First year head coach Ryan Silverfield puts the UofM Tigers football team through practice paces. (Screen capture:
Terry Davis

While there are skeptics to whether there will be college football in the South this fall because of COVID-19, the University of Memphis is planning on there being a season.

The play-or-not play question has been answered in some conferences. The Big 10 and the Pac 12 already have agreed to postpone their seasons.

Others, like the ACC, Big 12 and SEC plan to play.

The University of Memphis football program has returned to the practice field and is preparing for their season-opening game against Arkansas State on Sept. 5 at Liberty Bowl Stadium.

The game now is only one of five football games slated for that day.

The Tigers play in the American Athletic Conference and the conference has issued protocols on how to conduct practices.

The U of M returned for the fall semester this week. The football team has a policy of not announcing, who if anyone, has been infected with the COVID-19 virus, so it is not known if any placers has contracted the virus.

Memphis has announced that there will no tailgating allowed for the home opener.

There are several options for a limited number of fans to be attend for the game, including a limited attendance option for season ticket holders.

The Tigers are coming off their most successful season. An appearance in the Cotton Bowl capped off the season and they raised the banner of the American Athletic Conference Champions at their practice center.

Memphis returns most of their offensive weapons, including Brady White and Kenny Gainwell as weapons. Memphis has put three star running backs in the league over the last couple of years — Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Antonio Gibson.

White, who passed for 4,013 yards and 33 touchdowns, has been named to many watchlists this season.

He was named a finalist for the 2019 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Manning. He is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the conference.

With the absence of the Big 10 and Pac 12 not playing this season, the door could be open for NFL scouts to give White more consideration as a possible NFL-caliber quarterback.

“Chemistry-wise things are going really good. We haven’t skipped a beat with timing. We are getting little things down pat. We go against a good defense every day. We get unique looks in certain situations that we can work on,” White said on the development of the offense during camp.

White will have some great targets to target this season. Returning is the leading receiver from last season in Domante Coxie. Coxie had 1,276 yards and he had nine touchdown receptions.

Gainwell was the second leading receiver with 610 yards and three touchdown receptions. Gainwell had 1,459 rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns last season.

“My personal goal this season is to get at least five yards every time I get my hands on the ball. I have the mindset of going hard every time I get on the field, and learn everything I can from my coaches.

“I want to teach everyone behind me and teach them everything that I have learned,” Gainwell said.

Calvin Austin III was a breakout star last season. The track star had 315 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Memphis got some experience for Rodrigues Clark. Because he only played in four games, he was allowed to keep his redshirt season.

Newcomer Kalyn Grandberry was a first-team NJCAA All-American after rushing for 1,289 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman last season.

Defensive lineman O’Bryan Goodson and T. J. Carter will look to keep the defense in the top 10 in the nation from season. Carter, a senior defensive back from Nashville and was a freshman All-American, looks to continue to be one of the best defensive backs in the country.

Ryan Silverfield (Screen capture image)

First year head coach Ryan Silverfield knows that depth will be a key asset in this COVID-season.

Memphis has plenty of depth at all positions, most notably at the running back and receiving positions.

The defense also returns many key pieces, as well.

Every returning player on the team has not known a losing season. Keeping the players hungry is going to be a task for the coaching staff.

“I don’t like to talk about the past, but I asked the team if anyone could raise their hand if they had won a bowl game and no one could raise their hand,” said Silverfield.

“We talk about having a chip on our shoulder. It is the grit and grind mentally of Memphis. Nothing will be handed to us. We challenge them every day,” Silverfield said.

Last season, many of the most of the Tigers’ faithful expected the team to go undefeated. This year most just want the season to be played.

“No one will put more expectation and pressure on us than ourselves. We have some great opponents starting on Sept. 5. We want to play at a high level,” said Silverfield.

Memphis has a new top to play under this season. The new indoor practice facility has finally been completed.

This has a dream of many prior coaches to have a facility to show recruits and to have as a daily practice option.