Tommy West appreciates Rip Scherer hiring him in 2000 as defensive coordinator. So, he is careful not to say anything about the former coach that could be construed as negative. But read between the lines and a picture begins to form of just where West thinks the Tiger football program got off track.
"This is phase one of our putting our stamp on this football program and I really dont think it could have gone a whole lot better than it did," West said as he announced his 2001 recruiting class which includes 20 players. "I dont think there is any doubt that we have brought a different temperament or a different attitude to some positions on our football team."
West wants a tough football team and towards that goal he signed nine lineman, including two jucos and Albert Means, a former Parade All-American who transferred to his hometown university after his high school coach was accused of taking $200,000 from an Alabama booster. (The U of M has appealed to the NCAA to waive the transfer rule that calls for a player to sit out a year after moving to a school.)
"I really thought we would have to go a little more into junior college recruiting in our lines, but we ended up with two out of nine lineman coming from junior colleges," West said. Six of the linemen come from high schools.
West wanted to get a better balance on his team. The Tiger squad he inherited had 11 scholarships taken up by wide receivers while only 10 lineman were on scholarship.
"I think we got a little bit closer to being back in line from a numbers standpoint," the coach said.
He also laid out a challenge to his current players.
"Weve oversigned. If there are a few academic casualties in this class, then were prepared for that," West said. "If you are on this team right now, then I would be at every workout, I would be at every class, and I would be at every study hall. We are trying to create as much competition as we can at every position."
The recruiting class is being heralded as the best at the U of M in close to 20 years. "If you would have put this class on the board on December 1st, I wouldnt have believed that it ever could happen that way," said West, who took special pride in signing nine players from the Memphis metro area, where the Tigers had little success in recent years. "I think what we did locally is a statement."
Scherer made a habit of redshirting almost all of his high school recruits. Don't expect the same from West.
"I will give every member of this class an opportunity to play next year," he said. "If they can play on special teams, if they can help us in anyway, then they are going to get a chance to play next year.
"Redshirting has almost become a thing of the past. The NFL has helped see to that," the former Clemson head coach continued. "The days of taking six or seven years to build a program have also become a thing of the past. So if they can help our team in any way then they will play for us next year. And I expect a majority of this class will contribute next year."
He sounded like a coach who had learned some lessons the hard way.
2001 MEMPHIS FOOTBALL SIGNEESEric Anderson, 6-2, 285, Offensive Line, Middle Georgia College, Marietta, GA Lettered as an offensive center at Middle Georgia College ... Helped his team to a 10-2 record and a fifth place national ranking in 2000 ... Was named to the 1999 All-Region XVII Team ... Played for coach Randy Pippen at Middle Georgia College.
Greg Billingslea, 6-3, 245, Defensive Line, Tucker HS, Tucker, GA Lettered as a fullback and defensive lineman at Tucker High School ... Spent his time on offense blocking for tailback Jabari Davis ... Helped Tucker HS to a record of 10-3 ... Is projected as an defensive lineman at Memphis ... Played defensive end in high school before dropping weight to play fullback ... Played for coach Phil Lindsey at Tucker HS.
Dante Brown, 6-2, 220, Running Back, Middle Georgia College, Swainsboro, GA Lettered as an tailback for two years at Middle Georgia College ... Helped his team to a 10-1 record and a fifth place national ranking in 2000 ... Led MGC to a bowl appearance in Brunswick (Ga) in 2000 ... Rushed for nearly 900 yards and 14 touchdowns during 2000 season at MGC ... Had 208 yards and scored three touchdowns on just 11 rushing attempts during his freshman season at Middle Georgia ... Had touchdown runs of five, 42 and 46 yards in that game ... Scored four rushing touchdowns against Wingate College in 1999 ... Had runs of one, three, seven and 79 yards in that game ... Was named to the All-Region XVII Team in 1999 ... Signed with Tommy West at Clemson out of high school but attended junior college ... Was a first team USA Today All-American at Swainsboro High School ... Rushed for 1,842 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in high school ... Had 317 yards and scored four touchdowns against Johnson County in 1997 ...Had four kickoff returns for touchdowns as a senior in high school ... Rushed for over 1,300 yards and scored ten touchdowns as a junior in high school ... Ran track in high school and has posted a time of 10.9 in the 100 meters ... Recruited by Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina in high school ... Played for coach Randy Pippen at Middle Georgia College.
Shakorr Bryant, 6-3, 265, Defensive Line, Middle Georgia College, Powder Springs, GA Lettered as an defensive end at Middle Georgia College ... Helped his team to a 10-2 record and a fifth place national ranking in 2000 ... Was named to the All-Region XVII Team in 1999 ... Attended McEachern High School in Powder Springs ... Played for coach Randy Pippen at Middle Georgia College.
