Memphis Football Preview: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

This is the 4th installment of 5 in The BarnBurner’s Memphis Football Preview Series. Slim takes a look at the wide receiver and tight end positions, which bring a mix of experience to go along with a lot of talented players finally getting an opportunity to prove themselves as viable starters.

Wide Receivers

Losing a Consensus All-American is never easy.

Especially not at a school like Memphis, which had never experienced a non-kicker obtain this feat until last season.

Especially not when that player is the program leader in basically every single-season receiving record as well as every major receiving record for an entire Memphis career.

No, it won’t be easy to replace Anthony Miller and the 96 receptions he reeled in last year for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns, all of which were new single-season Memphis records. It also won’t be easy to replace 3-year starter Phil Mayhue who started opposite of Miller for most of their historic Tiger careers. However, Mike Norvell and his staff were able to get some guys in the mix last season to gain experience who they will pair with Sam Craft after he was granted a 6th year of eligibility and returning 2nd-leading receiver, Tony Pollard ,who I talked about in the RB Column.

MORE: Memphis Football Preview: Running Backs & Special Teams

Damonte Coxie

The redshirt sophomore gained some valuable experience last season appearing in all 13 games and finishing the season with 21 catches for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. The former LSU commit provides a big target on the outside for Brady White, as Coxie stands 6’3 and can go up and get the fifty-fifty balls that an inexperienced QB like White will needs his receivers to do. Coxie is projected by many to be the breakout player in this talented receiving corps.

Here is a video of him dragging some poor kid to the end zone back in his high school days.

Sam Craft

Guess who’s back…back again…Sammy’s back…tell a friend!!

First of all, let me give Sam Craft the respect he deserves as a Memphis Tiger. Of the 42 enrollees from Craft’s 2013 class, you would probably only know about 7 of them if I were to name them off (Craft, Jackson Dillon, Gabe Kuhn, Doroland Dorceus, Joe Craig, etc). Back then it wasn’t cool to be a 3-star player in Memphis and commit to the Tigers.

But that’s exactly what Craft did as a dual-threat QB out of Olive Branch, after transferring from Craigmont High in Memphis. He wanted to be a Tiger because that shit ran in his blood, his father was a Tiger. He wanted to make it cool.

And he did. And thanks to Sam Craft that shit (Tiger Fever) now runs through the blood of thousands and thousands of Tigers fans who will pack the Liberty Bowl to see the Tigers take on Mercer in the season opener on Saturday. Not to mention, they’ve been selling the man’s jersey in the Tiger Bookstore for years!

Oh yea, he’s not a bad receiver either. He’s never been a really flashy player, but his quick feet can make defenders miss and his Memphis heart can run a would-be tackler over before he knows what hit him. Here’s to hoping Sam can stay healthy and go out with the season he deserves, because if he’s healthy, he’s gonna ball.

John “Pop” Williams

Pop is a junior speedster that has played in 24 games over his 2 year career at the U of M. Last year he finished with 12 receptions for 145 yards to go along with 18 punt returns for 102 yards. Williams will remain the punt returner this year and will be looked upon to play a much larger role in the 2018 offense. Pop showed flashes, like when he took a Ferguson pass 50+ yards last year to open the second half when the Tigers where trailing to Southern Illinois early in the second half. I expect to see at least a few big plays from him again this season, and maybe even a punt return for a TD.

MORE: Memphis Football Preview: Brady White & The QB’s

Kedarian Jones 

Jones has played sparingly over the past 2 years, finishing with 7 and 8 catches respectively in ’16 and ’17, ending both seasons with at least 120 receiving yards and a touchdown. As you can see in the video below, he has the ability to make plays and his success this season will depend on how consistently he can do that very thing.

Returners Mechane Slade and Tre’Veon Hamilton along with junior college transfer Antonio Gibson will all play a role of some sort in the passing game this year. Hamilton and Gibson are both big targets for the QB, with Slade being more of a slot guy with good speed. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone from this group steps up and forces Mike Norvell and Kenny Dillingham to give them consistent, meaningful snaps.

Tight Ends

The Tigers return two extremely talented and versatile tight ends that were contributors to the high-powered offense last year. Both Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes will be heavily counted on in Mike Norvell’s 2018 offense and it wouldn’t surprise me if each of them finish the season amongst the Tigers’ leaders in receiving touchdowns. Both of these players have an opportunity for breakout years, and I would imagine that we will see them on the field together quite a bit this season with their proven abilities.

MORE: Memphis Football Preview: Offensive & Defensive Lines

Joey Magnifico

The redshirt junior product of St. Benedict in Cordova earned a spot on the All-American Athletic Conference 2nd-Team after a strong sophomore season. Magnifico proved to be a merciless run blocker who helped pave the way to Darrell Henderson’s 1,000 yard rushing season and Patrick Taylor’s 13 rushing touchdowns.

Magnifico seemed to always show up when the Tigers needed a 3rd down conversion or a spark to get the offense back on track. His best performance of the season came in the home victory over UCLA when he hauled in 6 catches for 83 yards and a score. Magnifico will be vital to the offense’s success in 2018.

Remember the kid Coxie was carrying in the early video? Well, here’s Joey (6’4 230 lbs) carrying a couple guys into the end zone, even though he was later marked down at the half yard line. Haters.

Sean Dykes

The 6’2 junior really came on strong as the 2017 season progressed, and his biggest play of the season was probably when he snagged a pass over the middle from Riley Ferguson and barreled his way into the end zone to complete the epic comeback against Houston. Snaggy D, as I have just now decided to call him, also had an insane performance in the AAC Championship Game against UCF, in which he caught just 3 passes but for 161 yards!

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Dykes has tons of potential and playing along another multi-faceted tight end in Magnifico will be beneficial for the both of them, as well as the inexperienced receivers who they will take some pressure off of. Dykes has also reportedly developed good chemistry with Brady White, and could easily lead the team in touchdown receptions this year.

Tyce Daniel, a 6’4 redshirt freshman, who also has big play ability will begin the season in a reserve role, but has a bright future ahead of him.

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{Header Image: Boby Levey/Getty Images}

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