Courtesy of Memphis Athletics
MEMPHIS, Tenn. â€“ The Memphis Tigers concluded their spring practice session with a 114-play Blue-Gray Game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. And while true freshman quarterback Ryan Williams was named the offensive Most Valuable Player of the scrimmage, head coach Larry Porter insisted he is no closer to selecting a starter for the upcoming season.
When asked post-game about whether he had answered the quarterback situation, Porter responded, â€œNot at all.â€
â€œI thought Ryan stepped in there and had a good day. Cannon (Smith) probably didnâ€™t play as well as he is supposed to, but I think if you look at his consistency throughout the spring, you canâ€™t make a judgment at that position based just on one practice,â€ added Porter.
Williams completed his first 14-straight pass attempts and ended the scrimmage having completed 15 of 17 attempts for 186 yards and three touchdowns. His first score was also the first touchdown of the game and occurred on the 51st play when he tossed a strike to Jermaine McKenzie who raced 72 yards to the endzone. Williams also had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Dejarrius Adams on a series that saw Williams move the Tigers down the field with a 15-yard pass to McKenzie, a six-yard run for a first down, an eight-yard pass to Marcus Hightower and a nine-yard pass to Curtis Johnson. Williamsâ€™ final touchdown was during redzone work late in the scrimmage when he tossed a 26-yard pass to Curtis Johnson.
Cannon Smith opened the scrimmage under center and ended the day 8-of-18 for 59 yards and an interception, which was on the opening play when Derek Smith logged the pick. Smith had long passes of 15 yards to Billy Foster and 10 yards to Cam Baker.
Tyler Bass completed nine of 11 pass attempts for 91 yards and two touchdowns while Will Gilchrist was 7-of-7 for 37 yards and a score. Bass registered both of his touchdown passes during the redzone set, logging a 25 yarder to Darcel Johnson and a 24-yard scoring strike to Stevie Matthews. Bass also logged 15 yards rushing in the scrimmage. Gilchrist had a long pass of 19 yards to Brooks Johnson and reached Matthews with a 10-yard touchdown pass.
â€œI think we have created a great foundation,â€ said Porter. â€œI think defensively, we are ahead in terms of implementing scheme and things of that nature. Offensively, we are starting to settle in. We are not where we need to be simply because we started with five quarterbacks. Just the rhythm and the continuity of the offense, we need to put ourselves in position to be better.â€
McKenzie led the receiving corps with two receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Marcus Rucker logged a game-high seven receptions for 26 yards. Curtis Johnson tallied five catches for 48 yards and a score, while Cam Baker, Henry Rodgers and Stevie Matthews each hauled in four receptions apiece.
The offense tallied 147 yards on the ground, led by Hightower, who rushed for 49 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. He scored on the last play of the scrimmage off a one-yard run. Gregory Ray logged 35 yards off 11 carries and Darcel Johnson posted 20 yards and a touchdown off nine carries. Johnson scored off a nine-yard scamper. Brandon Hayes came in on the third series and made five runs for a total of 24 yards before he was injured on the 30th play of the game following a nine-yard run.
â€œI thought the defense started strong today,â€ said Porter. â€œThey kind of faltered toward the end. We had some plays on offense that excited the crowd, but as a whole I was disappointed in our play. The scrimmage was not as clean as I would like for it to be with the offense in terms of penalties and the turnovers that we had.â€
Defensive lineman Frank Trotter was named the defensive Most Valuable Player following the game. He was credited with five tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Trotter also registered two sacks for a loss of 12 yards. Ricky Holloway had a game-high 13 tackles, 10 of which were solo stops. Justin Thompson and Jamon Hughes were both credited with nine stops, while DeRon Furr tallied eight tackles. Furr, Thompson, Lester Lawson, Jimmy Robinson and Charlie Bryant all posted sacks. Furr, Winston Bowens and D.A. Griffin forced fumbles, while Randy Powell also scooped up a fumble recovery.
â€œIf you put everything in perspective based on what you have going on, the attitude and the effort of these players brought a new life to this football team,â€ said Porter. â€œI know that they want to be better and they have worked to be better so with all things considered, we are not where we need to be, but I know we are working towards those things.â€