After looking at Memphis' offense yesterday, we now turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom has done excellent work with the Memphis defense, inheriting a defense that ranked 114th in Def. F/+ in both 2010 and 2011, improved it to 80th in 2012, then boosted it to 61st in 2013. For the second straight week, UCLA is facing a defense that is a lot better than most people realize, and the offensive line will once again be put to a test.
The strength of the Memphis defense is the defensive line. Memphis held opponents to just over 116 yards rushing on the ground last year and registered 27 sacks. They return all four starters across the line, including Sr. Martin Ifedi (6'3 265 lbs.), who led the team with 10.5 sacks from his end spot. The other end spot is occupied by Jr. Ricky Hunter (6'3 275 lbs.), who was second on the team with 4.5 sacks. The nose is played by Sr. Terry Redden (6'2 270 lbs.), who is light for a nose, but has proven to be effective in his career. The fourth spot is essentially another end/outside linebacker, and will be played by So. Jackson Dillon (6'6 230 lbs.) and Sr. Kendrick Golden (6'4 215 lbs.).
Behind the line, Memphis returns 5 of their top 6 linebackers from last season, including all three starting linebackers. Seniors Tank Jones (5'11 225 lbs.), Charles Harris (6'2 243 lbs.), and Ryan Coleman (6'3 225 lbs.) each had over 50 tackles last year and form a solid group of linebackers. They should pose a challenge to UCLA's running game playing behind Memphis defensive line.
The weakest link to Memphis defense is their secondary, but that group held Austin Peay to 30 yards passing last week. Last season, they gave up a little over 250 yards per game in the air, and allowed quarterbacks to complete a touch over 60% of their passes. The secondary returns its top three cornerbacks in Jr. Andrew Gaines (5'11 185 lbs.), Sr. Bakari Hollier (5'10 195 lbs.), and Sr. Bobby McCain (5'11 190 lbs.). The two starting safeties from last year are gone, but Memphis does bring back some experience in Jr. Reggis Ball (5'11 200 lbs.) and Jr. Dion Witty (5'10 185 lbs.).
That concludes our preview of the Memphis Tigers. Fire away with any additional thoughts, comments, and observations (I admittedly did not watch their game against Austin Peay, so any one that did might have some good insight).