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Spring Practice #15, April 4, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #15, April 4, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #14, April 2, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #14, April 2, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #13, March 31, 2012 (Blue-Gray Scrimmage)

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Photo Gallery

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.

Spring Practice #12, March 28, 2012

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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."

Spring Practice #12, March 28, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #11, March 26, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #11, March 26, 2012

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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.

Spring Practice #10, March 24, 2012

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Photos From Today's Practice

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.

Spring Practice #9, March 21, 2012

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Coach Justin Fuente moved practice up about an hour or so today to try and beat the storms that were anticipated to arrive in Memphis. While there were spurts of rain throughout the workout, the squad got the full practice in for their ninth of 15 practices this spring.

Before practice today, we sat down for some interviews with kicker Paulo Henriques and punter Tom Hornsey. Check out the videos below as both talk about spring practice and working with Coach James Shibest. Henriques also talks about becoming a U.S. citizen this past December and what that meant to him and his family.

Special teams is a phase that the Tigers return quite a few key standouts. Henriques will be looking for a stellar senior season after going 8-of-15 on field goals in 2011. He missed his first two attempts of the season (both 50 yarders) before hitting seven of his next eight attempts, including a career-best 50-yard shot against Rice. Henriques also handles kickoffs for the Tigers and booted 45 kicks for an average of 64 yards. He had eight touchbacks on the year.

Hornsey continues to blaze through the Tiger record book, setting records for punts (95) and yards (3,993) in a single season. In just 24 career games, Hornsey ranks fifth in punts (175) and fourth in yards (7,409). In 2011, he averaged 42 yards per punt and had 19 for 50-plus yards. He dropped 23 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He is expected to be a Ray Guy Award candidate again in 2012. Hornsey and Henriques also have the benefit of having long snapper Jeremy Singler and holder Austin Weaver back again in '12.

The Tigers have six more practices remaining, including the Blue-Gray Game on March 31. Festivities on Tiger Lane will begin at 10 a.m., and the Tigers will begin their workout in the stadium at about 12 p.m. There will also be a free kids clinic for all children eighth grade and under following the scrimmage. All events, and the parking around the stadium, are free and open to the public. For more information about the spring game, please check out this link: http://www.gotigersgo.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/032012aab.html

Please check out the video below as Coach Fuente spoke with the media following today's practice. He talks about the squad continuing to get better and also spoke a good bit about the receivers.

Spring Practice #8, March 19, 2012

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The Tigers had their eighth of 15 practices of the spring session at the Murphy Complex today. The squad worked drills for about eight periods before moving into a scrimmage that lasted for about an hour and a half.

"There were some good things on both sides of the ball," said Coach Justin Fuente following the scrimmage. "The defense forced some turnovers, but the flip side of that is the offense turned it over. The offense had a couple of big plays, but again, the flip side of that is the defense gave up some big plays. We got some good work in, but we have a long way to go."

Fuente has continued to stress that this team needs to be more physical, and he seems to be seeing more physicality from the defensive side of the ball. He did say that he felt the defensive line at this point is the most physical unit on the field.

When asked what steps need to be taken to make his team more physical, Fuente had a few key points to stress.

"I think part of developing physicality is getting more reps, but also physical toughness and mental toughness and part of it is strength in the weight room," explained Fuente. "All of those things develop confidence and help establish a physical presence."

While the Tigers are about halfway through their spring, Fuente hopes to continue to fine tune things and to continue to work more situational aspects in the next two weeks.

Just as Fuente spoke about after practice, there were a couple of long offensive plays today during the scrimmage, including two receptions of about 60 yards by Marcus Rucker from Jacob Karam. Tyriq Patrick also scored on a reception of about 60 yards from Taylor Reed. Kevin Wright continued his steady play, making several grabs, including one for nearly 50 yards for a score.

The offense also got a few good runs by Artaves Gibson, and tight end Jesse Milleson also had a couple of nice catches today.

Defensively, a couple of the plays that stood out were an interception and long return by corner Bobby McCain and a fumble recovery and forced fumble on separate plays by linebacker Kenyata Johnson. Redshirt freshman linebacker Reggis Ball, the brother of former Tiger safety Marcus Ball, was swarming around today and had a couple of nice hits for lost yardage. There were several sacks during the workout today and Akeem Davis forced a turnover when he stripped a ball away following a reception early in the scrimmage.

