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Memphis 2013 season preview

Nelson Chenault / USA Today Sports
The strong leg of Australia native Tom Hornsey gets a workout for Memphis' middling squad.

Overview


Memphis has had a middling program forever, and football definitely is in the shadow of the basketball program. While the Memphis area produces a lot of talent, the Tigers don't get much of it. They have had only three players drafted since 2006, though one of those (DT Dontari Poe, a Memphis native) was a first-rounder in 2012. The Tigers have moved from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, but their losing ways seem likely to continue for at least a few more years.

Memphis has had only four winning seasons in the past 18 years, and there doesn't appear to be enough talent on hand for the Tigers to win consistently any time soon. The best pro prospect this season might be punter Tom Hornsey. Second-year coach Justin Fuente has instilled some life in the program, but until he and his staff start recruiting better players, Memphis is going to lose in the AAC just as it lost in Conference USA.

(AP Photo/Kevin Terrell)
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Memphis has produced numerous outstanding football players, take a look at the top former Tigers currently in the NFL.

Top senior prospects


P Tom Hornsey: Hornsey, a native Australian, has been a busy guy the past three seasons. He has punted 235 times in his three seasons and has a 42.6-yard career average. Almost a fourth of his career attempts have covered 50 yards and 31 percent of them have been downed inside the 20. One drawback to attending college in Memphis: His hobby is surfing, something he obviously can't do in Tennessee.

DT Johnnie Farms: Farms (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) is a rarity in college football -- he was a highly recruited offensive lineman out of high school who was moved to defense. Usually, it's highly rated defensive linemen who wash out and have to move to offense. Farms is a middle-of-the-line run-stuffer who occasionally flashes surprising quickness. He has good strength and holds his ground, and has 18 tackles for loss in the past two seasons. Farms signed with North Carolina out of high school in 2009 but needed academic work. He attended prep school for a year, then signed with Memphis.

FS Lonnie Ballentine: Ballentine (6-3, 215) has excellent size but appears to be a half-step too slow and might be best-suited for strong safety at the next level. After playing with a hamstring injury in 2011, he had his best season last fall, with 66 tackles, three picks, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery. Ballentine is married, and he and his wife have two children. He graduated from high school a year early to get started with his college career.

Top underclassman


DE Martin Ifedi: After playing defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Ifedi (6-3, 260) moved to end last season and enjoyed a solid campaign. He led the Tigers with 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Consistency was an issue, which might not be that surprising considering the position change. Ifedi, who has gained more than 30 pounds since signing with the Tigers, should be one of the best ends in the AAC this season.

Three must-see games of 2013


Oct. 5 vs. Central Florida: The former C-USA rivals meet in the first AAC game for both teams. UCF's offensive line will be a good early season test for Farms and Ifedi. Ballentine will be going against UCF QB Blake Bortles, who should vie for all-league honors.

Oct. 30 vs. Cincinnati: A case can be made that Cincy has the best offensive line in the AAC, so Farms and Ifedi will be in the spotlight.

Nov. 23 at Louisville: Louisville's passing attack should be the best in the AAC, meaning Ballentine could be under siege. And can Ifedi get to Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater?

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