We move along in our series looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each team in the soon to be renamed Big East with Memphis.
Strongest position: Defensive line
Could have gone with punter here, as Tom Hornsey has an opportunity to be a first-team all-league league punter in this conference. Running back also is a strength considering both leading rushers from a year ago return, and Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib are expected to be better this season. But I decided to go with the defensive front, where every starter returns from a year ago. Looking at Phil Steele's early all-conference team list, it says plenty that tackle Johnnie Farms is listed on the first team and Martin Ifedi is featured on the second team. This is the only position with multiple Tigers players honored. Ifedi led the team with 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss last season, while Farms ranked second with 9.5 tackles for loss. Can't forget about Terry Redden, who split time with Farms last season and finished with 6.5 tackles for loss. Memphis made major strides last year in total defense, rushing defense and sacks, but the challenge is on for this group now that it has to move on to a better conference.
Weakest position: Secondary
Memphis does return Bobby McCain, whom coach Justin Fuente said has had an "awesome offseason." Safety Lonnie Ballentine, who had 66 tackles and three interceptions last year, also returns. But the Tigers have to replace two starters and their top reserve as they try and make improvements to a group that has had its fair share of struggles over the last several years. The starting cornerback job opposite McCain remains up in the air, and safety is another question mark beyond Ballentine In 2012, Memphis only had eight interceptions and ranked No. 78 against the pass. This is a group that is still pretty young. Ballentine is the only senior listed at cornerback and safety on the team's spring prospectus.
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