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August 21, 2011
Tiger Offense Showing New Signs of Life
Just when we thought it was safe to anoint Andy Summerlin the apparent starter at quarterback from Memphis, he gets out-performed at Satruday's closed scrimmage at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
It's game on at the QB position, with senior transfer Skylar Jones and true freshman Taylor Reed not ceding the starting position without a fight. Head coach Larry Porter is both pleased and impressed by the recent play of his signal-callers.
"I have been telling you all week that Taylor Reed and Skylar Jones, for that matter, wouldn't give in, and they didn't today," Porter said. "They were more productive than Andy (Summerlin) was today. There were a lot of positives and a lot of things to build on."
It's what they do with their legs that is keeping Jones and Reed in the running--excuse the pun-- for the starting QB job when Memphis opens the season against Mississippi State in mere days.
Jones rushed eight times for 52 yards, while Reed rumbled for 35 yards on his six totes. The two also combined for 186 yards passing on 17 completions, while Summerlin tossed for 149 yards on just seven completions, with three TDs and one interception.
Summerlin's overall productivity throughout camp gives him a slim margin over Jones and Reed, but the starting berth certainly isn't guaranteed to him yet.
"We will not neglect or overlook what we are seeing in terms of the progress of Taylor (Reed) and Skylar (Jones)," Porter announced. "We are going to continue to allow them to fight to be a starter within our offense this year."
Powered by the improving play of the QBs and performances of freshmen, the offense was impressive.
With likely starter at tailback Jerrell Rhodes sitting out until Monday with a dinged ankle, the shifty and powerful Artaves Gibson, a true freshman out of Mitchell High, stepped up in a big way. He rushed 18 times for 109 yards and a TD. He ripped off runs of 22, 18, and 15 yards.
Meanwhile, another true freshman, scatback Joe Price from Madison (MS) Central, managed 65 yards on 16 totes. And true freshman wideout Tyriq Patrick (Philadelphia, MS) is making a bid to break the rotation, too, and caught five balls for 46 yards.
If the freshmen can keep the rock off the ground (especially Gibson), they will be impossible to keep off the field.
It was extremely encouraging for Porter to see the offense clicking on Saturday.
"I am excited about this scrimmage," Porter said afterward. "I thought offensively, as opposed to last week (at Fan Fest), the offense ruled the day. There were a lot of young guys who stood out. Our two young backs, Artaves Gibson and Joe Price, had an outstanding day. They showed discipline, toughness and productivity."
Leroy Watson, Jr. is Managing Editor of TigerSportsReport.com and may be reached via e-mail: Leroy@tigersportsreport.com or on Twitter: @leroywatsonjr