Dierre Carter, 6-3, 245, Defensive Line, Melrose HS, Memphis, TN Lettered as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Melrose High School ... Was named to Student Sports Magazine's 2000 All-America Team ... Rated by SuperPrep Magazine as the #17 prospect in Tennessee ... Was named to the 2000 Prep Star Magazine All-Southeast Region team ... A Commercial Appeal Best of the Preps Football Finalist in 2000 ... Named to the Associated Press 4A All-State team in 2000 ... Was named to Hi-Tech Tennessee's Top Prospect List for 2000 ... One of the most highly sought after recruits in the Memphis area ... Chose Memphis over LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss ... Credited with 110 solo tackles and 40 assists as a junior ... Had 20 quarterback sacks and 22 tackles for lost yardage during the 1999 season ... Also lettered as a member of the Melrose track team ... Played for coach Tim Thompson at Melrose High.
James Corder, 6-7, 305, Offensive Line, Christ Presbyterian Acad., Nashville, TN Lettered as an offensive and defensive lineman at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, TN ... Led his team to a 15-0 record in 2000 and the Tennessee Class 1A state title ... Received second team all-state honors for all classifications and was named to the first team all-region team ... Was named to Bill Buchalter's Dandy Dozen Offensive Linemen for 2000 ... Was named to Hi-Tech Tennessee's Top Prospect List ... Rated as number two lineman in state of Tennessee by Hi-Tech Tennessee ... Played for coach David Pack at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
Cameron Essex, 5-11, 170, Defensive Back, SW DeKalb HS, Atlanta, GA Lettered as defensive back at Southwest DeKalb High School ... Helped his team to a 12-1 record in 1999 ... Played for coach Buck Godfrey at SW DeKalb HS.
Jacob Ford, 6-4, 215, Defensive Line, Melrose HS, Memphis, TN Lettered as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Melrose High School ... Was named to the 2000 Prep Star Magazine All-Southeast Region team ... Was named to Hi-Tech Tennessee's Top Prospect List for 2000 ... Had 76 tackles and 10 quarterback sacks as a junior ... Played for coach Tim Thompson at Melrose High.
Gene Frederic, 6-4, 275, Offensive Line, DeSmet Jesuit HS, St. Louis, MO Lettered as an offensive lineman ... Helped his DeSmet Jesuit High team to a 8-1 record and a berth in the state 5A playoffs ... Lost in triple overtime to Pattonville in the opening round of the playoffs ... Received honorable mention All-Metro honors from the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2000 ... Played both offensive and defensive line for DeSmet ... Also handled all of the deep snapping duties for his school ... Was a three year football letter winner ... Played for coach Dennis Cernaka at DeSmet HS.
James Gaither, 6-4, 220, Punter/Kicker, Grayson County HS, Litchfield, KY Lettered as punter, kicker and wide receiver at Grayson County High School ... Was a three year letterman and starter for the football team ... Punted 38 times for 44.2 yard average during the 2000 season ... Made seven of 11 field goal attempts and had a long field goal made of 51 yards ... Was GCHS's second leading receiver ... Had 25 receptions for 275 yards ... Was a first team all-district selection as a punter in both his junior and senior seasons ... Was a third team all-state selection as a punter in his junior season and was a second team all-state selection as a punter after his senior season ... Had 98% of his kickoffs land in the end zone for touchbacks as a senior ... Was a two year starter at center on the GCHS basketball team ... Led the team in rebounding as both a junior and senior ... An outstanding baseball player Gaither batted .475 as a sophomore an had 13 home runs ... Batted .380 as a junior with two home runs ... Was heavily recruited by the University of Iowa ... Played for coach Danny Clark at Grayson County HS.
Andrew Handy, 6-3, 285, Offensive Line, Palmetto HS, Miami, FL Lettered as an offensive and defensive lineman at Palmetto High School in Miami, FL ... Selected to play in the Florida All-Star game on Martin Luther King Day ... Is expected to play in the Florida-California Football Classic in Santa Barbara, CA in June ... Was named first team All-Dade County in 2000 by the Miami Herald ... Was considered by many to be the best offensive lineman in the Miami Dade County area this fall ... Is called by high school coach "the best lineman ever to play at Palmetto High School" ... Worked as a strong guard during his senior season and helped team to an 8-3 record ... Played tackle as a sophomore and junior ... Was named Palmetto's MVP Lineman for three consecutive years ... Has run 4.9 forty yard dash ... Was recruited by Miami (FL), Rutgers and UMass but selected the Tigers ... Played for coach Jim Kroll at Palmetto HS.
