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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Football Tigers ‘spring’ into formation at Blue-Gray game

Terry Davis

The University of Memphis held its annual Blue-Gray game last Friday (April 21) with a traditional game format. With the roster sporting 100-plus players, the teams were divided into separate units as the Blue vs Gray teams played four 12-minute quarters.  

The first half was dominated by the defensive units. The Blue team intercepted a couple of QB Tevin Carter’s passes, but the offense could not capitalize on the turnovers. Carter did find DeMeer Blankumsee for a 70-plus-yard touchdown.

Returning QB Seth Henigan, sporting a new number (2) this spring, was very effective.

The running game appears to be heading in the right direction even though Brandon Thomas, who is expected to be next season’s featured running back, was held out of the game. 

Head coach Ryan Silverfield said, “We should be much more productive from this position. We are going to hang our hats on two to three guys.…”

Silverfield noted that it was difficult to get a measure on the offensive line at this point in the spring.

“We had six different guys to snap the football tonight,” he said. “If you talk to Seth, he will tell you that the offensive line is getting better and better throughout spring.”

Quarterback Seth Henigan directs the Blue team. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Henigan said he liked the team format that was used this year for the spring unveiling of players.

“It gave more of a game-like atmosphere. All of the guys on the Blue team were chirping with the guys on the Gray team. It was really cool to compete with one another and have a winner and loser.”

As quarterback, Henigan was working on developing chemistry with the receiving group.

“It has been great. The guys coming had to learn a new offense. They were established at their old schools. When you come to a new place, you have to reestablish at the new place. They are trying to prove themselves.”

Jaylon Allen after the Blue-Gray game. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Defensive lineman Jaylon Allen is tasked with finding a new sidekick on defense.

“There are great players on the defensive line,” he said. “From Josh Elliott and Cormontae Hamilton, there is so much growth on defense. I am going to find somebody.”

The goals entering spring camps were to get better as a team and to avoid season-ending injuries, both of which were accomplished.

Stadium update

Last year, the University of Memphis administration presented a master plan for the renovation of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. 

Last week, the state of Tennessee came through on a $350 million Memphis-directed commitment, with the bulk of that money allocated to the FedExForum and an undetermined amount to be used to start the renovation of the stadium.

The construction will start at the end of this season and should be completed by the start of the 2025 season. During the 2024 season, there may be a construction zone for the ongoing construction. The final design will not be released until the university knows the exact amount of funding the City of Memphis will be providing for the improvements. 

Laird Veatch, vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics, said the impact of the funding is transformational in scope for the university and Memphis

“This is a result of alignment in leadership and believing in a shared vision,” he said. “For us, it is a massive step forward in what could be a university-wide transformation.”

The Tigers will return for fall practice in early August and will host Bethune-Cookman in the season-opening game on September 2 at 7 p.m.

 

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