Memphis turns over another coach this offseason, but will turn to a bight offensive mind, in former Texas Christian University Offensive Coordinator, Justin Fuente. However, in transition, they bring back a good young core on offense, and a deep, veteran defense. Led by Junior transferee, Jacob Karam (Texas Tech), he looks to bring balance with quick strikes to Receivers, Kevin Wright, and Marcus Rucker, along with Junior Running Back Jerrell Rhodes, and Sophomore back, Artaves Gibson. An offense that just lost 4 Quarterbacks to transfers this past season, looks to be in good shape for 2012. To add to the Offensive power, the Defense brings back veteran Linebackers Akeem Davis and Kenyatta Johnson, along with veteran Safety duo in Mitch Huelsing and Cannon Smith. The question entering the 2012 season is whether Fuente and company can develop the young, explosive talent on the roster and intertwine them with the veteran core.
Jacob Karam, QB* - Jacob enters the Memphis program after graduating from Texas Tech this past fall and granted immediate eligibility. Playing as a backup only, Jacob has played in 6 total games, completing 9 of 17 passes for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jacob is undersized at 6’0 and 205 pounds, but is a given weapons and a system to maximize his talent and potential. (Former 4* recruit in the state of Texas per Rivals)
Jerrell Rhodes, RB* - Jerrell, only a Junior (5’10 215) has had an up and down career thus far at Memphis. A former top-25 player in the state of North Carolina (SuperPrep), came in as an early enrollee. Starting as a true Freshmen, Jerrell became the feature back, running for 469 yards and 1 touchdown on 116 carries. He saw his 2011 season end in disappointment only playing in 3 games due to injury. He has a history since High School of injuries and will need to show a full season of healthy play if he wants a shot to catch on a roster after his career at Memphis is completed (either 2013 or 14).
Artaves Gibson, RB** - Artaves came into Memphis as a 3* Running Back (Rivals) from the state of Tennessee. He shows great size at 6’1 and 215 pounds, along with track speed, as a former All-Stater (200m, 400m, and 4x100m). He ran for 316 yards on 104 carries (3.0 ypc), while catching 9 passes for 46 yards. If he can continue to grow and develop into a 3 down player, along with continuing to progress as a runner (vision and leg churning), he could challenge to be a top back when he decides to declare.
Kevin Wright, WR** - Kevin, the dual threat Receiver/Returner for the Tigers blew up in his first season in the program. The 6’3 215 pound Redshirt Sophomore had 36 receptions for 398 yards (both second on the team) and a touchdown. Kevin will need to show he can be the number one option, as his counterpart, Marcus Rucker, will miss time with injury and will also be bracketed on the outside.
Marcus Rucker, WR – Marcus is the leader of the Tiger Offense. He has good size at 6’4 and 190 pounds, but looks skinny and could use another 10 or more pounds of muscle and added weight onto his frame. Rucker had an injury shortened season, playing in only 8 games. He caught 20 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He could be a late round sleeper or top UDFA candidate if he can show he is healthy and can put work in on Special Teams.
Jordan Devey, OT – The best kept secret at Memphis is swing lineman Jordan Devey. The 6’5 300 pound Left Tackle is a former Snow College transfer during the 2010 offseason. Jordan started every snap during the 2011 season at both Left and Right Tackle. While at Snow College, Jordan played every position, but had starts at LT,RT, LG, and RG, with practicing only at Center. If Jordan can continue to remain healthy, he is a late round pick, with more room to develop and progress (only his 4th year playing Football).
Akeem Davis, LB – Akeem, no has one full year under his belt after a serious knee injury in 2009, his freshmen season. The same injury caused him to have a short 2010 campaign, buut came back ready, in shape, and angry in 2011. The undersized linebacker (6’1 200) ended the year with 78 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 forced fumbles, 4 pass deflections, and 3 interceptions. Akeem has great instincts and football IQ (Honor Roll and Dean’s list each semester, while putting in extra time in the film room). He needs to show he remains healthy and can play an injury free season in 2012.
Kenyatta Johnson, LB – Kenyatta, the former All-State track athlete in High School began his career at Hinds Community College (HCC). The 6’1 and 230 pound linebacker started all 12 games for the Tigers in 2011, tallying 72 tackles, 1.5 TFL, and an interception. Kenyatta has show an improvement in both fundamentals and technique every year since his HCC days and will need another strong year to be nationally recognized in 2013.
Mitch Huelsing, S – The sweet mustache wearing, hard hitting missile Mitch Huelsing made the most of his first year as starter at Safety in 2011. The former Special Teams standout his previous two season, earned his way into the starting lineup in 2011 and never looked back. Mitch had 64 tackles, 1.5 TFL, and 4 forced/recovered fumbles, while snagging 2 interceptions. Mitch will look to make a roster as a third Safety and Special Teams gunner at the NFL level, and should thrive in that role, I mean, hey, look at that facial hair.
Cannon Smith, S – Former backup Quarterback at Miami (Fl.), Cannon was a 2 way player for the Tigers until this past season, when he took over the other starting Safety position. He started 11 games, notching 51 tackles, with a forced fumble, and 6 pass deflections. For the NFL’s sake, getting both “The Statche” and “The Cannon” is all the league is missing for the 2013 Draft and season.
Tom Hornsey, P* - Tom will enter the 2012 season going into his third year as starting Punter. In his first 24 games (all starts) he has punted 175 times for 7,409 yards (42.3 average) and a long of 66 yards. He has landed 47 inside the 20 and netted 36 punts of over 50 yards.