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VOL. 129 | NO. 28 | Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tigers Sign 12 Defensive Players

By Don Wade

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The Seattle Seahawks proved that the old maxim that “defense wins championships” can still apply in the modern-day NFL.

The University of Memphis Tigers – pictured here in last season’s home opener – signed 12 defensive players as part of the recently announced 2014 class.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But for the University of Memphis, which will start its second season in the American Athletic Conference, defense is more basic than that: It’s what kept the Tigers in games last season, and with a lot of seniors on that team, coach Justin Fuente needed to restock.

To that end, 12 defensive players were part of the recently announced 2014 signing class. The group included a former Nebraska signee in linebacker Thomas Brown, a transfer from Riverside City College in California.

“We felt it was important to target the front line of our defense for the next couple of years,” Fuente said. “We are going to be hit pretty heavily on the defensive side during the next two years, and it is important to work in new guys for the future.”

Fuente said he also wanted to sign a “big” running back and he got one in Jarvis Cooper of West Memphis, Ark., who goes 6 feet 1 inch and 255. He was the only running back in a class of 22 signees.

Brown was one of five linebackers, and Genard Avery of Grenada, Miss., was considered a significant get. Avery’s teammate at Grenada High School, Shareef White, also a linebacker, signed as well.

“(They) did a great job of rewriting the success of their high school,” Fuente said. “Historically, Grenada has not been very good, but over the last couple of years they started winning more games.”

Other highlights from the class:

Tyler Kolodny, a 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound tight end who played at Los Angeles Pierce College. Kolodny will turn 26 in March and played six seasons in the minor leagues for the Baltimore Orioles. “A little more mature than some of the other newcomers,” Fuente said.

Carlos Williams, a 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound defensive back from Covington who originally signed to play baseball at Ole Miss. An outfielder, Williams stole a Tennessee prep record 185 bases.

Jason Stewart, a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound quarterback transferring from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, will be a junior and passed for 1,925 yards with 15 touchdowns last season.

Fuente said if the season started now, sophomore and incumbent Paxton Lynch would start at quarterback.

“But we will see how things go in the off-season and the guy who wins the job will start.”

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