Memphis has reportedly found the successor to Justin Fuente, hiring Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, according to multiple reports. Norvell has been Arizona State's offensive coordinator since 2012, and also served as the quarterbacks coach and deputy head coach.
Only 34 years old, this is Norvell's first head coaching job. He played in college at Central Arkansas, where he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 2006. He then latched on with Todd Graham, following him at coaching stints in Tulsa (wide receivers coach) and Pittsburgh (offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach) before going to Arizona State. He's also the executor of Todd Graham's will, for what it's worth.
It's safe to assume Norvell will try to replicate at Memphis what Graham and company have done at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils have had top 20 scoring offenses for three of the four seasons they've been there. Graham spoke with our Bill Connelly this past offseason about how they prepare when studying an opponent:
Everything we do is designed to attack what the opponent is being taught. For example, look at what Gus does and what we do offensively. [When they line up], the primary key will tell the defender that the ball's getting run to the left. Instead, it's getting thrown to the right.
Out here at ASU, our D is designed to attack the no-huddle offense. Of course, the diversity of offenses is difficult. You have to defense the Stanford power run, then Oregon's offense, then the air raids. You have to have a D that is very flexible and still able to attack offenses.
Our offense, defense, and special teams have to match and blend on each other. Our offensive coordinator doesn't get to come in and do whatever he wants to do. We adapt to our philosophy, the talents of the players, and what they can execute. We're an attacking offense and an attacking defense.
Norvell will have big shoes to fill, however. Fuente, who left Memphis to take the Virginia Tech job, rebuilt the program from the ground up, guiding the Tigers to a 9-3 record in 2015. When Fuente came to Memphis, it was considered one of the worst coaching jobs in the country, but we'll see if Norvell can maintain the program momentum that Fuente started. There should be something to work with on offense, where Memphis was one of the best teams in the country in terms of scoring offense (42.7 points per game, seventh in the nation), but quarterback Paxton Lynch could potentially leave for the NFL this year.