The Tigers will return to the field on Wednesday.

Photo Gallery from today's practice

Spring Practice #8, March 19, 2012

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The Tigers have three practices scheduled for this week as they continue through the spring practice session, which will run through April 4. Today we highlight the linebackers as one of the positions that return quite a few contributors from the 2011 season. This group also has consistency with its coaching staff as Galen Scott was retained when Coach Justin Fuente took over the program. Scott is in his third season guiding Tiger linebackers and coached previously with Fuente at Illinois State.

The Tigers utilized two linebackers for much of 2011, as Kenyata Johnson and Terrence Thomas started all 12 games. Thomas graduated and several Tigers are battling this spring to fill the role. Johnson was third on the team in tackles with 72 stops, 42 of which were solos. He also had an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Charles Harris played in all 12 games as a true freshman and logged 33 tackles and a blocked kick. Khiry Battle posted five tackles in 10 games and Chris Bertucci tallied 23 tackles in 12 games. Ricky Holloway returned to the defense after working as a tight end in 2011. He primarily saw action on special teams last season, but is working again at linebacker this spring.

Other Tigers battling for a spot in the lineup include Kevin Green, Reggis Ball and Tank Jakes. Green and Ball redshirted as true freshmen in 2011, while Jakes is a mid-year signee out of Holmes CC.

Check out the video interviews below of returnees Charles Harris and Khiry Battle, and Coach Galen Scott.

Spring Practice #7, March 16, 2012

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There have been more additions to the decorations in the lobby at the Murphy Athletic Complex. The NFL wall, which is just off of the loading dock entrance, is complete with all of the NFL helmets and the names and years of each Tiger etched on a plaque next to each team helmet.

Also added in the last couple of days are tributes to each of the Tigers' bowl games, including the 1956 Burley Bowl, the 1971 Pasadena Bowl, the 2003 New Orleans Bowl, the 2004 GMAC Bowl, the 2005 Motor City Bowl, the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and the 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl.

Bowl flag decorations at the Murphy Athletic Complex

Helmet wall at the Murphy Athletic Complex

NFL wall at Murphy Athletic Complex

Spring Practice #7, March 16, 2012

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The rain finally stopped falling just in time for the Tigers to go out on the field for their seventh practice of the spring session. Today we caught up with running backs Joe Price and Artaves Gibson before they had to go into pre-practice meetings. Please check out the interviews below as both talk about working with offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey and what the group is focusing on this spring.

The backs are a group that has some depth this spring, but the group is not as experienced as would be hoped heading into the 2012 season. There are three backs returning this spring as Jerrell Rhodes has lettered the last two seasons, and Joe Price and Artaves Gibson were thrown into the fire as true freshmen in 2011 because of lack of depth at that position. Also in the mix is Carl Harris, who redshirted last season. Rhodes was injured much of last season and only saw action in three contests, toting the ball just 30 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He and QB Taylor Reed are the only two returning Tigers to rush for multiple TDs in 2011. Gibson played in 11 games and made two starts in '11. He logged 316 yards on 104 carries, while Price, who played in seven games, carried the ball 15 times for 16 yards. All three of those backs are also capable of catching the ball and making plays, as Gibson led the group with nine receptions for 46 yards in 2011.

Production and ball security will be key for this group in the fall. Over the last two seasons, the Tigers have used a running back-by-committee approach and have averaged under three yards a carry in both of those seasons. In 2010 Memphis logged just five rushing TDs, and doubled that total in 2011.

Spring Practice #6, March 14, 2012

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The Tigers went through their sixth of 15 practices that they will have this spring, following a little time away from the field as the U of M students were on spring break last week. The squad had not practiced since Feb. 29 and head coach Justin Fuente spoke to the media following practice and talked about how he felt today's workout went after the break and spoke about the continued battle at quarterback. Below is the full interview with Coach Fuente.

Also during practice, construction continued on the renovations inside the Murphy Athletic Complex lobby. Added this afternoon were NFL helmets and the wall will feature plaques detailing each of the Memphis players who have gone on to play in the NFL and what teams they have played for.

