Duke football has not been renowned for its success the last three years, but over that span, Memphis has been even worse, with just five wins since going 6-7 in 2008. Like the Blue Devils, though, the Tigers are working to right the ship.
Step number one on the road to recovery for Memphis was firing Larry Porter after two seasons and hiring first-year head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente, previously an assistant under Gary Patterson at Texas Christian University, hopes to bring with him the success he enjoyed as offensive coordinator for the Horned Frogs.
The offensive-minded Fuente will need all his wiles to guide a team that has seen three quarterbacks transfer out in the past year. Leading rusher Billy Foster and top receiver Tanner Rehrer have also departed, so the new quarterback—Jacob Karam, an incoming transfer from Texas Tech—will have to hit the ground running as the starter.
One of the few encouraging areas for Memphis last year was on defense, which forced enough turnovers to rank the Tigers seventh in the nation in turnover margin.
But it was a boom-or-bust unit, as the defense ranked 117th out of 120 FBS schools in allowing plays of 10 yards or more. And continuity can hardly be expected, after top defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Frank Trotter departed for the NFL.
Fuente has his work cut out for him in rebuilding a program that recently moved from Conference USA to the much stronger Big East, and Duke should be able to take advantage of the Tigers’ state of disarray to earn one of what should be two surefire wins on the season.