Was new University of Memphis coach Tommy West just trying to sell season tickets? How else to explain the performance in the annual Blue-Gray scrimmage by a new Tiger offense which threw on first down, operated without the benefit of a huddle, scored the first time it had the ball, and generally ran circles around the usually ferocious Tiger defense.
Behind quarterbacks Travis Anglin and Danny Wimprine, the offense scored five touchdowns during the two-hour scrimmage. When Anglin or Wimprine were not passing the ball effectively, they were handing it off to running backs Sugar Sanders, Aaron Meadows, and Jeremiah Bonds. Anglin had two touchdown passes and ran for another, while Wimprine threw for one and ran for a second.
Afterward, coaches and players alike expressed enthusiasm. "How did you like that?" one assistant coach asked after the scrimmage.
"This is the most excited I've ever seen our team," said junior receiver Tripp Higgins. "Our defense even gets pumped up because of the tempo of our offense. They like seeing us do good."
"We're pleased with what we've accomplished in 13 practices," West said after the scrimmage. "I think they've really come a long, long way. Our offensive players have an attitude right now that you want. They realize that they haven't been very good; they haven't been very productive. They're listening to the fundamental coaching."
West admitted that there were some areas that still need work, and he had some blunt words for his quarterbacks.
"We had some miscues at quarterback where we got people open. That's not good enough to play quarterback here," he said. "When we've got people wide open, we have to hit them or you can't play Division I college football. That's the way it is."
The Tigers will go into August without a number-one quarterback. "I really don't think we have a quarterback who deserves to be number one. I don't think anybody is playing to a level that we'll have to play to win games," West said. "I think we've got some good competition and I don't want to cut it off. I'm going to carry it into August.
"I think Travis has done some good things. He needs to improve in the passing game, but he certainly is a threat running the ball," West continued. "I think he has improved throwing the ball. He has improved his accuracy. He is certainly in the mix."
Wimprine said he welcomes the battle. "Competition only makes you better," he said. "Hopefully, all the quarterbacks will get better from this situation."
Excitement was the word of the day.
"We're all excited about the new offense, it's explosive," said Trey Erye, who is competing for the starting right guard position. "The best thing is that it makes everybody accountable for themselves. Today we had a lot of good things happen."
"Coach West and his staff have done a great job of installing a new offense. It makes it fun," added Higgins. "The defense does not have as much depth as we do now. We just got a lot better. Not to take anything away from them, but we did a lot of things good today."
· Defensive back Bo Arnold is improving after being in a serious one-car collision near his home in Georgia. Arnold received facial injuries in the crash and has had to have his jaw wired, according to school officials.
· A third quarterback, senior Neil Suber, played in the game but was ineffective. Scott Scherer, who was the starter at the end of last season, sat out the scrimmage. Scherer took a vicious hit at practice a few days before and was held out of the game. Scherer's mother, Michelle, attended the game, but his father, former head coach Rip Scherer, was out of town.
· Senior defensive end Tony Brown, who had to sit out his freshman season because he didn't qualify academically, says he is hopeful of getting another year of eligibility by graduating in 2002. "It is looking like I will be, with all the classes I'm taking," Brown said. He and Andre Arnold, the other starting defensive end, make up the most experienced part of a line that suffered heavy losses to graduation.
· West doesn't know what the NCAA will do with the university's appeal to have defensive tackle Albert Means, a transfer from Alabama, declared eligible immediately. "He can help our team," West said. "I just have to keep my fingers crossed and hope people do the right thing and restore his eligibility. I don't think we will know anything till mid-summer. There really has never been a case like this. I don't know what is going to happen." Means found himself at the center of a recruiting scandal after a Memphis high school coach claimed that an Alabama supporter gave Means' high school coach $200,000 to have him sign with the Crimson Tide.
· Wimprine made the most incredible play of the game when he ran down speedy defensive back Quincy Stephenson who had just intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards. Wimprine, who missed some practice time because of academic problems, says not to worry about him. "I will be fine," he said. Both of his parents attended the game, traveling from their home near New Orleans. His mother is a frequent poster to the message board at the Web site Tiger Illustrated. She uses the screen name "Dan's Fan."
· Offensive line coach Rick Mallory says former tight end Wade Smith's move to right tackle has worked out well despite the ego adjustment involved. "I went through it and a lot of guys I know in the NFL went through it. It's always a shock to your system, to your ego," Mallory said of the transition. "But Wade sees the wisdom behind it. He is a real athletic guy and he's going to help us a lot."
· Deep snapper Jarred Pigue has quit the team. He told coaches he wants to transfer to Tennessee. ·
You can e-mail Dennis Freeland at email@example.com.