Season Report Card: Memphis
The results aren’t showing it, but there has been some progress during his tenure.
After winning four games—all against Conference USA opponents—in his first season with Memphis (’12), the Tigers took a step back, finishing 3-9 (1-7) in their first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
It wasn’t all bad though. In fact, they were mostly productive losses (whatever that means). Memphis stayed competitive against good teams like the Duke Blue Devils, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, UCF Knights, Houston Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats and Louisville Cardinals—losing to all by an average of 8.8 points.
Here’s Memphis’ report card for the 2013 season:
Fuente was the former offensive coordinator with the TCU Horned Frogs and had major success there, so you have to believe that Memphis’ offense will continue to get better. 2013 was a titanic struggle, but the players are still learning his offense, which features a variety of pistol, shotgun and pro-style formations. The biggest thing missing from his scheme is a strong quarterback that can sit in the pocket and make plays—he’s used to having guys like Andy Dalton and Casey Pachall under center. The Tigers were pretty bad in all major stat categories, scoring 17 points or less in six games.
For the athletes Memphis has, Fuente did an excellent job of putting together a game plan to allow the defense to excel and keep the team in ball games. Former Missouri Tigers safeties coach Barry Odom completely revamped the way Memphis played defense, taking a 105th-ranked scoring defense in 2012 (35.1 points allowed) and moving it up an incredible 61 spots to No. 44 (24.6) in 2013. The Tigers really performed well on this side of the ball, finishing 39th in total defense, 26th in red zone defense and 12th against the run. What a turnaround.
Special Teams: B+
Kicker Jake Elliot was outstanding, hitting 16-of-18 field goal attempts for Memphis during his freshman season. The Western Springs (Illi.) native booted 7-of-8 from 40-plus yards. Collectively, the Tigers were a sound in all aspects of the special teams unit.
I’m not so sure we can count Fuente’s overall record as a reflection of what he’s doing for this program. Memphis was on an awful 5-31 stretch from 2008-10 and was in shambles before his arrival. The fact that the Tigers beat the Arkansas State Red Wolves and were competitive against quality opponents this season—they weren’t in 2012—shows they’re going in the right direction.
Not bad for a team coming off three wins, right? Think about it this way: Memphis was 14 points away from being bowl eligible this season. If Fuente can find a quarterback that can make fit his system and patch up some holes in the secondary, the Tigers will be bowling in 2014.
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