RB DeAngelo Williams (PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Murphy)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Tommy West
25-23, 4 years
2004 Record: 8-4
at Mississippi WON 20-13
at Arkansas State WON 47-35
at UAB LOST 28-35
at Cincinnati LOST 10-49
at East Carolina WON 38-35
at South Florida WON 31-15
vs. Bowling Green LOST 35-52

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Before the Tommy West era began here, the Tigers had been to one bowl game and were generally a laughing-stock. But after the schools' first-ever back-to-back bowl appearances, that time is no more. West may be only two games over .500 (25-23) in his tenure, but he is nine games over (17-8) during this run. With his scheme and the right people in place, the "next level" is permanently attainable with a few more strong showings. This will be West's biggest challenge, as foes now see the Tigers coming, so to speak.

The Tigers can likely make it three bowl games in a row, but they have their work cut out, especially at QB and DB. However, the personnel news is not all bad. Leading rusher DeAngelo Williams returns as a senior to take much of the burden off the new quarterback, whoever he is. Also solid are the three returning starters at LB, so the secondary can find itself without having to do excessive run-support. There is no hole that cannot be filled, which makes filling all in orchestration the challenge.

Arch nemesis Louisville and others have been swapped for Marshall and UCF in C-USA's newly formed East division, while Tulsa and the other ex-WACsters enter on the West side, making for a first-ever conference championship game (played Dec 2nd or 3rd, at the site of the division leader with the best winning %). While a perennially strong Marshall program will offset Louisville's departure, the Tigers will have an easier road with the turnover.

The Tigers, fresh from plenty of national TV exposure, took advantage as West inked his best-ever haul on signing day. Memphis will be a young, yet talented club. Also the schedule favors the Tigers, with only SEC non-con Tennessee and possible C-USA title contender Southern Miss looming as the primary road challenges. Marshall at home to close should decide much (within their division's race).

West is a proven motivator, so look for Memphis to continue making their case as one of I-A's best mid-majors. Nearly every game on the schedule is winnable, and Dunn's defense will again be the foundation upon which the Tiger's success - if there is to be any - is built. Oh, and if you want the best BBQ while scoping the gridiron action, go by Interstate down on Third Avenue and tell the Neelys we sent you…

Projected 2005 record: 7-4
DB Wesley Smith (PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Murphy)
QB - 1.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 4.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 2.5
OL - 2 ..

Passing: None

Rushing: DeAngelo Williams, 313 att., 1948 yds., 22 TD

Receiving: Maurice Avery, 36 rec., 422 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: DeAngelo Williams, 23 TD, 138 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: Stephen Gostowski, 20-24 FG, 48-49 PAT, 108 pts.

Tackles: Tim Goodwell, 106 tot., 48 solo

Sacks: Marcus West, 6 sacks

Interceptions: Dustin Lopez, 4 for 72 yds.

Kickoff Returns: LaKendus Cole, 15 ret., 17.4 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: None


OFFENSE: Danny Wimprine-QB, Darron White-WR, Tavares Gideon-WR, Chris Kelley-WR, Tavarious Davis-WR, Isaac Daniel-TE, Jason Johnson-OT, Gene Frederic-C, Jason Matthews-OG, Jeremy Rone-OT
DEFENSE: Albert Means-NT, David McNair-DE, Scott Vogel-LCS, Cameron Essex-CB, Tristan Thomas-CB, Brandon Roberson-P

We will see a new trigger man, and junior Patrick Byrne, who also has the foot to double as the Tigers' kickoff man, will be a factor. Byrne played well to win the MVP of the 2005 (also won it in 2003) Blue/Gray spring game. Unfortunately, none of the other candidates has any experience, though, a trio of freshmen is being considered. One of them is Evangel's Billy Barefield, a 2005 signee ready participate in spring workouts who has 4.4-40 speed and the best chance of the three. Barefield was the top rusher in the spring game. There is size, speed, and stature amongst these candidates, but bet on Byrne's experience to keep him the favorite. It's good news, regardless, even if someone plays past him by fall, though any fine tuning here won't be ready for the Mississippi and UTEP match-ups. Bear with the Tigers, for the work-in-progress here has no guaranteed finishing date.