Helmet wall at the Murphy Athletic Complex

Spring Practice #6, March 14, 2012

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Work has begun on enhancing the atmosphere inside the Murphy Athletic Complex as some of the wall wraps have been added in the main lobby area. The upgrades are part of the $10 million Vision For Victory capital campaign that also included leveling and drainage for the outside practice fields, updates to the Tiger Football locker room and ultimately a 90,000-square foot indoor practice facility. Recently added and shown in the photos below are tributes to the five Tigers who have had their jerseys retired, and shots of several Tigers who have played in the NFL.

To help "Complete the Vision" with a donation that will benefit the Vision For Victory campaign, please contact a member of the Tiger Scholarship Fund Office at 901-678-2334 or go to this link to donate online: www.memphis.edu/development/tsf/

NFL

retired

Spring Practice #6, March 14, 2012

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Check out the most recent video interviews with quarterbacks Taylor Reed and Jacob Karam as the two are back out on the field competing during this second "session" of spring practice following spring break. The Tigers have 10 practices remaining, including the 2012 Blue-Gray Game, which will be held at noon on March 31st at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The event is free and open to the public.

Spring Practice #5, Feb. 29, 2012

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The Tigers went through drills and position work for about an hour before working a scrimmage for the next hour of practice on Wednesday.

Coach Fuente commended the defense for how they responded throughout the scrimmage, starting with a hit by senior safety Cannon Smith on just the second play that resulted in a fumble recovery by Bobby McCain. McCain also had an interception a few plays later. There were only two picks today and linebacker Reggis Ball, who redshirted in 2011 as a true freshman, hauled in the other interception of the day.

"I thought we started off offensively with good tempo and tried to go out there and do the things we are coached to do, and then the defense responded and the offense never got it back," said Fuente. "I am awfully proud of the defense and how they fought back. They had a good play at the start of the scrimmage that caused a fumble and they gave up a few things here and there, but as it went on, they got stronger."

There was good play on the line for the defense with the whistle being blown for a couple of sacks. There were also some nice hits by linebacker Tank Jakes, who transferred to Memphis this spring from Holmes Community College. Ricky Holloway, who is back on defense after working as a tight end in 2011, also made a couple of tackles as did Charles Harris. Harris also tipped a ball at the line of scrimmage.

The offense struggled to get a rhythm, but there were some strong runs of 20-plus yards by Jerrell Rhodes and Artaves Gibson. Carl Harris, who redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, also had a couple of nice scampers and a good catch for some yardage.

Receivers Marcus Rucker and Kevin Wright both made a couple of good grabs for long yardage during the workout. Also showing some promise for the receiving corps were Ryan Byrd and Tevin Jones, who both redshirted in 2011.

"The mark of this team will be how we handle adversity," said Fuente after the scrimmage. "Through the season, in a game, after a game, during the week of preparation, it will be important to see how we will handle ourselves. We are going to face adversity; it is just going to happen. Do we respond and do the right thing, or do we react? Those are the things that we are trying to get across right now."

Spring Practice #5, Feb. 29, 2012

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The Tigers will go out in full pads this afternoon and will have their final spring practice until they return to the field on March 14. Coach Justin Fuente will be looking for attention to detail and physicality in today's practice, which is closed. He has split up the spring into three, five-practice sessions that began on Feb. 22 and will wrap up on April 4.

Prior to meetings, safety Lonnie Ballentine and tight end Justin Henderson sat down and talked about the first four practices and how things are out there on the field with the new coaching staff.

Please see below for the video interviews.

The tight end position is one that is lacking in depth for the spring, but will have a completely different look in fall camp. Coach Fuente signed four tight ends to join the 2012 squad, including Jesse Milleson, who was a mid-year signee and is practicing this spring. Milleson transferred from Glendale Community College. Junior Justin Henderson is the only returning Tiger offensive player who tallied multiple receiving touchdowns in 2011. Henderson played in 12 games, making six starts, and registered eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Ballentine is one of several returnees in the secondary, though he did have some struggles with a nagging hamstring injury during the 2011 season. He registered 35 tackles and a fumble recovery in 11 games as a sophomore. He started eight of those 11 games and is the fifth-leading tackler returning from the 2011 squad.

