The joke in the press box midway through the University of Memphis' annual spring game was that new coach Tommy West was just trying to sell season tickets. How else to explain this new Tiger offense which under the direction of new coordinator Randy Fichtner 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 vaunted 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 TD, while Wimprine threw for one and ran for another.
Afterward, coaches and players alike expressed enthusiasm. How did you like that, one assistant coach asked after the scrimmage.
This is the most excited Ive 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.
Were pleased with what weve accomplished in 13 practices, West said after the scrimmage. I think theyve really come a long, long way. Our offensive players have an attitude right now that you want. They realize that they havent been very good; they havent been very productive. Theyre listening to the fundamental coaching.
West admitted that there were some areas that still need work and had some blunt words for his quarterbacks.
We had some miscues at quarterback where we got people open. Thats not good enough to play quarterback here, he said. When weve got people wide open, we have to hit them or you cant play Division-I college football. Thats the way it is.
The Tigers will go into August without a number-one quarterback. I really dont think we have a quarterback who deserves to be number one. I dont think anybody is playing to a level that well have to play to win games, West said. I think weve got some good competition and I dont want to cut it off. Im 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.
Were all excited about the new offense, its 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 has 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 the spring game and is being held out of the final practices (the Tigers will practice two more times this week). Scherers mother, Michelle, attended the game, but his father, former head coach Rip Scherer was out of town.
Senior defensive end Tony Brown, who was 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 next year. It is looking like I will be, with all the classes Im taking, Brown said. He and Andre Arnold, the other starting defensive end, comprise the most experienced part of a line that suffered heavy losses to graduation.
West doesnt know what the NCAA will do with the universitys appeal to have defensive tackle Albert Means, a transfer from Alabama, made 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 dont think we will know anything till mid-summer. There really has never been a case like this. I dont know what is going to happen. Means found himself at the center of 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, who missed some spring practice because of academic problems says not to worry. I will be fine, he said. Both of his parents were at the game. 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 Smiths move to right tackle has worked out well. I went through it and a lot of guys I know in the NFL went through it. Its 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 hes going to help us a lot.
Deep snapper Jarred Pigue has quit the team. He told coaches he wants to transfer to Tennessee.