Tigers Ready for 2000 Season
July 31, 2000
Memphis, TN - As the University of Memphis Tiger football team opens the new millennium, Rip Scherer will be in essence opening his second stint as the U of M head coach. Armed with a new contract and some new coaching staff members, Scherer will be attempting to take his Tiger team to its first bowl game since the 1971 season.
Scherer received a contract extension through the 2003 season after leading the Tigers to a second-place finish in Conference USA and a 5-6 overall record in 1999. His 3-2 road record marked the first time since the 1983 season that The U of M had a winning road record.
Memphis opened the season with back-to-back three-point losses to Mississippi and Mississippi State and later lost one-point games to Tennessee in Knoxville and to Louisville.
At the conclusion of the '99 campaign, several Tiger assistant coaches took positions at other schools, which allowed Scherer to restructure his staff.
His first hire made an immediate impact as Tommy West, the former Clemson head coach, was selected as defensive coordinator and associate head coach. In addition to West, Scherer hired Tim Walton of Bowling Green State to coach the Tiger secondary. Walton had been a standout defensive back for Ohio State University and was known as a tenacious recruiter. Rounding out the new defensive staff was Rick Whitt, the defensive coordinator from UT-Chattanooga, who will serve as outside linebacker coach.
Offensively, Scherer hired Jimmy Kiser from North Carolina State University as quarterback coach and brought in Rick Mallory to handle the offensive line. Kiser had served as offensive coordinator for the Wolfpack for three years and Susan was the Princeton Tigers' offensive coordinator and line coach. After naming Charlie Coe assistant head coach and assigning him the wide receivers, Scherer hired Clay Helton as running backs coach. Helton had worked as running backs coach for his father Kim Helton at the University of Houston.
Armed with a rejuvenated spirit, the Tiger football team entered the spring anxious to build upon the success of the 1999 season.
Memphis returns nine of the 11 starters from last year's 23rd ranked defense and six regulars from the offense.
The 2000 schedule finds the Tigers taking on SEC opponents Mississippi State and Tennessee, both bowl teams from '99, as well as Conference USA foes Southern Mississippi, Houston, East Carolina and Army.
The Quarterbacks -
The Tigers will open the fall of 2000 with two veteran quarterbacks battling for the starting assignment. Back from the '99 campaign are co-starters Travis Anglin and Neil Suber. Suber opened last season as the regular signal caller but gave way to Anglin in the seventh game of the season.
Anglin, who is noted for his ability to run with the ball as pressure mounts in the backfield, rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns and passed for a team leading 856 yards and five touchdowns.
The Georgia native led Memphis to wins in three of the final four games of the season, including victories against Tulane, Army and Cincinnati. He rushed for 39 yards and one score in the Memphis win over Arkansas State and tallied 38 yards and a touchdown in the heartbreaking loss to Louisville.
As a passer, Anglin threw for a season and career high 221 yards in the win over Tulane in the Superdome and had his first two touchdown passing performance.
Suber passed for 852 yards during the 1999 season and in doing so moved into 11th place on the Tiger career passing list with 1,782 yards.
The strong armed passer nearly pulled off another upset win over Tennessee as he threw for 222 yards and one touchdown against the Vols in Knoxville. His 82-yard scoring strike to Ken Coutain tied for the sixth longest pass play in school history. Memphis, however, would give up a touchdown in the game's final two minutes to drop a 17-16 decision.
Suber has started 11 games in his Memphis career, and combined with Anglin, gives The U of M a double threat at quarterback.
Scherer, who worked as both a signal caller and a member of the Memphis special teams, completed one of two pass attempts for eight yards and rushed for 21 yards on five carries in 1999. He appeared as a quarterback against Arkansas State, Tulane and UAB and drove the team for a touchdown in the win over Tulane.
Harris has lettered for three seasons as the Tiger holder on special teams. He too is a skilled passer who can throw when needed.
Webb spent the 1999 season as redshirt and worked with the Tiger offensive scout team. Webb, who was coming off a knee injury, saw limited contact work and used the fall of '99 to rehab his knee and learn the Memphis system.
Memphis landed two top notch prep quarterbacks in the 2000 signing class. Wimprine, a native of New Orleans, La., threw for over 500 yards last season in leading his team to the state playoffs. The four-year starter for J.T. Curtis High School had a career record of 53-2 as a starter and guided his team to three state titles.
Adams, who is the grandson of former Tiger head coach Fred Pancoast, injured his knee just four games into the 1999 season but still managed to pass for over 1,000 yards. Also a standout baseball player and soccer player, Adams is expected to be at full speed as fall camp begins.