Spring Practice #4, Feb. 27, 2012

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The Tigers are down to just one more practice before spring break as Coach Justin Fuente set up this spring session in three different segments of five practices each. He and his staff will evaluate the first five practices and determine where adjustments need to be made for the second segment of practice, which will begin on March 14th.

The tempo of Monday's practice was much higher, though Fuente says it will get much faster as the squad gets more comfortable with the way he and his staff expects them to practice.

There was a large media turnout at today's practice, and former Tiger kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who just represented Memphis in his second Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, came out to watch practice today.

One of the areas that stood out today was the running game as Jerrell Rhodes, Artaves Gibson, Joe Price and Carl Harris made some nice runs. Rhodes, the veteran of the group, punched through and busted off some big yardage on several plays. The secondary also was flying around quite a bit today and made some nice plays.

When asked about what he wants to see specifically on Wednesday when the squad will be out in full pads for the first time in a closed workout, Fuente had this to say:

"I want to see us be physical on both sides of the ball," said Fuente. "I want us to be smart and practice the right way, but I want to see us play physical. That is the biggest thing we need to get accomplished. We need to get some real toughness out there."

Fuente elaborated more on having the Tigers become more physical when speaking with members of the local media after practice.

"Everybody gets lost in the fancy Xs and Os and this game is still very much about toughness," explained Fuente. "We have to establish physicality and toughness. That comes from several things. It comes through confidence; it comes through strength in the weight room and it comes through a mindset. I sure hope we can preach toughness, and toughness in the right way, not putting up a false front. I knew that this was something I was going to want to enforce from the very first day."

Photo gallery from today's practice.

Spring Practice #4, Feb. 27, 2012

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The Tigers are having two practices this week, with Monday's workout in shoulder pads and the squad throwing on full pads for Wednesday's closed practice.

On Monday, receiver Kevin Wright and defensive lineman Zach Gholson met briefly with the media to talk about this second week of practice and how things have been so far.

Please see below for the video interviews with Wright and Gholson.

The wide receiver position is one offensive group that has a good bit of depth, but not a tremendous amount of experience, with the exception of senior Marcus Rucker. This is also a group that will have to produce in 2012 in a conference that is known for explosive offenses and QBs that like to sling the ball around. For new head coach Justin Fuente to be able to run a fast-paced offense that will keep the opposing defenses on their toes, Tiger receivers will need to step up and make plays.

Wright is the top returnee at wideout heading into the 2012 season, having tallied 398 yards and one touchdown on 36 receptions. Rucker and sophomore Reggie Travis follow with 20 receptions (195 yards) and 18 receptions (146 yards), respectively. Rucker's totals are significantly down from his 2010 numbers after battling nagging injuries last year. As a sophomore, he registered 704 yards and eight scores on 41 receptions.

The defensive line probably took the biggest hit of any group heading into the spring. Frank Trotter and Dontari Poe, who both started all 12 games in 2011 and anchored the line, will be missed as leaders in the defense. Trotter, along with Tommy Walker (8 starts), both graduated and Poe opted for the NFL draft after serious talks of him being a possible first rounder. Poe has been competing today in the NFL Combine and has received much praise by the commentators on the NFL Network broadcast. Poe, who was listed for the Combine at 6-4, 346 pounds, ran two unofficial sub-5.0 40s today, and was the top performer in the bench press with 44 reps.

Gholson will be looked to as a leader on the line and will hope to have a productive senior season in 2012. He started the first three games of the 2011 season, and registered 24 tackles in 12 games played. He tied for the team lead in forced fumbles with three and also posted 5 TFL. Also returning with game action is Corey Jones, who was credited with five tackles in 12 games; and Terry Redden who, as a true freshman, logged five tackles and a fumble recovery in eight games.

Spring Practice #3, Feb. 25, 2012

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The Tigers threw on the shoulder pads today for the third of 15 practices in the spring. The temperature was much cooler than it had been the previous few days, though the sun was out and helped warm things up by the end of practice.

With the players in pads, the practice was spirited and more physical. Coach Justin Fuente was not fully pleased, though, with his squad following the two-hour workout as he continues to stress that everyone must be on the same page with moving this program in the right direction.

