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Commentary: Returning fans, a new season, and new quarterback

<p>The Tigers will hit the field Saturday against the Nicholls State University Colonels.</p>
The Tigers will hit the field Saturday against the Nicholls State University Colonels.

The best time of the year is officially back: football season. With head coach Ryan Silverfield set to begin his second season at the helm, optimism surrounding the program remains at an all-time high as the Tigers look to build on their Montgomery Bowl winning-campaign in 2020. 

One of the main question marks looming over this team was who would get the first crack at replacing Brady White, the program’s all-time leader in career passing yards, touchdowns and wins. No pressure there at all. Based on the initial depth chart, which was released Monday afternoon, it will be Grant Gunnell, the 6’6” transfer from Arizona. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Gunnell threw for 1,864 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions combined over two seasons. 

Elsewhere on the offense, the electric Calvin Austin III headlines a skill position group that has seen several players move on to the NFL in recent years and Austin is looking to be the next in line. Versatile tight end Sean Dykes is also back in the fold and will be a steady veteran presence for Gunnell to rely on. The backfield will be led by Brandon Thomas, Rodrigues Clark, and Asa Martin, a trio that figures to be as prominent as any on paper in the American Athletic Conference. 

The defense, which always seems to be the deciding factor in exactly what the ceiling is for these teams, will be led by Thomas Pickens, John Tate IV, Jacobi Francis, Sanchez Blake and Morris Joseph. Freshman cornerback Greg Rubin, who attended nearby White Station High School, has also had standout camp and is listed as a starter at the outside corner spot on the initial depth chart. 

While the expectations remain high, this coming season is one that will be defined by the contributions of newcomers. While a portion of the big names remain, including Asutin III, Dykes and Pickens, it is time for a new crop of leaders to step up and show they are ready to help carry the standard that has been set forth in recent seasons. 

Memphis will open its season with a non-conference clash vs Nicholls State Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The following week, they will travel to Jonesboro to take on Butch Jones and Arkansas State before returning home to do battle with Mississippi State in what will be their biggest non-conferecne test of the season. Kickoff vs the Colonels is set for 6:00p.m.

The Tigers will hit the field Saturday against the Nicholls State University Colonels.

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