Charlotte HC Poggi: “Memphis is good, but we’re getting pretty good too.”
When meeting with members of the media on Tuesday, the Charlotte 49ers’ coaching staff heaped more praise upon Memphis than perhaps any other coaching staff this season. In the almost thirty-minute availability, Charlotte head coach Biff Poggi, offensive coordinator Mike Miller, defensive coordinator Ryan Osborn, and linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green each spoke at length regarding their perception of the Memphis Football program and the challenges they’ll bring to the Queen City on Saturday. Winners of two of their last three games, the 49ers know they’ll have to be perfect for the remainder of the regular season to become bowl-eligible by December. “Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we’ve known what’s at stake — we all want to go to a bowl game, so it’s kind of like we’re in the playoffs in a sense,” Hill-Green said.
In only their tenth season of FBS football, the 49ers Football program has high aspirations after moving to a more prestigious conference in the American. A program that has a record of 45-92 through 10 seasons, Charlotte DC Ryan Osborn, who has ties to nearby UT-Martin, wasn’t shy in asserting that his program looks to the Tigers as the blueprint for sustainability and growth in a new conference. “Memphis, in our conference, the AAC, is really a team that we aspire to be,” Osborn continued, “Just think about where they’ve been in the last 8 to 10 years; think about — even Justin Fuente, Norvell — the coaches they’ve had. They’ve really built that place up to be one of the top Group of Five schools in the country year-in and year-out.”
In what will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools, the Charlotte coaching staff further elaborated on what they’ve seen from the Tigers on game film. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Matt Barnes),” Charlotte OC Mike Miller said, “(Memphis) plays not very complicated (schemes), but they play extremely hard and got good players. Their two inside (line)backers are probably the best we’ve seen other than maybe Florida and the kid at Maryland.” The 49ers, while 3-6 overall, rank 8th in the country in time of possession and boast the second-best passing defense in the American (27th nationally).
On what it would mean to defeat the Tigers on Saturday, Michigan transfer Nikhai Hill-Green said, “When I decided to come (to Charlotte), Memphis was one of the games I circled. I know this program for traditionally being good — they’ve always had good players that go on to play at the next level — it would be everything for our program and for the players.” After opening the week as 13.5-point favorites on the road, the line in Vegas has moved to nine amid uncertainty regarding Seth Henigan and Blake Watson’s availability for the Tigers. While Ryan Silverfield said Monday that both were in “day-to-day” status, Charlotte DC Ryan Osborn asserted that the Tigers will be equally as capable regardless of who trots out as the starter. “Tevin Carter went in there (last week) and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass so it’s next man up for them,” he said, “Number five (Sutton Smith) is just as good of a running back as number four (Blake Watson) is; that running game really is propelled off that offensive line.”
After remaining rather quiet throughout media availability on Tuesday, Charlotte HC Biff Poggi finally offered his perception of the state of his football program and the upcoming game to close out the press conference. “Here’s the thing — we’re getting good now. We fear no man and we fear no team for sure. Everybody’s talking about Memphis, and Memphis is great, they’re a really good football team, but we’re getting pretty good too, so we’ll see.” Picked to finish last at AAC Media Days, the 49ers have been a mild surprise in Poggi’s first season at Charlotte. After trailing by 17 points last week at Tulsa, Poggi’s team stormed back for their first overtime victory since 2021. “We’re in the crucible still — we like it in there. That comes from the biblical.. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” Poggi explained, “We’ve actually found the crucible this year and we kind of like it.”
“We’re getting pretty good. We love the crucible, we’re going to stay in the crucible, we’re going to be dancing around in the crucible,” Poggi concluded, “When we get out of the crucible, you come over here with a big bat and hit me right in the mouth with it.”
Hoping to stay within striking distance of the AAC Championship Game, the 7-2 Tigers will travel to Charlotte for their fifth road game of the season. A win Saturday would match Ryan Silverfield’s highest regular season win total as a head coach. Memphis will kick off at 1:00 CST on ESPN+.
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