Albert Means, 6-4, 335, Defensive Line, Univ. of Alabama, Memphis, TN Transferred to the University of Memphis in January of 2001 ... Has three years of eligibility remaining at the U of M ... Lettered as a true freshman at Alabama in 2000 ... Played in seven games and started the final four games of the year at defensive tackle ... Was credited with 18 tackles including two tackles for lost yardage ... Played his prep football at Trezevant High School in Memphis ... Was named to the 1999 Parade All-America Team ... Was named to the 1999 USA Today All-America Team ... Was named to the 1999 Tom Lemming All-America team ... Was named to SuperPrep's All-America Team ... Named to Boarder Wars first-team All-South Team ... Picked on the 1999 Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team ... Named by Prep Star as one of the top three defensive linemen in the nation in 1999 ... Was named as the number one prep prospect in the Southeast by Prep Star Magazine ... Named the Defensive MVP in the South by Prep Star ... Was named the number two defensive lineman in the nation by Rivals100.Com in 1999 ... Was named to the Rivals100.Com All-America team ... Was named Tennessee's Mr. Football in 1999 ... Named to the first-team Associated Press and UPI All-State teams ... Registered 120 tackles, including 85 solos in 1999 ... Had nine quarterback sacks and three pass interceptions two of which he returned for touchdowns ... Had 110 tackles as a junior with 11 sacks and five interceptions ... Ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at Trezevant High School ... Bench pressed 385, squatted 535 and cleaned 315 in high school.
LaDarius Price, 6-0, 175, Quarterback/Receiver, East HS, Memphis, TN Was a three year football letterman who lettered as the quarterback at East High School for the past two seasons ... Rated by SuperPrep Magazine as the #12 prospect in the state of Tennessee ... Was named to Hi-Tech Tennessee's Top Prospect List for 2000 as one of the top quarterbacks in the state... Helped East High School to a 9-1 regular season record and a berth in the state playoffs in 2000 ... Connected on 27-of-76 pass attempts for 531 yards and three touchdowns in 2000 ... Was ranked 10th in Shelby-Metro in punting with 19 for 673 yards ... Averaged 35.4 yards per punt ... Was ranked second in Shelby-Metro in kickoff returns in 2000 ... Had four returns for 182 yards and one touchdown ... Averaged 40.5 yards per kickoff return in 2000 ... East High averaged 349 yards per game in total offense in 2000 ... Led East High to a 13-2 record and the 1999 Tennessee Class 4A state championship ... Was ranked 27th in Shelby-Metro in passing completing 30-of-86 passes for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns ... Was ranked eighth in passing efficiency with a rating of 152.1 ... Was ranked 13th in Region 8 4A in total offense in 1999 ... Was ranked fifth in punt returns with a 16 yard average per return and was 10th in kickoff returns with 14 for 283 yards ... Averaged 20.2 yards per kickoff return ... Worked as the Mustangs punter and was ranked sixth in the Region ... During his sophomore season was ranked first in Region 8 4A in kickoff returns ... Had 13 returns for 473 yards and one touchdown ... Averaged 36.4 yards per kickoff return ... Helped team to an 11-1 record in 1998 ... Has run times of 4.4 in the forty yard dash ... Played for coach Wayne Randall at East High School.
Mario Robinson, 6-0, 205, Running Back, Melrose HS, Memphis, TN Lettered as a tailback and defensive back for the Melrose High School ... Was named to the 2000 Prep Star Magazine All-Southeast Team ... Battled injuries during his junior season but had strong senior year ... Helped Melrose High to a 9-1 regular season record and a berth in the state playoffs in 2000 ... Was ranked 13th in Shelby-Metro in scoring despite playing in just six games ... Scored seven touchdowns and had six two-point conversions during the 2000 season ... Was ranked 18th in Region 8-4A in rushing as a junior despite injuries ... Had 20 attempts for 276 yards and scored seven touchdowns in 1999 ... Was ranked 15th in Region 8-4A in scoring with his seven touchdowns and two two-point conversions ... Was named to the 1998 Prep Star Magazine All-Southeast Team as a sophomore ... Rushed for 560 yards and scored 12 touchdowns as a sophomore ... Tallied 28 tackles during his sophomore season ... Played for coach Tim Thompson at Melrose High.
Sheldon Taylor, 6-2, 220, Linebacker, Trezevant HS, Memphis, TN Comes to the Tigers from Trezevant High School in Memphis ... Lettered as a linebacker/defensive end for the Bears ... Registered 100 tackles during the 2000 season including 70 solo stops ... Was also credited with nine quarterback sacks ... Was named to the 2000 Associated Press 4A All-State team ... Played in the same defensive line with Tiger transfer Albert Means during the 1999 season ... Helped Trezevant to a berth in the state playoffs in 1999 ... Played for coach Lynn Lang at Trezevant High.
