TIGER FOOTBALL: 12 recruits commit to Memphis as Tigers prepare for Cotton Bowl

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The Memphis Tigers are busily preparing to battle Penn State in Cotton Bowl on Dec. 28.  But Wednesday, the staff was off their game just a little. Why? Early signing period for new scholarship athletes.

Terry Davis

On the first day of the early signing period, the Tigers have 12 players committed so far this season. And ever since Mike Norvell departed for Florida State, Memphis has lost just one commitment since the coaching change.

Players can commit in during the fall or spring semesters, but the advantage of signing early is that players can enroll early and participate in spring practice.

Below is the list of the signees from the first day:

PlayerHometownPostiionHigh School or Junior College
Kobe WebsterTexarkana, ARWRHS
Rhett WeidenbackerComo, MSCBJC
Devonte NelsonMUSCBHS
Brackston AlfordKnoxville, TNTEHS
Brandon ThomasNorth Little Rock, ARRBHS
Keilon BrownZachary, LAQBHS
Jonah GambillChartersville, GADTHS
Kundarius TaylorRidgeway HighWRJC
Khi MathieuNew Orleans, LAWRHS
Marcayll JonesWarner Robins, GAWRHS
Kaylyn GrandberryRaleigh EgyptRBJC

The class is currently ranked No. 73 in the nation according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, and is fifth in the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers’ average recruit ranking is 84.4, the highest in school history. That ranking would have been higher if Coby Wilson out Georgia had chosen Memphis instead of Temple. He was a 3-star recruit.

Keep the routine the same

With new Tigers’ football coach Ryan Silverfield taking the reins of the program, he does not want to change any routines until after the season. He understands the players have grown used to the current routine – practice times, drills and what expectations are for everyone.

“We are going to keep things pretty darn consistent for the remainder of the season,”  Silverfield said, “When you are dealing with young men, routine helps to make better production. The guys have bought in to the direction we are heading.”

But they’re not satisfied with just making the Cotton Bowl, Silverfield said.

“We will never take the approach of just being happy to be there,” he said. “We are going there for the purpose to win the game.  Our guys are hungry and our guys are grateful for this opportunity.”

Awards and accolades

Kenneth Gainwell is the first Memphis freshman to earn All-America honors. His honor marks the fourth straight year the Tigers have had one of the major All-America honorees on the roster. Darrell Henderson (2018) and Anthony Miller (2017) were NCAA Consensus All-Americans and Tony Pollard was a 2017 Walter Camp All-American after receiving FWAA Freshman All-America honors in 2016.

Gainwell and his Tiger teammates will make the program’s first appearance in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on December 28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (home of the Dallas Cowboys). Tickets for the event are on sale at www.GoTigersGoTix.com.

Signal callers

Norvell’s departure and Silverfield’s promotion has jumbled up responsibilities on the Tigers’ coaching staff.

Kevin Johns will do the offensive play calling for the Cotton Bowl. He had this responsibility when he was the coach at Texas Tech. He knows the offense and has the confidence of quarterback of Brady White.

Kevin Clune, currently the linebackers coach, will assume the defensive play calling.  Former defensive coordinator Adam Fuller left the Tigers last week to join Norvell at FSU.

The Tigers will continue to work out at their training complex and will travel to Texas on Sunday and preparations there for the Cotton Bowl.  The game will kickoff at 11 am CST from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.