Sat04192014

Sports

Tigers look for the measure of progress

Coach-Justin-Fuente-600

For the University of Memphis football Tigers, Saturday is measuring day. Time to get a handle on how much progress has been made since the last encounter head coach Justin Fuente and the Tigers had with Duke's Blue Devils.

The two teams strap it up on Saturday – the first game of the year for the U of M and the second for Duke. Last year, as Fuente recalled, the Blue Devils "out gained us in every aspect of the game. We're looking forward to seeing how far we've come."

This year's Tigers have continued to battle through, he said.

"We're still trying to preach consistency and playing smart and limiting mistakes. It was a tough camp. ... I'm proud of the way our guys are continuing to buy in to what we're doing and get invested into the program."

On Monday (Sept. 2), Fuente held his weekly press conference, setting the stage for the opening of the 2013-14 season, the Tigers' first in the new American Athletic Conference.

So, how does he feel in his second year as head coach?

"If we suit out 105 guys, I think there will be 105 guys that know what is expected of them. It's nice to have the entire staff back," he said. "It's great for the guys to hear the same voice for two years in a row. I feel better about that part of it. Everybody knows their role."

One of the points of measurement will be the depth of the Tigers. Already, more depth has had an impact, Fuente said, pointing to the effect on intra-squad competition.

"We have been able to hold guys accountable through competition. Whether its young guys or old guys, we don't care. This staff wants to put the guys out there that can do what is best for the team," he said.

At quarterback, the Tigers are going with first-time starter Paxton Lynch.

"We won't change because it his first start. We just want the kid to go out and relax and play ball and run the things that he has run eight thousand times since he has been here," Fuente said.

"He is a pretty laid back kind of guy, so I don't anticipate him being a wreck out there. We will call the game and let him go."

Lynch and the Tigers will face a Duke defense that has probably taken a long look at "what they've done defensively and maybe tweaked a few things to give themselves a bit better chance of success."

Defensively, said Fuente, coach David Cutcliffe would probably say that the Blue Devils front seven are older, mature and good football players. "They're almost all juniors or seniors. Their two defensive ends are good football players. (Ross) Cockrell is a marquee corner for them."

On offense, Duke presents a two-for problem

"When you call a defense, you've got to fit it to the people that are on the field. That's the only information that you have," said Fuente. "When you've got a couple guys back there that one's your short yardage power guy and another is your guy that can run around the edge a little bit more, it can cause you some issues."

The Duke offense is experience up front and "pretty darn good", said Fuente.

For the Tigers, that means another point of measurement.

NOTE: The Memphis-Duke kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and will be nationally televised on ESPN 3.