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Expectations for the Memphis defense

Most Division I defenses stop the run, discourage the pass, disrupt the backfield, frustrate scoring and exhaust all other efforts to advance the football in regulation.

And this happens for the Memphis football team. Sometimes. Last season’s defensive outing was no picnic, and certainly wasn’t anything to write home about.

Just ask Navy.

Or Temple.

That went well. Depending on who you’re playing for. You could also go ask Auburn what they thought of Memphis’ defense when the sides squared off in the Birmingham Bowl.

The defense got its behind handed to it last year. When you’re coaching a defense that’s ranked 76th in the FBS (36th against the run, allowing 146.5 yards per game and 100th against the pass, 260.2 yards per game) what are you supposed to expect?

A reshuffling of the roster and a new coach to coordinate this defense might be in order.

Ball was Arizona State’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach before the opportunity to associate himself with Memphis’ football team came his way.

Social media venues might have found the coaching change unexciting. That, or the jury’s still out on the move. Not much has been said on the hire up to this point. Give it time. There will be.

In just the first season under Ball, Arizona State’s pass defense got better. Like, a lot better. So did the defense’ passing efficiency. Ball coached several Sun Devil defensive players to Pac-10 acknowledgement. Arizona State was tied for second in the country with 1.4 interceptions per game.

The Sporting News took notice. In 2009, it named Ball the best position coach in the conference.

Ball coached the Alabama secondary from 2003 to 2006, where his secondary led the FBS in pass defense.

Memphis’ secondary struggled some last season. It allowed big plays in the secondary like nobody’s tomorrow, which accounts for the defense giving up 27.3 points per game. Under former defensive coordinator Galen Scott, the U of M pass defense was 105th in the country in yards allowed, with 338.2.

Given the offense averaged 38.2 points per game, that’s just not real helpful.

The roster has been shuffled. The depth chart rotated. And Ball is Head Coach Mike Norvell’s man. So, what is the defensive coordinator’s take on his defense and the approaching season?

“I saw some inexperience last year,” Ball offered, via The Commercial Appeal. “I think we have eight starters back. So that’s really going to help us with transition. The things I see out of our team is we have great character. The staff did a great job of recruiting. These kids are smart. They’re really tough, mentally and physically. And they’re talented.”

At the foundation of Memphis’ new defensive scheme there will be two hybrid linebacker positions, “Tiger” and “Spur”.

Word around the conference has it the Tiger position will be pretty similar to the “Dawg” linebacker spot that was run under Justin Fuente’s watch. It is a defensive end/outside linebacker who can stand up on the edge or plant his hand in the ground when the defensive line digs in.

Players assigned to this position need to have the speed to keep up with wide receivers across the AAC, but the size and toughness to stop the run or blitz when discharged from the outside, or anywhere along the edge.

As long as a Kam Prewitt takes himself on the prowl back there in the secondary, Memphis’ pass defense should consider itself better.

The sleeping sophomore is pretty sound in coverage, and he will give the opposition something to think about. He did with Memphis’ quarterback rotation in the team’s spring game. He had two interceptions in his “Friday Night Stripes” outing, while the hungry pass rush got in the offensive line’s face and kind of wore out its welcome in the backfield.

Oh. That didn’t take very long.

Things are happening on that side of the football that the rest of the conference doesn’t want any part of. I’m putting the AAC on notice for the up and coming season. You all had better watch. That, or move over. When the U of M defense gets chambered, it’s coming for you.