Randy Fichtner, who instituted the spread offense at Memphis, is entering his sixth season as an integral part of the Tiger football team. He was hired by Tommy West in 2001 to serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and his offense has rewritten the Memphis record book the last four seasons.
Under Fichtner's direction, former Tiger quarterback Danny Wimprine emerged as one of the top passers in C-USA in 2003. Wimprine, who had set the Memphis record for passing yards by a freshman (1,329) and for the number of touchdown passes thrown (14) by a first-year player, became the first Tiger quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a single season in 2003. He completed his career in 2004 having thrown for over 10,000 yards and 81 touchdowns. He holds numerous Tiger records, and was named to the Conference USA second team following his senior season.
In 2004, the Tiger offense received much attention heading into the season with a veteran quarterback, an All-American running back in DeAngelo Williams, a seasoned offensive line and a deep receiving corps. That offense lived up to the billing and finished the year ranked ninth nationally in total offense, and 10th in the nation in scoring. Wimprine ranked 26th nationally in total offense and was 27th in points responsible for and 28th in passing. Williams set numerous records for the Tigers and finished his junior season ranked third nationally in rushing. He was also ranked second in the country in all-purpose yards and scoring, and was honored by several entities as an all-American. Williams, who was heavily recruited by Fichtner, was considered a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in 2005.
In 2005, Fichtner's talent was heavily tested as the Tigers lost their two starting quarterbacks by the third game of the season. Fichtner had to make adjustments and instructed true freshman Billy Barefield, who led Memphis to an upset win over UTEP and then shifted to leading receiver Maurice Avery who led the Tigers to a 5-2 record and a Motor City Bowl victory as the starting quarterback. Williams led the Tigers again offensively, and ended the season ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing and No.4 in all-purpose yards. He finished his storied career as the NCAA record holder in all-purpose yards and 100-yard games (34). He also ended his career ranked fourth all-time in NCAA history in rushing yards with 6,026.
Offensively, the last four seasons have been big ones for the Tigers and rank in the top five all-time in the record book. The 2002 squad set a record for total offense with 4,258 yards, and then the 2003 team shattered that mark with 5,779 yards of total offense. In 2004, the Tigers amassed 5,524 yards of total offense to rank second all-time. The 2004 Tigers also set school records in points scored with 430 and in passing touchdowns with 25. Even with so many injuries during the 2005 season, Fichtner's offense managed 4,775 yards and 326 points.
Each of the last four years since Fichtner came on board, the Tigers have improved in points per game. The 2004 GMAC Bowl-bound Tigers averaged 35.9 points per contest, which was up from the 2003 mark of 30.2 points per game and the 2002 mark of 25.3 points per game. In 2001, the Tigers made a tremendous jump in scoring, averaging 26.7 points per meeting as compared to the previous mark of 16.1 points in 2000.
Fichtner was no stranger to the U of M when he joined the staff in 2001. He had previously served as an assistant for the Tigers under former head coach Chuck Stobart. Prior to his second stint at Memphis, Fichtner spent four years (1997-2000) on Joe Hollis' staff at Arkansas State University. He arrived in Jonesboro as the quarterback coach in the spring of 1997 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in August of 1997.
During his tenure with the Indians, Fichtner worked with quarterback Cleo Lemon, who set virtually every Arkansas State passing and total offense record. Lemon became Arkansas State's all-time leading passer as a junior and added to his totals during the 2000 season. Lemon is in his second year with the San Diego Chargers.
Prior to joining the staff at ASU, Fichtner spent three years at his alma mater, Purdue University, serving as wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator from 1994-96.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native originally came to Memphis in the fall of 1990 under Stobart and coached the Tiger receivers and quarterbacks for four seasons. During his stay at the U of M, Fichtner worked with such noted receivers and quarterbacks as Steve Matthews, Keith Benton, Russell Copeland, Mac Cody and St. Louis Rams All-Pro wide receiver Isaac Bruce.
While at Memphis, Fichtner's Tiger offense set 44 records and produced back-to-back 6-5 records, marking the first consecutive winning seasons in almost 20 years. Matthews set numerous Tiger single-game passing records, and in just 20 contests with the U of M, became the school's third all-time leading passer with 3,980 yards. Matthews went on to an NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Fichtner, 42, worked as a student assistant and graduate assistant at Purdue (1985-86) and at Michigan (1986-87), before joining Stobart as a volunteer coach at USC in 1988. He landed his first full-time position in 1989 as the tight end coach at UNLV and worked for the Rebels for one season before coming to Memphis with Stobart.
Fichtner graduated from Purdue in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in health promotion. He is married to the former Jennifer Parker of Covington, Tenn., and the couple has three children: a son, Nathaniel Ross, and daughters, Shelby Brooke and Kirby Lynn.