As waiting game for QB position continues, Byrne makes other contributions at Memphis
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
The game of college football is tough. So is the game of waiting.
Patrick Byrne has found that out on both ends during his first two seasons with the University of Memphis Tigers.
Byrne, a 2002 T.R. Miller High School graduate and former Tigers quarterback and kicker, hopes his third year with Memphis is the year his playing time increases significantly.
"From a quarterback standpoint, it's probably still going to be tough for me to play this season because I've got two senior quarterbacks (Bobby Robison and Danny Wimprine) ahead of me," said Byrne. "Wimprine is a returning starter and even at number two, Robison got in only about three games last year."
Byrne said it is tough waiting for the call to play quarterback.
"A big part of playing quarterback is getting your timing down with the wide receivers. That isn't easy to do when you don't get to work with the number one unit," Byrne said. "A couple of things have helped me get ready if Memphis needs me. I've increased my arm strength quite a bit since I entered college and I've also gained about 12 pounds or so through the weightroom. I've even grown about an inch since I left high school."
Byrne said another thing that has helped him prepare for college is the coaching staff at T.R. Miller.
"Coach (Jamie) Riggs and his staff taught me so much. They really put us through a lot of hard work, but now it has paid off. I got to play in a lot of big games at T.R. Miller. I also think that helped prepare me for college," Byrne said.
While Byrne, a 6-1, 205-pound redshirt sophomore, is still waiting to contribute with his passing arm, he already has contributed for Memphis with his kicking leg.
"I started doing kickoffs last season so at least I was able to make some contributions," Byrne said. "This year I'm hoping to get a chance to kick field goals. I feel I'm pretty accurate from 45 yards and in. I've managed to hit one from 55 yards away off the ground," Byrne said.
Byrne got plenty of chances to kick off last season for a Memphis team that went 9-4. The Tigers capped off that season with a 27-17 triumph over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
"The New Orleans Bowl was a great experience for me. New Orleans is a great city to visit and play in a bowl game. Of course, the fact we won made it even better," Byrne said.
As good as last season was for Memphis, the upcoming campaign could be even better. Some preseason prognosticators have the Tigers ranked in or just out of the top 25 teams in the country.
"We've got just about everybody back from last season. We only lost something like one starter on offense and only a couple on defense so out of 22 starters, we've got about 18 to 19 back," Byrne said. "Our goal is to win Conference USA and to get to the Liberty Bowl (which ironically is located in Memphis)."
Every college football season seems to produce a Cinderella team. Byrne thinks the Mempis could be that team next season.
"I think we can take a lot from what teams like Texas Christian (TCU) and Northern Illinois did last year. TCU was in the running for a BCS bowl game until late in the season and Northern Illinois went most of the year undefeated as well," Byrne said.
Byrne indicated he enjoys the atmosphere of playing in Memphis.
"Memphis led Conference USA in attendance last season. They averaged about 42,000 fans a game. The Liberty Bowl will seat about 60,000 and we've had some games where we've drawn about that many. With the anticipation of a good season, we're hoping we can fill it pretty often this season," Byrne, who is a marketing major, said.
Byrne and Memphis will open up its 2004 season September 4 at Mississippi (minus NFL number one draft choice, quarterback Eli Manning).