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VOL. 130 | NO. 170 | Tuesday, September 1, 2015

College Football Notebook: No More Dress Rehearsals for Memphis Tigers

By Don Wade

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Last week, the University of Memphis football team finished training camp with simulated end-of-week preparation, culminating with a video test Friday night and a mock game Saturday, Aug. 29, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The U of M football team opens the 2015 season Saturday, Sept. 5. Junior quarterback Paxton Lynch is a major reason the Tigers are predicted to win the American Athletic Conference’s West Division.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

This week, the Tigers do it for real as they open the season at home at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 5, against Missouri State.

Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said some players were more at ease than others.

“That’s why we do it, so everyone knows what is expected of them,” Fuente said. “A week from now their sole purpose will be trying to play well.

“It was not perfect,” Fuente continued. “Some mistakes were made through the week or through the lead up to the mock game, as well as some things in the game which we will address. But that is what you expect.”

The Tigers go into the season as preseason favorites to win the American Athletic Conference’s West Division. After the opener against Missouri State, which starts its season with first-year coach Dave Steckel, the Tigers play back-to-back road games at Big 12 member Kansas, which also has a first-year head coach in David Beaty, and Mid-American Conference favorite Bowling Green. The first month of the season concludes with a nationally televised Thursday night home game against Cincinnati, the American’s East Division favorite.

“I think there is some self-realization that we have a lot of work to do,” Fuente said. “We have an incredible schedule and a lot of things will have to go our way. We will have to play well a bunch of weeks. That’s a hard thing to do. But I like the way the kids have approached it.”

Fans can purchase $5 tickets for the opener, while supplies last, at area Kroger stores this week. One dollar from each ticket sold will go to the Mid-South Food Bank in support of the “Million Meals Challenge.”

Hurts So Bad

College football writer Jon Solomon listed the top 10 injuries heading into this season for cbssports.com. Of those 10, five were in the SEC. And of those five, three were to Tennessee players.

Solomon ranked Vols offensive lineman Marcus Jackson’s torn biceps, which could cost him the whole season, No. 4 on the list of injuries damaging to a team’s season. Jackson, a fifth-year senior, was on track to start at left guard.

At No. 5 on the list is UT defensive back Rashaan Gaulden’s broken foot (out for the season). Gaulden was the starting nickel back, a position that is used a lot on UT’s defensive scheme. Coach Butch Jones also said Gaulden would be missed on special teams.

And at No. 6 on the dreaded list, UT safety LaDarrell McNeil (neck instability, and not expected to play this season). McNeil had 76 tackles last season.

Other SEC injuries on the list: Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams, at No. 3, who is out for the year with a foot injury. He rushed for 1,190 yards last season. The Hogs still have backfield mate Alex Collins, who ran for 1,100 yards in 2014.

And 10th on the list is LSU safety Jalen Mills, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with an ankle injury. Mills leads the team in defensive starts with 39. The Tigers’ deepest position group, however, might be the secondary.

Mum’s the word on Alabama quarterback

That tricky Nicky … Crimson Tide coach has not yet named the team’s starting quarterback and it might go right down to kickoff next weekend against Wisconsin.

Florida State transfer Jake Coker reportedly has been first in the rotation at practice, but apparently still has not been able to distance himself from junior Alec Morris and sophomore Cooper Bateman.

“We’ve been through this several times before,” Saban told media in Tuscaloosa last week. “I think you can name a guy. But if we named a guy and that guy wasn’t the best performer and then we had to unname him, what good does that do?”

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