Memphis Tigers embracing expectations

Updated: Jul. 23, 2017 at 8:36 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Wide receiver Anthony Miller has a lot of hype surrounding the Memphis football team heading into the 2017 season.

Earlier in the week, the Tigers were picked to finish atop of the American Athletic Conference's West Division.

The team is embracing those expectations, like Memphis linebacker Genard Avery.

"Our goal is to win a conference championship," Avery said.

The Tigers are expected to be one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference this season.

After three straight bowl games, which includes the winningest three-year span in Memphis football history, the bar for Tigers football is at an all-time high.

The buzz around the team isn't about just competing for the conference title, but also talk of potentially making an appearance in a New Year's Six bowl, which is not easy for teams from the group of five conferences.

If Memphis wants to reach its goals the Tigers will need chemistry, and Memphis head coach Mike Norvell says the Tigers have worked on it.

"The comfort level is at an all-time high," Norvell said. "Last year there was a lot of unknowns with our program and transition. Replacing some great players. Everybody's excited about the opportunity that's in front of us."

Leading the Tigers to those opportunities is senior quarterback Riley Ferguson.

In 2016, his first year as the Tigers' signal caller, Ferguson passed for 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Fourteen of those went to senior wide receiver Anthony Miller, who chose to forgo the NFL draft and return to school after setting the program record with over 1,434 receiving yards.

Ferguson also gets back Phil Mayhue, who was the second leading receiver for the Tigers in 2016.

"You know he has the talent," Norvell said of Ferguson. "Everybody saw that last year. The thing I'm most excited about is the overall improvement I've seen from him in every aspect. Now he's really the example, and one of the guys that everybody on our team points to on how to do it. That gives you a good situation when your quarterback can fulfill that role."

Memphis has 14 starters returning for the season, and eight of those are on offense.

The Tigers do have some questions on defense, especially on the defensive line and the secondary which has to replace six defensive backs.

Linebacker seems to be solid with Avery, Jackson Dillion who's coming off of an injury and Curtis Akins returning.

Overall, it's a season that could be potentially historic for Memphis, but Ferguson said the Tigers are just focused on what's immediately in front of them.

"We're just taking things one day at a time," Ferguson said. "We're gonna approach this season just trying to do our best and we know what we're capable of."

Reporting day for Tigers football is July 26, and fall practice kicks off on July 27.

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