Running Back
One of the reasons for optimism in "Rib Town" is the return of leading rusher DeAngelo Williams, an NC.net first-team all-American. The senior ranked second in the nation with 1,948 yards, caught 210 yards worth of passes, and led I-A with 23 TDs. His combo of size and speed made him projected as a first round pick, yet admirably, he returned and will make the team's transition at QB easier with his experience. Speedy sophomore Joseph Doss (state title in 4x400; also a decathlete) has deceptive power, but would be a drop off from the prowess DeAngelo brings. Heftier Taz Knockum (Louisiana's 110-meter hurdle 5-A champ) will bring more. This unit is strong, but its impact will depend on the line and the QB's ability to keep defenses from loading the box.

Another factor that will help Wimprine's replacement is the return of wideout and converted-QB Maurice Avery. The senior was the Tigers' second-leading pass-catcher. However, the rest of the Tiger receiving corps is at least big if inexperienced, with most at least 6'1" and several standing 6'4" or better, including talented signee Carlos Singleton (6'7"). Carlton Robinzine has impressed this spring, so expect to see his name in headlines by fall. With West preferring a wide-open, run-and-gun attack, he has had no problem luring top pass catchers to play at the Liberty Bowl.

Tight End
John Doucette, a three-year starting (now) senior, presents a big, worthy target. His TD total (3) was second best on the club, so realize his ability to get the ball when most needed is as potentially dangerous as his blocking already is for DeAngelo. Redshirt freshman Brett Russell will add a huge pass-catching dimension, though his size means his blocking assignments are limited.

Offensive Line
This unit is razed by graduation, as four-of-five starters vacated. Blake Butler will move his abilities to center, and he is capable of leading this young unit. Guard Andrew Handy finally returns after his '03 ankle/leg injury, and he will again be a starter with his sub-5.0 40 speed. Senior tackle (and ex-DL) Greg Billingslea and senior (studio guitarist) Bobby Garafolo are the only returnees with any meaningful game experience. Junior Stephen Schuh has surpassed his walk-on status with depth chart-climbing abilities that have impressed. Smart-man Bruce McCaleb and Billingslea will get a shot at the tackle spots. Replacing two all-conference guys is tough, but not impossible for this crew. The unit is revamped, but has been procured cleverly so that what would be a significant drop-off here for most squads will actually be only a small lull. Just don't expect them to again keep foes around five sacks - that number grows with any of the new QBs.

Rebuilding is an overused term, but is applicable to their "new" line, WRs and QB. Only Williams not declaring (NFL Draft) keeps this from being a complete overhaul. The coaching staff will have trouble finding a productive field general quickly, and spring ball tells us no one has shone, yet. Coach West will put together a worthy line, so that all-important centerpiece of girth should not be the struggle outsiders warn. Still, fans used to last year's rapid-fire offense will have to exercise some patience, for spring proved that this unit will need a few games to grow up together. SEC-opponent Ole Miss will provide their first challenge, but they will have time to gel before the meat of the conference slate - Marshall and Southern Miss are two well-defensed clubs likely to challenge for the C-USA title. The learning curve kicks in quickly, so the second-half contests will see either a surging juggernaut, or a struggling-but-emerging squad with nothing to lose. The latter means they will air it out regardless, for by mid-season, either DeAngelo is again off to the races and things are clicking, or the wide-open aspects will be used to compensate for the running game's struggles. Both are a function of the line's playing level(s), so watch this offense to see a truly developing situation.


K Stephen Gostkowski (PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Murphy)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Patrick Byrne-Jr Will Hudgens-Fr / Billy Barefield-Fr
TB DeAngelo Williams-Sr Joseph Doss-So
WR Maurice Avery-Sr Earnest Williams-Fr
WR Ryan Scott-Jr Carlton Robinzine-Fr
WR Mario Pratcher-Sr Taz Knockum-So / Antonio McCoy-Fr
TE John Doucette-Sr Brett Russell-Fr
OT Abraham Holloway-So Philip Beliles-Fr
OG Andrew Handy-Sr Jared McGowen-So
C Blake Butler-Jr Stephen Schuh-Jr
OG Willie Henderson-Jr Andy Smith-So
OT Bruce McCaleb-Jr Brandon Pearce-Fr
K Stephen Gostkowski-Sr Patrick Byrne-Jr (KO)



Defensive Line
Top backup LaVale Washington will return at nose tackle, but his size and ultimately his numbers tell us why he won't be what Albert Means was here. Van Houston will add the girth when needed in the middle. Marcus West is similar in size - decent for a college DE - which is why he has made one of every five of his tackles for loss during his time near Graceland. West starts in this 3-3-5, as does senior classmate and book "end" Tyus Jackson. Jackson has developed a keen eye for short-route coverage, as well as strong tackling ability. Arron Bentley and Lane Garcia will add much here, with Bentley ready for a breakout campaign. Incoming freshmen Greg Terrell and Lonnie Davis will likely impact this deep unit with their speed. Legs will stay fresh for 60 minutes, and expect better than 2004's 59th-rated run stopping effort(s). This underrated group will sneak up on opponents.

