Thursday, March 17, 2005

Memphis Spring Football Update

First of all, the title of this post is already misleading, because SPRING football would indicate some kind of warmth. There was none at the Murphy Athletic Complex over the last couple of games. It was cold and windy throughout most of Tuesday's practice session, and it was the same yesterday, except for the addition of rain. My face was numb. The girl most of you would know as "Tommy's Headphone Girl" (Ashleigh) had her fingers turn various shades of purple on Tuesday. That's never good. She has to stand in the tower and organize the timing of the practice--it's broken up into 21 five-minute periods, and she's the one who lets the coaches and players know where practice stands. It's really cold and windy in the tower. She's a trooper, though.

Onto practice itself--I saw quite a few drills yesterday on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Offensively, what stood out to me was the skill level at the wide receiver position. The coaching staff has really built a deep, skilled group there, including the redshirted guys from last year (who have really impressed me over the last couple of days). Carlton Robinzine made some tremendous catches, and has very good speed--the real burner of the group, though, is Antonio McCoy. I'm told he's got legitimate 4.4 speed, and that's something the Tigers haven't really had over the last few years. Mario Pratcher is working hard and looking good, as well--he's faster than you think.

Who will throw them the ball come September? I'm going with Will Hudgins, although Patrick Byrne is currently listed as the number one QB. Byrne won't be there for long. Hudgins has a strong arm--he needs to get more accurate, though. The wildcard is Billy Barefield, the highly-touted recruit out of Evangel Christian in Louisiana. I have not seen Barefield run yet, but I have seen him throw. His arm strength is questionable, but his accuracy is impressive. If I had to guess, and this is a complete guess, I would say he'll be a change of pace guy that plays a max of every 3rd of 4th series--he may be a 3rd down or short yardage guy, too. He's a weapon, but I don't know if even the coaches know exactly what they're going to do with him yet.

Defensively, I saw Craig Boller do some good work with the guys on avoiding chop blocks, and I saw them do extensive footwork and speed drills. Tim Keane had the secondary working on positioning, communication, and aggressiveness. Certainly, the defense needs to get better. Joe Lee Dunn knows it. I think the talent is there, but it's still way too early to see if there's been a lot of improvement. The hard work is being put in, that much I know.

Still no update on DeAngelo's Heisman campaign, other than to tell you that Tommy West and DeAngelo are behind it 100%, and that the details will hopefully be revealed soon. I'm trying to squeeze the info out of Jennifer Rodrigues, but she's tough. I haven't broken her yet.

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