Memphis looks to settle QB question in opener vs. Nicholls

NCAA Football

The Memphis Tigers’ recent run of success will be put to the test in 2021, starting with a nonconference matchup at home against Nicholls on Saturday.

The Tigers were 8-3 last season under first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield and capped off the campaign with a victory in the Montgomery Bowl. It gave Memphis a 20-5 record over the previous two seasons and a 38-14 record going back to the 2017 season under Mike Norvell.

Much of that success came with Brady White at quarterback, but the Tigers are looking for a replacement. White, who played three seasons at Memphis after he transferred from Arizona State, could be replaced by another Pac-12 transfer in Grant Gunnell.

Gunnell found some success at Arizona with 15 touchdown passes to three interceptions in 12 games over two seasons, but he will have a hard time matching the 10,690 yards and 90 touchdowns White racked up in three seasons. Freshman Seth Henigan has pushed Gunnell for the starting job.

Memphis does have 16 returning starters, including senior wide receiver Calvin Austin III, who had 63 receptions for 1,053 yards last season with 11 touchdowns in 11 games. The team’s top four rushers all are back, including junior Rodrigues Clark, who ran for 561 yards and two scores.

“You can see as they have gotten more comfortable in the spring, and now through fall camp, they have become more vocal, pushing us,” Austin said of both Gunnell and Henigan. “You can just tell from January until now that they have become more comfortable with us. It makes everything easier when you have that comfort.”

Nicholls also is led by a proven wide receiver. Dai’Jean Dixon holds Nicholls records for career receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions. He had 514 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in seven spring games for the FCS Colonels, who finished the season 4-3.

Offensive lineman P.J. Burkhalter is a second-team FCS preseason All-American after the Colonels were third in rushing at 263.4 yards per game. They finished with 1,844 yards and 25 touchdowns. Nicholls was also second in scoring last season with 48.7 points per game.

Dual-threat quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. returns for his senior season after leading Nicholls in passing (1,684 yards, 18 touchdowns) and rushing (557 yards, 6 scores).

“I like the mix, I like our guys, I like how they get along,” Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe said on 1130-AM in Shreveport, La. “We’re very athletic and talented enough. Now we just have to go put it together.”

–Field Level Media

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