4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MEMPHIS DEFENSE
– The defense did a great job against the mediocre teams, and struggled way, way too much against the good offenses that had to keep cranking to keep up the pace.
Memphis had a nice pass rush and was fourth in the conference against the run, but it allowed 31 points or more eight times in the last 12 games. With ten of the top 12 tacklers back, the experience is there to be even better.
– Where is star pass rusher Bryce Huff going to play? The 6-3, 245-pound all-star is a dream of an edge player and hybrid linebacker/end, but he’s a dangerous-quick matchup if he lines up on the inside of the line, too. 64-tackle Austin Hall and 60-stop junior Tim Hart are good outside linebacker veterans, and 210-pound junior JJ Russell can work inside or out.
– Along with wherever Huff lines up are enough veterans up front to not only create a good wall, but also have a nice rotation. The combination of 6-1, 300-pound junior O’Bryan Goodson and 6-4, 290-pound junior John Tate will work on the nose, and 280-pound senior Jonathan Wilson and 275-pound junior Joseph Dorceus are active defenders. They all have to get into the backfield, because …
– The secondary will once again be under constant attack. It’s not that the Tiger defensive backs aren’t good, it’s that teams have to keep firing away to keep up. Now there have to be more picks after the team came up with just nine.
Tito Windham is gone at one corner, but junior TJ Carter is back after finishing third on the team with 68 stops. Junior safety Tyrez Lindsey is the team’s leading returning tackler with 71 stops, and 205-pound Josh Perry will move around where needed at either safety or linebacker after coming up with 65 tackles.