The Running Backs -
One of the two areas hardest hit by graduation was that of the offensive backfield. The Tigers lost their top two tailbacks and their top two fullbacks from the '99 campaign and must find replacements before the season opener against Mississippi State.
Gone from last year are 2,000-yard career rusher Gerard Arnold and 1,000-yard career rusher Teofilo Riley. Arnold was one of just four backs in the school's history to gain over 2,000 career yards and Riley amassed over 1,700 yards and is ranked among the school's top ten all-time rushers.
Despite the loss of Arnold and Riley, the outlook for ball carriers is not bleak. Back for his sophomore season is talented runner Jeff "Sugar" Sanders, as well as Dernice Wherry, Andrew Harden and Aaron Meadows and redshirt freshman Quinton Coles.
Sanders, who exhibited great strength and power in his running last season, is expected to enter the fall as the team's starter at tailback. The Miami, Fla., native rushed for 254 yards last season and scored two touchdowns. He totaled 94 yards rushing in the Tigers' win over Arkansas State and tallied 46 yards and a touchdown in the UAB victory. He supplied 33 yards and a score in the Memphis win over Tulane.
Wherry, who lettered as an outside linebacker in 1999, was moved back to tailback where he achieved so much acclaim as a high school senior. The Munford, Tenn., native saw action in all 11 games of 1999 and was credited with 11 tackles. However, as a senior at Munford High School, Wherry rushed for 2,070 yards and led his team to the Tennessee 5-A championship game.
Meadows, a transfer from Millsaps College, worked as a special teams member and as a tailback in '99. His most outstanding performance came in the Tulane win when he rushed for 44 yards and scored one touchdown, the first of his career.
Coles was an all-state high school back in Georgia and served as a scout team player last year. He rushed for 1,078 yards in 1998 in being named the Atlanta Metro 3A Player of the Year.
Joining the Tiger tailbacks this fall will be Huntsville, Ala., native Jeremiah Bonds. An all-state performer at J.O. Johnson High School, Bonds gained 1,550 yards in 1999. He is also an all-state track sprinter, who won the Alabama 55 meter indoor championship for three consecutive years.
For Arnold , Riley and Sanders to gain their yards last year, The U of M fullbacks, Rashad Bailey and Brandon Tucker, had to be doing their jobs making key blocks. Both have graduated but the Tigers have a strong replacement in sophomore Darche Epting.
Epting, who worked with the special teams last season, is the heir apparent for the starting fullback position. He will receive support from incoming freshmen Shaka Hill and Robert Douglas, as well as converted linebacker Nick Tsatsaronis and former walk-on quarterback Tim Boam.
Epting is a hard runner from Dallas, Texas, who was outstanding as a special teamer. He was an all-stater in Texas and has demonstrated his abilities well enough to capture the fullback position. He will also see action at tailback this fall.
Hill was one of the nation's top recruits in 2000. He was sought after by the likes of Tennessee, Michigan, Nebraska and Ole Miss, before deciding to stay in state and signing with Memphis. The powerful fullback/linebacker rushed for over 600 yards in 1999 and scored nine touchdowns. He could become a part of the Tiger offense as a freshman.
Douglas, a St. Louis, Mo., native was an outstanding runner at Lutheran North High School and also doubled as a linebacker. He helped lead his high school team to the Missouri 3A state championship in '99. Douglas gained 580 yards last year and could see action this fall in a backup role.
Tstasaronis has worked in several defensive positions since his arrival on campus but may have found a home at fullback. The Canadian is a dedicated weightroom worker and has the strength and speed to help at fullback. He worked as a blocker in spring drills and had just two carries for seven yards.
Boam, a walk-on from Memphis Overton, demonstrated a strong passing arm as a quarterback working with the Tiger scout team but was needed to help provide depth at fullback.
The Receivers -
If the Tigers were hard hit in the offensive backfield by graduation, they took another one-two punch at the receiver spots. Gone from last year's squad are wide receiver Damien Dodson and flanker Ken Coutain.
Dodson finished his career as the school's second all-time leading receiver in yardage (2,096) and the all-time leader in number of catches (147). He was a three year starter and appeared in 42 of 44 career games.
Coutain, who became a starter as a senior, hauled in 28 passes for 341 yards in 1999, including an 82-yard scoring strike in the Tennessee game.
Receivers Al Sermon, Ryan Johnson, Tripp Higgins and Casey Rooney and newly arrived junior college transfer Reginald Perkins will have to continue to improve as pass catchers as newcomers Von Webb, Devin Yarbrough and Lloyd Patterson learn the Memphis offensive scheme and begin to find their place on the depth chart.