"If our guys want to represent this university on the football field, they are going to have to do a lot better," said Fuente. "We have a long way to go. I am encouraged by some of our guys. We have some guys that have bought in and are working hard and show up out here ready to go to work. We are still working on a lot of other ones."

"There's reason to be pleased with some of our guys, and then we have a lot of work to do on the other ones on both sides of the ball," Fuente continued.

The Tigers return to practice on Monday and again will be in shoulder pads before putting on full pads for Wednesday's closed workout. The squad will have two practices next week before taking a break as the U of M students are on spring break from classes the following week.

When asked what he wants to get out of the next two practices, Fuente continued on about getting everyone on the team to come out and work hard each and every day of practice.

"We need to work on everything, but technique work and attitude work is what we need the most of right now," said Fuente.

Photos from today's practice

Spring Practice #2, Feb. 24, 2012

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The Tigers had their second practice of the spring session at the Murphy Complex and fans were able to come out again and catch their squad in action. The players were in shorts and helmets again, and will throw on the shoulder pads for Saturday's workout.

The two-hour practice was much like Wednesday's session in that there continues to be a lot of instruction by the coaching staff. The key has been, and will continue to be, to stress fundamentals and the ability to practice at the high tempo that Coach Justin Fuente wants his squad to work at.

When asked after practice about how he felt on just this second day of practice, Fuente said he was encouraged by what he saw.

"I was encouraged to see the guys take some things we talked about in the meetings and come out here and do them, which is always an encouraging sign," explained Fuente. "The great thing about coaching is that you see a guy not do something the way you want him to do it, correct it, and then see him come out here and do it and have some success with it. That is what we saw on both sides of the ball at times. Assignment-wise and fundamentally, we have a lot of work to do."

Saturday, practice will be early in the morning at the complex, but the shoulder pads will be added and it should be much more physical out there.

"I am very excited about putting on pads tomorrow," said Fuente. "There's not going to be a lot of flash in tomorrow's practice. It's going to be, 'Let's get some shoulder pads on, get our helmets on and line up and see if we can move people around.' We want to see if the defense can hold point and that kind of stuff.

"I think the kids will be excited about being out there in pads Saturday," added Fuente. "We are going to go early in the morning but we will get it over with and leave them some recovery time before we go at it again."

While the first two practices were open to the fans; and many took advantage of the opportunity to watch practice, the next time Tiger Nation will have the chance to see the Tigers in action will be at the Blue-Gray Game on Saturday, March 31. Game time is set for noon at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Photo Gallery from today's practice

Spring Practice #2, Feb. 24, 2012

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Heading into the second of 15 spring practices, safety Cannon Smith and offensive lineman Jordan Devey sat down for brief interviews about how the first day of practice went. Devey also spoke about the competition at quarterback between returnee Taylor Reed and transfer Jacob Karam.

Please see below for the full interviews with Smith and Devey.

At the opening of spring ball, the Tiger offensive line is made up of four players (Al Bond, Chris Schuetz, Jordan Devey, Nick Chartain) who started at least half the games last season. Devey started all 12 games, making starts at right tackle in the beginning of the year and shifting to left tackle in the latter part of the season because of injuries in the line. Devey did not miss a single offensive play with the Tigers in 2011.

Smith is one of the returning leaders in the secondary. He was sixth on the team in tackles with 51 and led the team in pass breakups with six, in his first season on defense. He previously was a quarterback for the Tigers in 2010. Smith started the first 11 games of the 2011 season, but was forced to miss the season finale against Southern Miss with an injury. He registered at least one tackle in all 11 games, and logged a career-best 10 tackles against Arkansas State. In five games, he was credited with at least five stops last season.

Spring Practice #1, Feb. 22, 2012

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The Tigers held their first practice under new coach Justin Fuente at the Murphy Athletic Complex on Wednesday and the practice was open for fans and media to watch the two-hour workout on the turf field. The first two days of practice will be in helmets and shorts. Friday's practice, which will begin at 4 p.m., is also open to the public.

Coach Fuente's first word to describe today's practice to the media was that it was "fun." In his meeting with the media on Tuesday about the start of practice, Fuente talked about how excited he was to get out there on the field and it certainly showed on Wednesday.

