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."
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.
By Jennifer Rodrigues on February 25, 2012 1:13 PM
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.
By Jennifer Rodrigues on February 24, 2012 7:06 PM
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.
By Jennifer Rodrigues on February 24, 2012 2:42 PM
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.
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."
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.
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.