Sermon has lettered for two years and was the team's fourth leading receiver in 1999. He caught 16 balls for 208 yards last season and grabbed one touchdown pass. His best outing came against Missouri when he caught four passes for 82 yards and a score.
Johnson, who had shoulder surgery in the summer of '99 and missed the first half of the season, came on strong in the final five games. He worked as a receiver and kick returner and should return in both roles this fall. The St. Louis, native caught seven passes for 111 yards in the latter stages of the campaign and returned nine kickoffs for 179 yards. Johnson also had three punt returns.
Rooney and Higgins were both true freshmen last year and both became letter winners. Rooney caught five passes on the year for 64 yards, while Higgins grabbed three balls for 46 yards. Higgins also worked as the Tigers' punt returner and had 25 returns for 141 yards.
Perkins is a speedy junior college receiver who made several impressive catches in the spring scrimmages. He led all Tiger receivers in spring practice with 10 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He is also a skilled kick returner and could make an immediate impact with the special teams.
The receiver spots will gain backup from Antoine Harden, who sat out last year with a bad back and from walk-on candidate E.J. LeFlore.
Freshmen Webb, Yarbrough and Patterson could be forced into action in the fall in hopes of providing depth at receiver. Webb was an all-state football and track performer in Alabama, while Yarbrough and Patterson were standout receivers at Whitehaven High School in Memphis. Patterson is the son of former Tiger quarterback Lloyd Patterson (1974-77).
The Tight Ends -
Memphis returns perhaps the top tight end in Conference USA in Billy Kendall. The three year letterman was the team's second leading receiver last fall with 28 catches for 302 yards. He is the all-time leading tight end in Memphis football history in terms of catches with 53 and in yardage with 601. He is also tied for the lead in touchdown catches by a tight end with four.
The Maryland native had a career high 78 yards receiving in the win over Cincinnati. His 49-yard touchdown catch against the Bearcats helped Memphis to the victory. Kendall tallied six catches in the Arkansas State win which stands as a career best.
Providing support for Kendall will be sophomores Wade Smith and Jeff Cameron. Smith played in every game of the '99 season as a true freshman. He was moved into that role after Cameron injured his knee in fall camp.
Smith demonstrated a great talent for blocking in 1999 but did not have a pass reception until the final game of the season when he grabbed a six yard pass in the Memphis win over Cincinnati.
Cameron, who missed most of the '99 campaign with a knee injury, came on strong in the spring and will be in the regular rotation this fall. He is a strong blocker and showed in spring drills that he is an outstanding receiver.
Memphis could get early help at tight end from two newcomers. Eric Peterson, an all-state tight end from Houston High in Memphis and Jason Johnson from St. Louis, Mo. Peterson made all-state as both a defensive end and a tight end and is also a standout track athlete. Johnson, who lettered in football and basketball, had 35 pass receptions in his final two seasons of high school.
The Offensive Line -
One of the strongest positions on the Memphis offense in terms of experience is that of the offensive line. Back from the '99 season are starting tackles Artis Hicks and DeCorye Hampton and guard Lou Esposito. Hicks and Esposito are two year starters, while Hampton, a former Parade All-American, started all 11 games of 1999.
Hicks has been a starter for the past two seasons and is ready to take over the leadership role for the offensive line. The Jackson, Tenn., native has been a steady performer at left tackle. Hicks will receive back up support from letterman tackle Austin O'Dell. A senior from Memphis, O'Dell was having a solid spring before tearing ligaments in his left knee. He rehabbed over the spring and is ready for duty this fall.
Hampton returns to his right tackle position after starting every game last fall. A senior, he could receive another year of college eligibility if he remains on track academically. The Memphian will be backed up by sophomore Baki Celaj, who has not seen game action for Memphis.
Esposito is a vocal leader on offense. A graduate of the University of Memphis, Esposito has lettered for three years at guard and tackle. He is locked in at right guard.
With the departure of David Sherrod from the right guard spot, the Tiger coaches took long looks at Trey Eyre, Josh Eargle and Matt Gehrke to fill the void. Eyre lettered as a backup for Sherrod in 1999. He played most of the UAB game when Sherrod was injured and started the Louisville contest in Memphis. Eargle has worked as a center for two seasons and could be used in both roles if needed. He battled Eyre all spring for the guard spot and could lock down the starter's position. Gehrke worked as a center also during the 1999 season but was moved to guard in the spring. He saw limited duty during the '99 campaign.
The center position, which was held by Tim Seymour last year, appears to have fallen into the hands of newcomer Jimond Pugh. Pugh, who transferred to Memphis from Florida A&M, sat out last year under the NCAA transfer rules but practiced with the Tiger offense scout team each day. He was signed to a scholarship in February and really played well in the spring. He will be backed up by Eargle and redshirt junior Jason Austin.
