We wanted to get some insight into the psyche of the Memphis football fan and what they were expecting from tonight's game, and their season in general. So we went to the only person you can really trust when you are in Memphis.
Q1: For those State fans unfamiliar with this Memphis team, what style of offense does Memphis coach Larry Porter typically run?
Answer: Last year it was the Pro Set. This year Porter is going with the spread, no huddle.
Q2: How many starters does Memphis return on Offense?
Answer: The Tigers only return one player on the offensive line and 2 receivers. Senior Ronald Leary is the lone offensive lineman, but has a great deal of experience, starting 24 of his 32 career games. The return 2 on the defensive line, zero linebackers, two defensive backs (last year's season-opening QB Cannon Smith is starting at free safety). On special teams, they return both the punter and kicker.
Q3: With State set to be heavily favored in this matchup, do you anticipate that Memphis will utilize trick plays, surprise formations and such to try and pull off a W?
Answer: Head Coach Larry Porter showed to be pretty conservative last season. I don't expect trick plays. The whole offense is new, so ALL of it will be a surprise. The Tigers will run the ball out of the spread and try to keep it close. And if they can't do that, it will give Tom Hornsey a chance to pad his stats.
Q4: Where is Memphis projected to finish in this years' Conference USA standings?
Answer: Well, I'll just say that you can start reading preseason prognostications bottom-to-top in order to find the Tigers quicker. Consensus was that Memphis would finish last in the East of Conference USA.
Q5: Has there been any discussion amongst University officials to build an on campus stadium to better suit the program or will the team continue to use the Liberty Bowl long term?
Answer: In the foreseeable future, the only way we can discuss an on campus stadium is if we are invited to a BCS conference with that as a condition. The University of Memphis athletic department and administration have shown a complete lack of commitment to making something along these lines happen.
In fact, it's kind of a sore subject for some Tiger fans. Regardless, the University of Memphis is finally beginning to put the time and effort into making the Liberty Bowl a great off-campus stadium. One of the first steps was building Tiger Lane- a new tailgating area right outside of the stadium that has made an mediate improvement on the atmosphere. The university has also built a new weight room facility and practice field for the players. Yes, it's small steps, but they are being made. The Liberty Bowl still has a ton of improvements (scoreboard being a big one), but I don't think building anything on campus is feasible at this point of the game.
Q6: Larry Porter has seemingly softened to the media during his short tenure so far at Memphis. Any indication of what has changed for him over that time in regards to his view of the media?
Answer: He has come out and admitted that he made a mistake last season in his relationship with the media. Think end of season performance review. That is water under the bridge, now. Either way, he has been much more outgoing this offseason even guest hosting an entire afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio. I think there are a few things happening:
a) He received intense scurtiny from the media about his strict policies last year. For the few interviews he did do, he would only do so if the most populer afternoon radio hosts would meet early in the morning to pre-tape interviews. The radio hosts viewed this as a slap in the face and bashed him accordingly.
b) He realized he was not at LSU. In Memphis, basketball is king. Football has to fight for attention, especially a 1-win team. He has realized that and to his credit has adjusted accordingly.
Q7: What are the bright spots (player wise) on this team?
Answer: Tom Hornsey, the former Australia Rules Football punter, was a freshman All-American and can punt with either foot. Running back Jerrell Rhodes will get most of the carries. Speedy Billy Foster will play running back and slot receiver. D-Line is anchored by returning starters Dontari Poe and Frank Trotter. Overall, the underclassmen have brought more speed and athleticism.
Q8: Do you anticipate State fans being thoroughly searched this coming Thursday to prevent Cowbells from making it into the stadium?
Noise makers are banned from the stadium, so the plan is to have Ole Miss fans standing at the gate to "probe" all state fans suspected to be carrying them. I have even heard they have purchased some of the new full-body xray scanners. Prepare to be violated. [/failed joke] But seriously, the University has said that purses and anything carried in will be searched. Noise makers that make it past security will be confiscated by stadium security upon use.
Thanks again to MemphisRoar.com for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
TIP: If an Ole Miss fan tries to take your cowbell, you can easily distract them with small bottles of Jim Beam and large quantities of seersucker.