VOL. 133 | NO. 171 | Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Tigers’ O-Line in the Business of Clearing Real Estate
By Don Wade
Much focus has fallen on what the Memphis football team lost from its offense – two-year starting quarterback Riley Ferguson and playmaking wideout Anthony Miller. But graduate transfer quarterback Brady White will line up behind an offensive line that returns four of five starters.
Senior center Drew Kyser anchors that line with senior Roger Joseph starting at right tackle, junior Dustin Woodard at right guard and redshirt senior Trevon Tate at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Dylan Parham will make his first collegiate start as the left guard when the Tigers open the season at 6 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium against Mercer.
Parham was recruited as a tight end, then moved to the defensive scout team, before being shifted to offensive line after last year’s American Athletic Conference title game. He quickly worked his way up the depth chart in spring practice.
“The older vets know a lot of stuff that’s coming by the lineup of the defense so they make it easier on me,” Parham said. “I have the opportunity to play, regardless of not being able to catch the ball and get all the highlights. I still can help my team.”
Coach Mike Norvell views the offensive line as the “core” of an offense that also returns a lot of experience at running back with Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor Jr., and Tony Pollard, and at tight end with Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes.
Kyser holds nothing back when discussing the goals for the O-Line.
“Last year, we were the best O-Line in the conference and now we’re trying to be the best O-Line in the country,” he said. “The chemistry is very important, obviously. But we’re such a tight unit, we do everything together on the field, off the field, film, weight room, whatever, so that creates a bond. When we get out on the field, we’re all comfortable with each other, know what calls we’re talking about.”
Having a new quarterback – White played in two games in 2016 at Arizona State before an injury ended his season – puts even more emphasis on the performance of the offensive line. Kyser and White are also roommates.
“I got told at a young age when you’re doing something, you’re trying to make your boss’s job easier,” Kyser said. “And I guess he’s the boss for us in a sense.”
White doesn’t look at it that way, but says he does feel a level of comfort with the offensive line.
“They’re extremely smart as a group, communicate really well,” White said. “I love having those dudes in front of me.”
Parham already has learned the Tigers’ running backs only need a small space.
“They’ll get you off the field quick,” he said. “And that’s the good thing, you don’t have to hold (the block) for long because you’ve got good backs that can hit the hole and see it.”
Kyser, of course, wants more. If the O-Line is to be elite, it must do more than provide mere openings. It must clear space.
Besides, that’s the fun of it.
“You’ve got to remove (your man) from his spot,” Kyser said. “His job is to maintain his spot or to get to wherever he’s going. Our job is to physically take him from Point A to Point B. And there’s really no bigger satisfaction than moving somebody from Point A to Point B when they don’t want to be moved.”