Can Tiger football return to national prominence? Larry Porter says it can. The first-year
head coach has a long-term plan to put Memphis football on the map.
A large silver door with an embossed Tiger logo leads to Memphis football coach Larry
Porter’s office. Tiger fans are hoping gold lies on the other side.
As the 2010 football season kicks off, U of M fans have plenty of reason for hope.
Porter (BSEd ’96) has been named National Recruiter of the Year twice and he carries
a take-no-prisoners attitude.
It will be a tough challenge, and one that will be difficult to meet short term. But
after listening to Porter’s plan on how he will build the Memphis program, hope may
indeed turn to reality.
Porter, whose head coaching debut Sept. 4 at Mississippi State will be carried live
on ESPNU, sat down just before the season began with University of Memphis editor
Greg Russell and discussed his short- and long-term game plans.
Coach Porter, you had a really good thing going at LSU. Why leave a coaching job at
a school that recently won the national championship?
It is having the opportunity to sink your teeth into something that you love so dearly.
I care deeply for this University. I want to put it in a position where we can not
only win, but sustain winning at a high level.
The team lost its last six games last year en route to a 2-10 season. How do you turn
the program around?
You have to change the culture. The things you have got to have as the foundation
and the substance and fiber of the program are things like leadership, character,
chemistry, attitude and discipline. Those are the things that define you. If you look
at any championship team at any level, you see those elements. Talent is not the end-all.
Recruiting will be a major part of turning Memphis around. You’ve been National Recruiter
of the Year twice. What do you say to recruits when you enter their homes?
Recruiting is all about relationships and being honest with people. When they sense
sincerity and honesty within you, it is a lot easier for them to communicate and trust
you. Once you get them to communicate with you, it allows for a longer line of communication,
which ultimately leads to a stronger relationship.
My philosophy has always been, “I recruit the kid, I also recruit the family.” Everybody
is involved from day one. You build on that, where everyone is on the same page.
Memphis isn’t in a BCS conference and sits in the middle of a proven recruiting ground
for SEC schools. How do you compensate for that when going after a recruit?
First, we won’t take a backseat to anyone in our own backyard. And, in a lot of different
ways, we have just as much to offer as any other university. Kids have to get into
looking at substance over style. We need to allow them to see some things at the U
of M that are tangible that can put them in the position to be successful and allow
them to achieve all the things they would achieve at any other place. If you can do
that, I feel you have a real opportunity to have those kids point toward your direction
at the end of the day.
What areas will you recruit from?
We’ve identified 11 states that we want to pursue consistently in recruiting. That
is mainly in the southeast, from Texas and Arkansas on over. We have also added Illinois
and Ohio to our targeted states.
When you played under Chuck Stobart in the early 1990s, Memphis ran a two-back offense.
What will Memphis fans see this year?
We will be more of a one-back, pro-style offense, and multiple in our formations.
Facilities can play an important role in the success of a team. How do our facilities
In December, we finished a turf field on the practice fields (on the Park Avenue Campus).
We have already approved a budget for the new weight room. There is some talk about
building an indoor practice facility. I feel the right things are being discussed
as well as getting done. Right now, we have a good practice facility, we just need
to renovate the interior of the building. And keep in mind that with facilities, it
is a race. Everyone is building new ones every year. If you build one today, in five
years, it might be behind.
What can Memphis fans expect to see the first season?
We improved in spring practice so I feel like we are an improved team. Overall, I
want to put a product on the field that the University as well as the city can embrace
and be excited about. Not only the style, but the young men we are developing as well.
I think that in games that are close, you will your way to victory. Our trademark
will be toughness. We must be physically and mentally tougher. That is the stamp I
want to put on this program.
Any parting words?
We are building this team for the long haul. Success, it will be done. Memphis is
a goldmine waiting to sparkle. I am grateful for the opportunity to put my alma mater
in a situation where we can sustain success.