to usher in the 2011 season with FanFest, which was held on Tiger Lane. There were inflatables for the kids as well as face painting and giveaways. Once the team had a brief moment to eat and soak in a little air conditioning following practice, they made their way to Tiger Lane and signed autographs and took photos with the fans.
Several of the players, including quarterbacks Andy Summerlin and Taylor Reed, running back Jerrell Rhodes and kicker Paulo Henriques willingly took turns in the dunk tank. Punter Tom Hornsey even booted a couple of punts to a few fans, two of which caught their attempts and received season tickets and a prize pack.
The cheerleaders and Pouncer mingled amongst the fans, and Tiger Nation had many photo opportunities as TOM III, the helmet car, the Tiger fire truck and the Tiger Fanbulance were all out on Tiger Lane. Fans also had a chance to see the fountain and the entrance into the stadium completed.
Several hundred fans braved the heat and came down to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to watch the second practice of fall camp before FanFest 2011. The Tigers were again in just helmets and shorts as the NCAA-acclimation period continues. Sunday and Monday they will add shoulder pads before loading on full gear on Tuesday. Sunday's practice, which is the final open workout, will begin around 3:50 p.m. at the Murphy Athletic Complex on campus.
The Tigers rolled through about two and a half hours at the Liberty Bowl and continue to work on fundamentals. Coach Porter thought there were improvements from Friday's practice in which he was disappointed in the offensive production.
"I thought it was a better day for the offense," said Porter. "They started to come together and challenge today but there is still a lot of work to do. "Defensively, there were some things we put in from a situation standpoint that I thought we needed to improve on, and they answered the call. In certain aspects of practice, I thought it was better."
"We have to continue to grow at quarterback," added Porter. "We are not where we need to be from an execution standpoint or from a productivity standpoint."
Sophomore defensive back Lonnie Ballentine and junior receiver Marcus Rucker were on the sidelines with injuries, while sophomore transfer Nick Chartain was on the field for the first time today. Chartain is an offensive lineman, who transferred from Independence Community College.
Please see the video interview below with Coach Porter as well as the photo gallery from practice.
There was a nice crowd at the Highland Hundred Kickoff Banquet that was held on campus at the Holiday Inn Friday night. As always, one of the main highlights of the evening is when the newcomers introduce themselves. Please see Coach Larry Porter's comments about camp below as well as the newcomer intros.
The Tigers had their first practice of fall camp Friday at the Murphy Athletic Complex. Today was a shorts and helmets day and several fans came out and watched the open practice. Rain fell early during practice as the squad used the turf field for the workout.
There was also a break in the action as the team was forced inside by lightning strikes in the area. Coach Porter waited for the all-clear from head athletic trainer Amos Mansfield and brought his team back out for the final periods of practice.
Just as Porter had said a day earlier, Andy Summerlin took the first snaps at quarterback. Will Gilchrist, Skylar Jones and Taylor Reed also got plenty of work in today.
Another hot topic of media attending the practice today was the status of Alabama transfer Keiwone Malone. Malone has enrolled in school and is able to practice with the team. Porter indicated that the next step would be to file a waiver with the NCAA to determine whether he could play the 2011 season. Regardless of the outcome, Malone would be able to continue practicing with the team.
Please enjoy video highlights from today's practice, as well as interviews with Coach Porter, Skylar Jones and Andy Summerlin and the photo gallery.
While a majority of the players were on campus taking classes and working out in the brand new football weight room over the summer, Thursday was the "official" report day for the Tigers. The day kicks off fall camp, which runs until game week leading into the season opener against Mississippi State on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Reporting Day is a whirlwind of meetings and paperwork that all must be completed prior to the first practice on Friday. Typically, there is an orientation meeting for newcomers and team meetings where athletic department staff, as well as others on campus and in the community who interact with the team throughout the year, are introduced and explain their roles with the program.
Coach Larry Porter took time to conduct some interviews with local media in the Athletic Office Building lobby this afternoon. The two main topics brought up were about the quarterback competition and about the heat.
When asked about a day he would like to have the quarterback set by, Porter naturally responded that he would have liked that going into camp. Junior college transfer Andy Summerlin took a majority of the snaps in the spring and was challenged by Will Gilchrist. Summerlin missed the 2010 season after a spring shoulder injury required surgery and forced him to the sidelines, and Porter said he will take the first snap in camp tomorrow. Added to the mix this fall is incoming true freshman Taylor Reed (El Dorado HS) and senior transfer Skylar Jones, who joined the squad this summer from Wake Forest.
"We know what Andy and Will can do because we saw them all spring," said Porter. "What we have to do is get a great evaluation on Skylar and Taylor and they will get plenty of opportunities to show us what they can do. Ultimately, we would like to have a great feel after the first scrimmage. At that point, we would like to at least narrow it down to two."
As far as addressing the heat, Porter explained that many of the players have been working out in this all summer and are prepared for it.
"Everybody keeps talking about how hot it is, but our guys are not fazed by it at all," said Porter. "Our players are ready to go into this camp and battle this heat and continue to improve."
The first three practices have been opened to fans and media by Porter. Friday's practice will begin at about 3:15 p.m., at the Murphy Athletic Complex. Following practice, the Highland Hundred will host the Kickoff Banquet at the Holiday Inn-U of M. Coach Larry Porter will talk about the upcoming season and then will have the newcomers introduce themselves. Saturday's practice is at the Liberty Bowl (3 p.m.), followed by FanFest (6-7 p.m.) and Sunday's practice starts at about 3:50 p.m., back on campus.
Good afternoon, or evening by the time I get this posted. As you may know, the team has started practice in preparation for the 10-day trip to Italy. The Tigers can have 10 days of practice, so they went Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and had today (Thursday) off. We are back at it again tomorrow with a two-a-day on Saturday (unlike the NFL, we didn't drop ours ) and an off-day again on Sunday. I know folks are curious about the trip and the itinerary, so I just opted to do a little more informal blog entry on it rather than write a story for the website.
Have you seen the commercial asking you to 'Join the Revolution' with Tiger Football in 2011? Well, Memphis Tiger Vision headed to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to provide Tiger Nation with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look of the Running Pony video shoot with Coach Porter and the team, as well as the finished product.
The University of Memphis athletic media relations staff has created a one stop source for information about the 2011 Memphis football team. The 2011 Memphis Football Information Central contains information about the 2011 team, opponents, facilities, records history, 2010 recap information, university and city.