Austin has seen limited duty over the past two years but appears ready to move into a more prominent role for the Tigers. He could also see action at the offensive guard slot. Gehrke, who has worked as a center since his arrival, saw time at the guard position in the spring and could fill both roles for the Tigers.
Newcomers on the offensive line this fall will include Drew Harmon, Jerry Brown, Travis Triplett and Jason Broussard. All were outstanding high school linemen but will have to work hard in camp if they are to see playing time this fall.
The Memphis defense, took on a new style of play in 1999 and with that style of play, climbed into the spotlight in national rankings. With a new, aggressive defense, the Tigers went from a 104th place national ranking in 1998 to the 23rd spot in the polls in 1999.
Now new defensive coordinator Tommy West has nine of last year's starters back, as well as a host of veteran players to provide support. If spring drills were any indication of the defense's talent then the fall could find the Tigers back near the top of the national rankings.
The Defensive Ends-
The defensive end slots were filled by junior Andre Arnold and senior Tramont Lawless in 1999. Lawless, who set a new Memphis career sack record, graduated and signed with the Cleveland Browns. However, Arnold is back for the 2000 campaign and will be joined by veteran Tony Brown. Brown was the eighth leading tackler for the Tigers last season despite not starting a game. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native logged 43 tackles, including ten for lost yardage and three quarterback sacks. Arnold logged 30 tackles with six for lost yardage and two sacks.
Depth at the end positions should be no problem with veterans like Pat Willis and Ross Estes and newcomers such as Cornell Bazile, Stanley Jackson and freshmen Jeremy Rone and Eric Taylor vying for their share of the playing time.
Willis is a versatile athlete who has lettered as a tight end and a defensive end. The senior was the 11th leading tackler in 1999 registering 40 tackles. He also contributed six tackles for lost yardage and three quarterback sacks while serving as a starter in four games.
Estes has earned a letter for the Tiger defense, while Bazile has spent a year redshirting. Jackson, a highly touted player from Memphis set out last season while concentrating on academics.
Joining the defense this fall are freshmen Eric Taylor and Jeremy Rone. Taylor was a member of the '99 Tennessee All-Midstate team, while Rone helped lead his Liberty Eylau (TX) High School team to the Texas 3A state championship.
The Defensive Line-
There will be no lack of talent or depth at the nose tackle and defensive tackle positions. Back for their senior seasons are 1999 starting nose tackle Marcus Bell, a three year letterman and starting defensive tackle Calvin Lewis.
Bell, an All-Conference USA performer, was the team's second leading tackler last year with 85 stops, including 14 tackles for lost yardage and four quarterback sacks. Lewis logged 42 hits from his tackle sot.
Veteran letterman Jarvis Slaton will provide depth for Lewis at defensive tackle. A three year letter winner, Slaton has over 40 career tackles to his credit. Depth for the tackle position will come from redshirt freshman Garfield Garth, a talented young player from Amory, MS.
Gerard Massey, a walk-on who was named the Defensive MVP of the Blue-Gray game and Boris Penchion, a former outside linebacker could also provide support in the defensive front.
Joining the Tiger defense for the first time this fall are defensive tackle David McNair and nose tackle Kenyun Glover. McNair arrives from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, where he lettered as a post graduate for one season. Glover is from Memphis Overton High School where he lettered for four years in football and basketball.
The Tigers will have three senior linebackers returning for the 2000 season and two were starters last season. Inside linebacker Kamal Shakir returns for his final season, as does outside linebacker DeMorrio Shank. Ian Williams, a senior who underwent brain surgery in the summer of '99, could man the "will" linebacker slot but he is locked in a battle with redshirt freshman DeMarquis "Coot" Terry.
Shakir, a former Sporting News All-American and an All-Conference USA selection, will lead his defensive teammates this fall. Shakir led the team in tackles last year with 143 and ranked second in C-USA. The Georgia native has 297 career tackles and could move into the UM top five before the end of the 2000 season.
Shank, who has lettered for three years, registered 65 tackles during the '99 campaign and was ranked fifth in tackles for the Tigers and now has over 140 career hits.
Terry, a native of Manchester, Ga., sat out last season but was used as an offensive back. He made the move to linebacker in the spring and given his speed, made an impression on the defensive staff. Terry was named the Georgia 2-A Player of the Year after gaining over 2,000 yards rushing as a senior.
Williams, who successfully returned to the playing field in the spring, has the size and speed to play both the run and pass. Williams, who lettered at outside linebacker as a junior, was set to become a dominating force on the Tiger defense when he was discovered to have a brain tumor. The benign tumor was removed and Williams has been cleared to play again this fall.