As he has talked about earlier, Fuente explained that one of the keys to this spring will be instruction, and that was evident throughout the entire practice at every position.

"We have to build a team and that really has little to do with Xs and Os," said Fuente. "We have to teach them how to practice and what to do and how to do it. That's a good thing. We have to mold these players. I thought the guys were ready to practice. That was the biggest thing. They were ready to go out there and work."

"At times we had good tempo at practice, and at times there were lulls," added Fuente. "Next time, you will see pretty good tempo throughout practice and then we will put the pads on and you will go back to seeing the lulls because it is more physical."

When asked about quarterbacks Taylor Reed and Jacob Karam, Fuente talked about the work that needs to be done throughout the spring at that position.

"These guys have the opportunity to be good players. There is a lot that comes with that. Obviously, they have to take care of their job, and we have to surround them with guys who can make plays. I am encouraged by their work ethic, their attitude and their leadership and they will become better leaders when they understand what is going on. They want to do that. They want to direct traffic and help guys out and the more comfortable they get, I think the better they will feel."

February 22, 2012 ... Spring Practice #1

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Quarterbacks Taylor Reed and Jacob Karam met with the media Wednesday afternoon prior to meetings to talk about their expectations for spring practice and the competition at the QB position. Karam, who transferred to Memphis from Texas Tech and will have two years of eligibility with the Tigers, also talked about what went into his decision to consider, and ultimately choose, the U of M.

Please see the full interviews with Reed and Karam below.

Reed was a true freshman in 2011, and started nine of the 11 games. He had a respectable year as a true freshman, completing 169-of-295 passes for 1,690 yards and 10 TDs. He tossed just four interceptions during the season, and threw just one pick in the final five games he played. His best game in 2011 was against Austin Peay, when he threw for 332 yards and three TDs, while completing an impressive 20-of-30 pass attempts. Reed completed 18 passes for 20 or more yards as a true freshman, including a 93-yard TD pass to Billy Foster in that APSU victory.

Karam comes in having played in six games from 2010-11 at Texas Tech. He played in five games in 2011 for the Red Raiders and completed 9-of-17 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He posted a 43-yard TD pass against then-18th ranked Baylor.

2012 Memphis Football Spring Prospectus

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Spring Football, Feb. 21, 2012

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Coach Justin Fuente met briefly with local media on Tuesday to discuss the start of spring practice on Wednesday. See below for the full interview.

The 2012 Spring Football Prospectus is available by CLICKING HERE

Tigers Set To Begin Spring Football Practice Wednesday

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The Tiger Football team will begin spring practice on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the Murphy Athletic Complex. There will be 15 practices during the spring session, which will run from Feb. 22 - April 4.

Head coach Justin Fuente has opened the first two practices to Tiger fans. The open practices on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and Friday, Feb. 24, will begin at approximately 4 p.m.

Fans are asked to park in the paved lots directly behind FedExPark, and are asked to not park on the drive leading to the fields as that is designated as an emergency vehicle lane.

Tiger fans are asked to not stand in the area between the fields during practice for safety reasons. If weather forces the Tigers to the turf field, fans should park in the paved lot behind FedExPark closest to the leftfield line and walk through the baseball entrance, through the turfroom and out to the field from the door between the two weight rooms. There will be Tiger baseball games beginning at 4 p.m. on both Wednesday and Friday, and Tiger fans are invited to stop on over at FedExPark and catch a few innings of baseball. There will be no admission charge for baseball on those two days.

Those attending football practice on the two open days are asked to not take any photographs or videos during practice.

Practice updates, as well as video interviews with select players and Coach Fuente, will be posted on GoTigersGo.com throughout the spring. Many of the updates will be posted on this Spring Football Blog.

The Blue-Gray Game, which is free and open to the public, is slated for 12 p.m., on Saturday, March 31, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Season ticket prices have been lowered for the 2012 season, and just $55 will cover a ticket in the Fun Zone seats for all six home games. Prime seats are available at just $150 for all six games. The tickets can be purchased online by CLICKING HERE, or by contacting the U of M Ticket Office at 901-678-2331.

Other options available for the 2012 season are box seats for $250 and Stadium Club seating for $600. U of M faculty and staff are provided tickets for $75 for the entire season.

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