Tigers Open Spring Camp Thursday
Feb. 27, 2013
Spread over the next five-plus weeks, the University of Memphis football team will go through a series of 15 spring practices expected to help set the tone for the 2013 season when the Tigers begin play in the BIG EAST Conference. The workouts begin Thursday at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex located at the university's Park Avenue Campus.
The Tigers will have completed a third of the practices by the end of next week when spring break begins on campus. Following spring break, practices will resume March 19th and the second half of camp will be highlighted by the annual Spring Game on April 6th.
This spring, second-year coach Justin Fuente has the task of not only continuing to advance the Memphis program forward but also leading the Tigers into a conference certain to offer more competition each week.
Memphis returns 46 lettermen, including 16 starters, off a 2012 team which won its last three games en route to posting a 4-8 record, the Tigers' best finish since 2008.
"I think it is recognizable the squad is in better physical shape," Fuente said. "They are more unified than they were a year ago. But it is still not to the level we need. Raising our frame of reference is what we are trying to get across to them."
In addition to raising the squad's expectations, Fuente said the coaching staff has emphasized putting the team first through each player's work ethic, attitude and demeanor.
"Each one of us has to understand we are accountable to everyone else," he said. "I think we have taken a step forward but we have to understand when you take a step forward, you don't take a break."
As for the Tigers on the practice field, Fuente said he doesn't have specific personnel questions he would like to have answered. Instead, his expectation for the team is to compete at a higher level than last spring, gain a better understanding of the speed of the game and come closer together as a unit.
The spring will allow for competition at several different positions but with a large influx of newcomers set to arrive on campus this summer along with how young overall this Memphis team is, a lot of personnel decisions will likely not be made until preseason camp.
"The neat thing right now is we have competition at some spots that we didn't have before," Fuente said. "I don't think you can stamp anything as final after the spring. You better know your base offense, defense and special teams scheme-wise and you have to establish a little bit of a physical identity."
Developing a physical identity will indeed be important as a young Tiger team faces the challenge of moving to the BIG EAST Conference.
"We are faced with an unprecedented task - to build a program while simultaneously taking a step up in competition," Fuente said. "We will play bigger, more physical teams. We will play some of the same teams we played last year but they were the more physical teams we played last year.
"We have to understand that we have a lot of ground to make up. That is not ground that is made up easily. It takes time and a lot of hard work."
Spring Camp Notes ... Along with the Spring Game on April 6th, the first two practices - Thursday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. - are open to the public ... the April 6th Spring Game will kickoff at 12 noon at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium ... the Tigers' 2013 spring camp will actually conclude following the spring game; Memphis' final workout is slated for April 9th.