Hyden caught the eyes of UM coaches when he arrived on campus in the fall of '99. The Franklin, Tenn., native continued to improve in the spring and has moved himself into the number two spot at inside linebacker. Young is a redshirt sophomore from St. Louis, Mo., who has spent the past two seasons with the Tiger defense. Brown signed with Memphis in December of 1999 and arrived on campus for the spring. The Fork Union Military Academy linebacker has the size and speed to provide depth this fall.
Harper is a walk-on on from Memphis who was redshirted during the fall of 1999 but like Will Hyden, caught the coaches eye during practices. He climbed the depth chart in the spring and enters the fall as the number two at "sam" backer.
Lanctot is a two year letterman, while Rowand and George Harper have each earned one varsity letter. All three have worked with the Tiger special teams and could provide leadership there again this season.
Ballard is a highly touted freshman from Bostwick, Ga. The all-state selection was named to Georgia's Top 75 Recruits in 1999 and helped his team to the state 2A playoffs.
Green helped lead his Liberty Eylau High School team to the Texas state championship, while Hall is a game tested walk-on.
If there is one area of the Tiger defense that can boast depth it is that of the secondary. The Tigers return all four starters from 1999 and many veteran players.
Back for the 2000 campaign are corners Michael Stone and Marcus Smith and safeties Fred Powell and Idrees Bashir. In addition, Memphis has regulars Glenn Sumter, Keydrin Ward, Kosha Irby, Chance Nesbitt, Emery Bell and Brad Britt, as well as redshirts Jason Brown and Anthony Harden and letterman Quincy Stephenson.
Stone is a two year veteran who is one of the fastest players on the Memphis team. The Michigan native logged 60 tackles in '99 and had one fumble recovery and one pass interception. Smith, who replaced Reggie Howard at corner after a mid season injury, was credited with 28 tackles, a fumble recovery and one pass interception which came in the Tigers win over UAB.
Bashir, a junior who has been a starter since his freshman season, was the Tigers' third leading tackler last year notching 71 hits. He had two fumble recoveries and one pass interception while working as a strong safety. This fall Bashir will move to free safety. Powell, who played free safety in '99, will move to strong safety. Powell led The U of M in pass interceptions with three to go along with his 70 tackles.
Sumter, who was a starter as a freshman before suffering a knee injury, has returned from ACL surgery and is battling Bashir for his old spot. Sumter was impressive in the spring and received the Chris Faros Most Improved Player Award.
Ward, a two year letterman, will give the Tigers great depth at strong safety where he will work with Powell. He appeared in all 11 games of '99 and was credited with 37 tackles.
Irby, a senior with three varsity letters, and Britt, who has lettered once, have helped the Tigers in both the secondary and on the special teams.
Bell and Nesbitt were both hurt last year and both spent the spring recovering from knee injuries. Bell had Olympic caliber speed before his knee injury, while Nesbitt had worked as both a receiver and defensive back.
Garris and Washington are both highly recruited freshmen who are the Tigers' corners for the future.
The Special Teams-
Memphis returns one of the nation's top kickers in Ryan White, who was named to the 2000 Playboy All-American team in April. The Georgia native has twice been a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and was ranked 17th in the nation last year in field goals. He has twice been named to the All-Conference USA Team and was tabbed as the 1998 C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year.
White has connected on 29-of-35 career field goal attempts and has not missed a PAT attempt.
A search went on all spring to find a deep snapper to replace Joe Rocconi but to no avail. Several candidates were tried but no one laid claim to the position. Kevin Bohannon, who worked as a backup last fall, was injured and missed the spring. He could take over the position as could newcomers Jared Pigue and Billy Summers.
Summers played for Bartlett High School in Memphis last season, while Pigue prepped at Goodpasture Christian High School in Madison, Tenn., where he played for former Tiger specialist Andy McWilliams, who was the holder for All-American kicker Joe Allison.
The deep snapper will have a veteran holder to snap to in senior letterman Michael Harris. Harris has held for White for the past two years and will return to that spot this fall. He will be backed up by redshirt quarterback Scott Scherer.
Memphis should have strength and depth in the kick returner slots.
Johnson is back for his sophomore season and handled some of the kickoff return work in the spring. He received a challenge from newly arrived junior college transfer Reginald Perkins. The Mississippi native proved to be a sure handed receiver of the ball and has the speed needed to be a great kick returner.
Higgins returned 25 punts for Memphis in 1999 for over 140 yards. The sophomore could receive back up help from Johnson, Perkins and safety Fred Powell.