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Tigers Football Insider: Expectations for the Tigers’ secondary this season
 
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Memphis defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre (middle) during practice on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian file)
 

Memphis defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre (middle) during practice on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian file)

Welcome back to the Tigers Football Insider, where we bring you the latest news and analysis from The Daily Memphian’s Steven Johnson each week. 

2020 was far from a banner year for the Tigers’ secondary, but 2021 could be a totally different story.

With new additions, position changes and more familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre’s system, perhaps no group is in line for a bigger bounce back than the secondary.

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The ‘additions’ are Michigan State transfer Julian Barnett and La’Andre Thomas who opted out last season.

Based on their talent, experience and what we saw from the spring game, it would be surprising if these two weren’t the starting outside corners.

At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds Barnett has prototypical NFL size with the ball skills to match. He could contend for an all-conference spot. His play in the spring game had to be encouraging for himself and the staff.

Thomas started every game in 2019. His experience plus athleticism were sorely missed last year, but reports from camp indicated he hasn’t missed much of a beat.

Jacobi Francis was the Tigers’ best corner last year and seems to be acclimating to the move to nickel well so far. Francis was one of the players that really turned it around in the last half of the season and could thrive in a new position.

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We know how exceptional safety Quindell Johnson is and Tyrez Lindsey and Sanchez Blake had their moments last season. Rodney Owens, the former nickelback, moving back to safety only enhances the group.

The Tigers essentially have four starters they can lean on at safety. The depth of the group also stands out with Sylvonta Oliver, Greg Rubin and Devonte Nelson as reserves that the coaching staff trusts in.

The secondary was a liability last season, but this season the position group could be the main reasons the Tigers rise to another level on defense.


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