• 63°

Several debuts to be made in Memphis-Mississippi game

Mississippi’s Ed Orgeron isn’t the only coach offering a mystery to solve as the college football season gets under way.

Sure, Orgeron pulled the shroud down around his Ole Miss team this offseason. He closed practices to the media and public, installed a new offensive coordinator and named new starters at quarterback and running back.

But Memphis’ Tommy West has a few new toys of his own.

That means it’s hard to figure who has the advantage as the teams — located only about 75 miles apart — prepare to open their season at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss is in the Southeastern Conference while the Tigers hail from Conference USA.

“This ought to be a really good game,” West said. “There’s really so many unknowns going into this game.”

Coaching staffs have been reviewing years-old film and basing their strategies on educated guesses as they prepare for the game, moved to Sunday to accommodate ESPN.

The Rebels will try to rebound from last year’s 3-8 season with Brent Schaeffer at quarterback. He started three games for Tennessee as a true freshman before transferring to College of the Sequoias last year. And BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a 5-foot-11, 211-pound transfer from Indiana, will be starting at tailback.

West called Green-Ellis “a big, strong, nice looking guy” he expects the Rebels to feature.

He also expects to see a lot of Schaeffer — a lot more than he’s seen on film.

“The only film we’ve seen is the little bit he played at Tennessee,” West said. “We’ve got those tapes and looked at him, just so we could get a look at him athletically. He’s just a really talented player.

“He’s probably going to have a lot to do with how the game turns out.”

Adding to the mystery of the Rebels is the fact that they will have 11 others making their first starts. Also, none of the offensive linemen have started at the position they’re scheduled to play Sunday.

The Tigers, 7-5 last year, have their own hot-stuff transfer. Martin Hankins will start at quarterback after transferring from Southeastern Louisiana and sitting out last season.

Hankins played in Hal Mumme’s spread offense and passed for 7,777 yards as a freshman and sophomore. But he transferred after Mumme left the school. Like West, Orgeron dusted off old tape of Hankins.

“We have seen that he can throw the ball very well,” Orgeron said. “He is very accurate. I understand that he knows the game very well, and he can find his No. 2 and No. 3 receivers. He can manage their offense.”

Memphis’ highest profile new starter will be tailback Joseph Doss. He replaces DeAngelo Williams, the school’s all-time leading rusher with 6,026 yards and the Carolina Panthers first-round pick.

Doss started four games last season for the injured Williams. West said the 5-foot-9, 200-pounder is used to the questions about replacing Williams.

“Really it doesn’t phase him,” West said. “Joe is comfortable with who he is and what he is. He is not Deangelo, but he is a good back.”

Despite all the new names and faces in key offensive positions, both coaches think what happens on defense will probably determine the game. They expect something like last year’s game, a tight 10-6 win by Ole Miss.

“I expect a very physical game and it wouldn’t surprise me if points are at a premium,” West said.