Tristan Thomas, 6-1, 175, Defensive Back, Marietta HS, Marietta, GA Lettered as strong safety at Marietta High School ... Was credited with 67 solo tackles, 23 assisted stops, two quarterback sacks, two tackles for lost yardage and two pass interceptions during the 2000 season ... Was an all-county and second team all-state selection in football in 2000 ... Also lettered as a member of the Marietta track team ... Ran a leg on the 4 X 400 meter relay team ... Was a high jumper for AAU Junior Olympic team in the summer of 1999 ... Placed 18th in AAU Southeast meet in Orlando, Florida, in the high jump and was 10th in the 80 meter low hurdles with a time of 15.61... Played for coach James "Friday" Richards at Marietta HS.
Scott Vogel, 6-1, 190, Defensive Back, MUS, Memphis, TN Lettered as a quarterback and defensive back for the Memphis University School Owls ... Battled injuries throughout his career but put together an outstanding senior season ... Helped his team to a 6-5 record in 2000 ... Passed for 672 yards and two touchdowns this past season ... Rushed for 264 yards and four scores ... Was the Owls second leading tackler as a safety ... Registered 88 total tackles in 2000 and had two blocked kicks and one pass interception ... Was being recruited by SMU and Kentucky ... Played for coach Jake Rudolph and Bobby Austin at MUS.
Charles Wellington, 6-0, 225, Linebacker, Trezevant HS, Memphis, TN Was named to the 2000 Associated Press 4A All-State team as a defensive lineman ... Was a high school teammate of Tiger signees Sheldon Taylor and Albert Means and helped the Bears to a berth in the 1999 state playoffs ... Played for coach Lynn Lang at Trezevant HS.
Marcus West, 6-4, 224, Tight End, Columbus HS, Columbus, MS Lettered as a tight end/defensive end at Columbus High School ... Was a first team Associated Press all-state selection in Mississippi ... Rated among the state of Mississippi's Top 40 Prospects by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger ... Played tight end on a Columbus team that used a running offense ... Had just six pass receptions during the 2000 season and turned one into a touchdown ... Was credited with 115 tackles and 12 quarterback sacks playing defensive line ... Was invited to play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic in Mobile, Alabama on June 16, 2001 ... Recruited by Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi ... Played for coach Roy McCrory at Columbus High.
Darron White, 6-0, 180, Receiver, Covington HS, Covington, TN Lettered for four years in football at Covington High School ... Was a Commercial Appeal Best of the Preps and Tennessee Mr. Football Finalist as a senior ... Was named to the Associated Press Class 4A All-State team in 1999 & 2000 ... Was named to the Associated Press 3A All-State team in 1998 ... Was named to the Tennessee Sportswriter's All-State Team in 1999 & 2000 ... Broke every offensive record in the 78-year history of Covington High ... In his four year career he rushed for 3,867 yards, had 1,142 yards receiving, compiled 1,875 yards in returns, totaled 7,260 all-purpose yards, intercepted 18 passes and scored 83 touchdowns ... Led his team to a 13-2 record and a berth in the state 3A championship game in 2000 ... Scored 32 touchdowns as a senior ... Had almost 3,000 yards of total offense in 2000 ... Was ranked 13th in Shelby-Metro in rushing in 2000 with 78 carries for 992 yards ... Scored 15 rushing touchdowns ... Averaged 12.7 yards per attempt which led the Shelby-Metro area ... Was ranked first in Shelby-Metro in all-purpose yards with 2,254 during the regular season and almost 3,000 with the state playoffs ... Ranked first in Shelby-Metro in scoring with 24 touchdowns and 144 points ... Was eighth in Shelby-Metro in both kickoff returns and in pass interceptions ... Had 14 kickoff returns for 499 yards and two touchdowns ... Registered four pass interceptions for 75 yards in returns ... Led Region 7-3A in punt returns, punt return average and punt return touchdowns as a junior at Covington High School ... Had 302 yards in punt returns in 1999 and averaged 27.5 yards per return ... Scored two punt return touchdowns as a junior ... Was ranked fourth in Shelby-Metro in punt returns and 10th in Shelby-Metro in all-purpose yards ... Rushed for 1,226 yards, had 283 yards receiving, 302 yards in punt returns, 333 yards in kickoff returns for a total of 2,204 all-purpose yards during the 1999 season ... Was named to the first team All Shelby-Metro squad as a specialist in 1999 ... Was ranked fourth in Shelby-Metro in kickoff returns as a sophomore with eight for 221 yards and one touchdown ... Rushed for 1,055 yards on 123 attempts as a sophomore ... Was ranked 21st in Shelby-Metro in interceptions with four during the 1998 season ... Was ranked 13th in all-purpose yards with 1,508 ... Chose Tigers over Ole Miss and Arkansas ... Has been selected to play in the 2001 Tennessee-Kentucky All-Star game ... Played for coach Jeff McFerrin, former Tiger linebacker.