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Memphis Football: 2019 Tigers Season Preview and Prediction

Brady White, Memphis Tigers Football

Brady White, Memphis Tigers Football

Memphis is the two-time defending champ of the American Athletic Conference's West Division, but not only has to replace one of the nation's most productive running backs but Mike Norvell also is basically breaking in a brand-new coaching staff.

Previewing Memphis' Offense for 2019

Norvell lost two of his most productive players after last season as running backs Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard opted to declare for the NFL Draft. They leave some gaping holes.

Norvell will look to Patrick Taylor Jr. to shoulder much of the offensive load. He gained 1,122 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns on the ground last season, in addition to catching 17 passes for 197 yards and two TDs.

At quarterback, Brady White returns after passing for nearly 3,300 yards and 26 touchdowns. A transfer from Arizona State, he led the Tigers to their second straight AAC title game and could take them to a third.

There may not be a better receiver in the AAC than Damonte Coxie, who joined Isaac Bruce and Anthony Miller as the only 1,000-yard receivers in program history. Tight end Joey Magnifico had five TD receptions and averaged a team-leading 17.3 yards per catch.

The offensive line has been re-tooled. Returnee Dustin Woodard moves over from guard to center, and highly regarded Obinna Eze moves into a starting role at left tackle. The other returning starter, Dylan Parham, will remain at his left guard spot.

Previewing Memphis' Defense for 2019

The line returns three of its four starters and could get a boost from junior college All-American Everitt Cunningham, an adept pass rusher. Three-year starter Jonathan Wilson is the group's veteran. He tied for second on the team with six sacks. O'Bryan Goodson was injured in the Birmingham Bowl and missed most of the spring but should be healthy by the start of the season. Bryce Huff led the Tigers in tackles for a loss (19) and sacks (9.5) and tied for the lead in quarterback hurries (seven).

New defensive coordinator Adam Fuller has been adamant since his arrival that his unit will play "fast, tough and smart." Much of that falls to the linebackers, a group led by senior Austin Hall. Hall is coming off a year in which he had nine tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries.

The defensive backfield returns two starters in cornerback T.J. Carter and strong safety Tyrez Lindsey. Carter, a junior, has started since his true freshman season and should emerge as the group’s leader because of his work ethic and success. Newcomer John Broussard, an Auburn transfer, could work his way into a starting cornerback spot opposite Carter.

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Previewing Memphis' Specialists for 2019

Pollard departs having tied an NCAA record with seven kickoff return TDs. His replacement could be one of several players, among them running back Kenneth Gainwell and receiver Calvin Austin III. Pop Williams is back to handle the punt returns after averaging 10.8 yards on 29 returns with a TD. Placekicker Riley Patterson is back for his third season, and Adam Williams returns as punter.

Final Analysis

Despite significant losses, Norvell should have enough experience and talent to lead the Tigers to their third straight AAC title game. White-to-Coxie should be a lethal combination this season for the offense, which also will get contributions from Taylor and Magnifico. Defensively, the Tigers must find a way to protect second-half leads, a shortcoming that cost them a year ago. Norvell's biggest challenge may be meshing the newcomers in staff meetings. The Tigers have seven new assistant coaches this season, including all three coordinators.

College Football Rankings: Memphis Football

National Ranking: 49