The Memphis Tigers had some holes to fill in recruiting and needed a strong 2013 recruiting class. With 29 signees did they accomplish their goal of filling the holes and adding playmakers?
Let's face it, the Tigers needed help at almost every position but they couldn't afford to take a commitment and risk them not panning out like so many have in years past. The scholarship numbers are down but you don't want to accept a player just for the sake of a scholarship number.
The Memphis coaching staff didn't rely on junior college transfers to fill all the holes. They were very selective and picked up players that fill an immediate hole and will produce this season either as starters or backups to provide depth.
Senior Linebacker's Akeem Davis and Kenyata Johnson will be missed. Those two players had a motor that didn't quit. To help fill in that immediate need the Tigers picked up JUCO's Ryan Coleman (6-foot-3 220 lbs.) and Kewan Alfred (6-foot-3 250 lbs.). Alfred could play Defensive End or Linebacker. The Tigers also held on to Jackson Dillon (6-foot-6 210 lbs.). Dillon is a hard-nosed linebacker that will bring toughness to the position.
Jacob Karam is going into his last season at Memphis. You're going to need someone who has the ability to lead this team. Brayden Scott (6-foot-3 205 lbs.) graduated early from Sequoyah High and enrolled in Memphis in December and is already building the chemistry with the team. Scott was an excellent pick up and could be the next signal caller for the Tigers once Karam graduates.
The Tigers picked up two JUCO Wide Receivers in Joe Craig (5-foot-11 175 lbs.) and Adrian Henderson (6-foot-0 180 lbs.). The Tigers are very young at this position and only lose Senior Marcus Rucker to graduation but the injury to Sophomore Kevin Wright left a need to bring in some experience to the position.
Another immediate hole that needed to be filled was the one left by Senior Offensive Linemen Jordan Devey. With Devey graduating and most likely drafted to the NFL the Tigers needed a linemen that was as versatile as he was. Memphis picked up Kevin McIntyre (6-foot-4 310 lbs.) from Butte Collage.
The Memphis secondary took a hit loosing 4 players to graduation (Robert Steeples, Cannon Smith, Mitch Huelsing, DeAndre Thompson). They have a good core group of young players returning but really needed to upgrade not only the depth but the talent as well. The Tigers picked up 5 Defensive Back signees that fill the depth and talent concern.
The two that should compete for playing time in the fall is Dontrell Nelson (6-foot-1 180 lbs.) and B.J. Ross (5-foot-9 180 lbs.). Nelson could be the most underrated player Memphis signed. He has been clocked at 4.22 forty time and when you watch him backpedal he seems just as fast. There are not too many receivers the Tigers will play that have Nelson's speed.
Last season the Tigers didn't have a premier running back, it was more of a running back by committee with Redshirt Juniors Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib. Together they rushed for over a 1,000 yards. Memphis picked up a few running backs that can make plays. Robert Davis (5-foot-9 175 lbs.), Marquis Warford (5-foot-8 170 lbs.) and Tearris Wallace (5-foot-10 212 lbs.) are players that are game changers. It will be real interesting in the fall camp to see them battling out with the current players.
Where will Sam Craft (6-foot-0 200 lbs.) play? Does it matter? Craft is a true athlete. Anywhere he plays on the team is a plus.
Kewan Alfred is the steal of this signing class. He could very well be the best athlete on this team in 2013. He played basketball, wrestled, ran track and powerlifted at Central Medical Magnet High School. He should come in right away and be an impact player on the Memphis defense. I also think Dontrell Nelson will be placed into rotation at cornerback right away, with his 4.22 time in the 40. Linebacker Ryan Coleman (6-foot-3, 220, Rialto, CA) looks to earn some of the minutes from the departed Akeem Davis.
And remember the old adage, "Speed kills?" In addition to Nelson, Memphis has signed another killer: Joe Craig. He was the third-fastest athlete in the country coming out of high school in 2010. He signed with Clemson, was redshirted, and played in seven games before transferring out and spending one year at Copiah-Lincoln CC. He's a home run hitter, a threat to take the ball to the house at any time, from anywhere.
Tearris Wallace is another steal. He's big, strong, deceptively fast, and physical. Jamil Collins (5-foot-11, 175) doesn't get his due as a hitter and playmaker in the defensive backfield. Zach Collins (6-foot-4, 285) was a stud on the o-line but also 2nd Team All-District on the d-line, as well.
And last but not least, look for Nykiren Wellington (6-foot-7, 330) to earn playing time right away on the offensive line. He played for Fuente in 2011 after redshirting in 2010 for TCU. The kid is massive and was First Team All Conference in his lone year at the JUCO level.
Is there really a bad? The staff his all the areas of need, added depth, upgraded talent, so what could anyone say that could be considered bad? Just for the sake of argument we'll say the recruiting ranking and the national perception. The Tigers finished 89th in the county in the Rivals rankings. Even newly appointed Texas State finished better at 80th. They finished 8th in the current CUSA and since they will be moving to the BIG EAST in the summer we took a look and the Tigers finished near the bottom of the new BIG EAST.
Memphis can stake an early claim to being the Rodney Dangerfields of NCAA football: 'No respect! No respect at all!' This recruiting class was only 8th-best in Conference USA? 10th-best in the BIG EAST? 89th in the country? I think not! This is a class that Memphis can win with. There are a bunch of guys who are potential impact players in this group.
The ugly is you if you are focusing on the final ranking where Memphis finished. It's not where they finished that you should be focusing on; it's who they got to sign. As we mentioned before this class fills all the major holes. This class upgrades the talent level. Bottom line this class is a very good class.
I wholeheartedly agree with Bryan's assessment. When it's all said and done, this team will grade out a lot better than some of the classes currently ranked ahead of it.