This is a talented unit with all of the same starting pieces. This is a marginal fact when coupled with the defense's 90th overall ranking, making this corps largely responsible for the poor showing. Tim Goodwell will anchor the middle with quality run stopping for his size. Junior Quinton McCrary on the outside represents the Tigers' most complete LB, with six pass breakups to go with five sacks. Senior Carlton Baker is the two-deep's biggest weapon, but his stat line is vacant of the big plays needed for the D to succeed. Greg Hinds will break through and become a starter, just watch and see…his acquired talents allow him to morph as a coverage guy while hitting with vicious impact. Incoming signees represent much of the same dilemma as we see with the rest of this corps - they are too small to command respect at the line, and have yet to hone their recovery instincts on play-action fakes. They will improve, but orchestrating into one, solid effort will be the "gold ring" strived for here.

Defensive Back
The turnover here will be good for team moral, especially with their low pass defense rank (114th) causing many fingers to be pointed. This secondary uses "Cat" safeties, backs who can cover but often play up to run-stuff, never letting opponents onto which the will do. O.C. Collins is being listed as a corner this year, though his experience as a Cat will surely come into play on blitz packages. Dustin Lopez seems to be a star on the rise, with great numbers (and an even better spring showing) to force his starting nod at the other corner spot. Derek Clenn and Jake Kasser will be the specialized safeties, prowling the underneath. All-CUSA FS Wesley Smith will command this backfield, roaming deep and keeping the big plays to a minimum. West went the JUCO route with the DBs in this recruiting class, so help seem imminent if not there already. Talented freshman speedster Deante Lamar (4.4-sec 40 time) will help, but the surges this spring of Rod Smith (Cat) and well-sized Jamaal Rufus have buoyed expectations here. The amount this unit improves will likely reflect just how well the entire team does.

Joe Lee Dunn's defenses are known to be fast and to blitz from every possible direction. The Tigers will continue to be adequate against the run (teams rushed for only 3.7 yards per try). But the problem wasn't the front; it was what happened once foes got the ball past the line of scrimmage - the back-eight had definitive problems making the play when needed, earning only 11 INTs but allowing 29 aerial TDs. The front is again strong and the linebackers will be better, so the secondary will be given some breathing room to grow up before facing pass-happy UTEP and Marshall. With a young offense, the Tigers can not be expected to still outscore opponents. Secondary coach Tim Keane had phenomenal efforts in the Tiger's two campaigns prior to '04, so expect that this area can rebound without much shock.


DE Marcus West (PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Murphy)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Marcus West-Sr Tyus Jackson-Sr
NG LaVale Washington-Sr Brandon Douglas-Fr
DE Van Houston-Sr Rubio Phillips-Sr
OLB Carlton Baker-Sr Mike Snyder-Jr
MLB Tim Goodwell-Sr Heath Grant-So
OLB Quinton McCrary-Jr Greg Hinds-So
LCS Jake Kasser-So Sam Brewer-Jr
RCS Derek Clenin-Jr Rod Smith-So
CB Dustin Lopez-Jr Brandon McDonald-Jr
CB O.C. Collins-Sr Jamaal Rufus-Jr
FS Wesley Smith-Sr Brandon Patterson-Fr
P Michael Gibson-Jr ..




Consistent placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, a rising senior, went a perfect 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards, and hit 83% overall. He is a NationalChamps.net third-team all-American, and a pitcher for the Tiger baseball team, so **foes be warned, he has an arm. With Byrne also able to double here, fakes could abound from FG tries. KO coverage will also improve, or else nepotistic-hire Tyson Helton will likely be looking for work by January.

Michael Gibson will improve the net results (114th). Gibson has a huge foot and can make the tackle, too. Field position results also improve with the huge influx of DBs.

Return Game
These areas are still wide open, with many candidates not at all sorted out. Avery has the experience to be solid, but incoming speedster Lamar is also looking tight here. We will let you know if there are any developments, but expect musical chairs until someone can prove his worth is more than a KO return high of 30 yards, which was last year's best.