Hey everyone, since Heather Mott, now Heather Jones , finally decided to graduate and leave Memphis, I, Jessica Phillips, #22 and senior first baseman, have decided to fill in her position and continue her blog.
Well, it is finally that time of the year again. As the weather is getting colder in Memphis, we are headed as far south as we can to start our season off right. Who would have ever guessed that we would start the season with one of the top three teams in the nation? Definitely not us, but we are headed to Mobile, Ala., to play in the Mardi Gras Invitational and to start our season off with a bang.
Yes, we are starting our year with #3 Alabama, but honestly, your Lady Tigers are ready to play. The day we returned from Christmas break we were ready to play. Now that we have an amazing new coaching staff, things around the diamond are a bit different than they have been in the past. To start, all of the returners are used to coming back to three or four 2-a-days, but that was not the case this year. The first official practice was not scheduled until the day before school started, but that did not stop our girls from getting extra work in in those days before. That early commitment shows the heart these girls have for the game of softball as well as each other. Ever since then, we have worked extremely hard every day at practice, coming in early to work individually or along with another teammate.
Our hard work is not only shown on the field but also in the weight room and during conditioning. We may all look like zombies as we walk into the weight room at 6:30 am one day and 5:30 am another day, but getting stronger is not a problem with this team. We have girls who came in barely being able to squat the bar putting 45-lb plates and more on the bar and two other girls putting 45-lb plates on the bar to bench press. So I do not think lack of strength will be an issue for us this year. I cannot wait to see what our new found strength is going to bring to the field.
I realize we have been practicing and scrimmaging against each other for a month now, but that is against our own players. There is nothing like good, strong competition outside of practice hours that brings out the fighting intensity within an athlete. I am beyond excited to see what this team has to bring to the table. After last year, we are being watched out for more than we have been but I still do not believe other teams and coaches are truly prepared for what we will be bringing onto the field this 2012 season. I believe this team, as a whole, is one of the hardest working teams I have ever played with, and I would not change anything about this team. We are a family, through and through, and I cannot wait for all of you to come out and watch us play our hearts out until the end, preferably in Oklahoma City!!
Hello Tiger fans...long time no chat. Where has time gone? Believe it or not, the women's basketball team opens practice on Monday, Oct. 3rd. That is the result of an NCAA Division I women's basketball rule change, so Memphis Madness will NOT be our first day of practice, so I thought I'd write a quick blog about the rule changes (and there are a bunch) for the 2011-12 season to get you all prepped for the season.
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.