MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Tigers football team has a better idea of what’s expected of them this upcoming season. The American Athletic Conference held their football preseason media day Thursday.
The media picked Memphis to finish fifth in the conference behind Houston, Cincinnati, UCF and SMU. Three of those teams plan to leave the AAC next season. Coach Ryan Silverfield said his team is doing everything with a sense of urgency.
2022 will be a big year for Tigers football, entering Silverfield’s third year as head coach and three years removed from their program best 12-2 record. The Tigers know another subpar season, like 2021's 6-6 finish, is unacceptable.
"We talk about it all the time, having a sense of urgency in everything we do. It starts with me as a head football coach. I was displeased with our efforts last year and how we ended up last year and we’ve got to be better," Silverfield said.
The keys to the offense belong to sophomore QB Seth Henigan, who will need a new favorite receiving target now that Calvin Austin is in the NFL. That could be returning redshirt junior Javon Ivory, but Silverfield said an improved run game would benefit his QB greatly. A full running back room will need to find an alpha.
"We need a few of those guys to step up. I love having a lot of talent back there and they make each other better, but we don’t want to get to the point where we have five to six different starters," Silverfield said.
Defensively, the Tigers look to improve in an area they where they were bottom half of the AAC. They allowed 418.1 yards per game, good for ninth in the league. The defensive leaders on the field are energized by new defensive coordinator Matt Barnes and several transfers.
"He brings a level of energy to where you just want to play football. You’ll run through a wall for him with the amount of energy that he brings. He puts everybody in a position to win and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about so I think he’ll help this program out a lot," said senior linebacker Xavier Cullens.
"These guys have bought into this new system. I think they like it. I think it's a better fit for our personnel that we have at the University of Memphis. I think that we'll be able to start a little bit faster than we have," Silverfield said.
This is the second year in a row Memphis has been picked to finish fifth in the conference, but the Tigers know they’ve got to work to do.
Memphis will begin fall camp next week and open the season September 3 on the road against Mississippi State.