Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 8:00 AM

• There’s one (and only one) silver lining to the news that the Tigers’ sophomore tailback, Doroland Dorceus, has been lost for the season with a right-knee injury. When was the last time an injury to a second-string player in this program felt so damaging? Dorceus will be missed, and he’ll be missed because he provided the kind of depth that made him all but interchangeable with first-string tailback Brandon Hayes. Leading the Tigers with 237 rushing yards over four games, Dorceus was second-string only according to the depth chart.

Play calling was not impacted with Dorceus on the field (beyond the priority of getting him the ball). Production didn’t drop with Dorceus on the field. And Hayes was a better player late in games because of the relief Dorceus provided. That all changes with Dorceus removed from the Tiger ground attack. Freshman Jarvis Cooper has teased with his early-season performance (even at Ole Miss last weekend). And Hayes is accustomed to shouldering a workload. Losing Dorceus isn’t a death knell for the Memphis offense. But the grind of the conference schedule just got that much . . . grindier.

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• The Tigers finished September right where they wanted to be: 2-2. A win at UCLA or Ole Miss would have been a celebrated bonus, but Memphis wanted (needed!) to enter its conference schedule with a .500 record. This Saturday the Tigers face a real measuring stick for growth of the program. The Cincinnati Bearcats were picked to win the American Athletic Conference, and even after being dusted by Ohio State last weekend, Tommy Tuberville’s squad seems to have the kind of offensive attack that can win games by halftime.

Quarterback Gunner Kiel — a Notre Dame transfer — leads the American in passing efficiency, having thrown for 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns (two interceptions) in three games. Wideout Chris Moore caught three of Kiel’s passes against the Buckeyes, all for touchdowns that totaled 221 yards, earning Moore the American’s Offensive Player of the Week award despite his team’s lopsided loss. The idea of Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain battling Moore downfield is a scintillating angle to the Tigers’ first conference test. Cincinnati gave up a whopping 710 yards (on 101 plays) to the Buckeyes. Memphis may get the chance to win a shootout in the stadium where Justin Fuente’s old friend, Andy Dalton, now plays on Sundays.

• The Larry Porter years weren’t all bad. Ron Leary and Dontari Poe were teammates in 2010 and 2011, each suffering 21 losses in 24 games. Last weekend, Leary and Poe played important roles in the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, winning big games in Week 4 of the NFL season. Starting at left guard for Dallas, Leary has been part of three straight wins for the Cowboys and helped tailback DeMarco Murray take over the NFL’s rushing lead with 534 yards. And coming off a Pro Bowl season, Poe has established himself as one of the two or three best nose tackles in the NFL. (The Chiefs are 2-2 after steamrolling New England Monday night.) Both Leary and Poe were recruited by Tommy West. They’re reminders that, even in the darkest of days, a college football program can yield a little light.

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