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August 2, 2013Football is set to return to Memphis with a brand new season just around the corner. Now that training camp is about to get underway, here's a deeper look into this year's Tiger squad.
A new era
Memphis will begin play this season in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. The Tigers were picked to finish last in the league behind Temple in the preseason media poll. Head coach Justin Fuente knows it will be an uphill battle for his squad.
"We are still earning our stripes and we have a long way to go to earn those stripes," said Fuente. "But the key thing for us is to keep the focus on ourselves; making sure we understand what we got to get done in order to play productive football. Coming into a new program while still building a program is a challenge. And we knew that coming. We just have to keep plugging away every day."
Linebacker Charles Harris pointed out that the Tigers will face some familiar foes from the past.
"Going into a new conference we get to restore some of them old rivalries and play those old Conference USA opponents," Harris said. "As far as from a Memphis standpoint, we are going to come out and play hard. We are going to compete and we are going to win. Our fans should come out and see the show."
Competition on offense
This summer there will be plenty of competition on the offensive side of the football with a lot of young talent at both the running back and the wide receiver position.
"Offensively, I am anxious to see the young guys competing for jobs," said head coach Justin Fuente. "We have competition on offense for the first time We have some numbers and some competent people in there that can compete. I am anxious to see those competitions."
One of the most highly-anticipated competitions of the summer will come at the quarterback position where it looks to be a three way battle between senior Jacob Karam, redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch and junior Eric Mathews.
"It will be an open competition until we make a decision," Fuente said. "When that will be, I am not sure. But it's very much open."
Fuente also said there is no front runner heading into camp.
"Just like we did in the spring, we'll split the reps. Eventually we will have to make a decision and then make it work."
Fuente would not reveal an exact date for when he will decide on who his starting quarterback will be.
"I don't have one," he said. "There is a date, I don't know what it is. There is a time when we will have to do something but I haven't circled it on my calendar."
Branding Memphis football
Stepping into a new conference and trying to establish credibility for his program, Fuente had an interesting take on how he plans to establish the Memphis brand of football.
"I go back to my time at TCU. Their program was a lot farther along than ours is," Fuente said. "But when you think about what Gary did down there in the midst of the Big 12, and he used to say to us: Guys, we don't have to be the big brand. We can be our own niche. We don't have to be to use an example Coke or Pepsi, we can be Sprite. And I think that's there for us.
"I think we have an opportunity to kind of establish our own brand and take this conference as people begin to know more about this conference and the conference begins to earn more credibility on the football field, being a part of it and people know more about it, I think we have that chance. Absolutely."