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Memphis coach Mike Norvell speaks on his seven new assistants and what they bring to the football team
Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

It would be understandable if Memphis football coach Mike Norvell passed out nametags when he introduced the newest members of his coaching staff Saturday.

Norvell hired seven assistants, the most changes he’s had to a staff during his tenure. Now the challenge comes in getting everyone on the same page.

The good news, Norvell said, was the staff got time to bond during last week’s American Football Coaches Association convention. It was a foundation he expected to build upon between now and the start of spring practice on March 16.

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“It’s something that we’re going to have to go through the process,” Norvell said. “We’re going to find out new things about each other each and every day but that’s the joy of being a part of a staff.”

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller were among the seven assistants present. Also present were Deke Adams (defensive line), Pete Lembo (assistant head coach/special teams), John Simon (wide receivers), Kevin Clune (linebackers) and Tony Tokarz (tight ends).

It’s an experienced staff with Johns, Fuller, Lembo and Clune each having experience as a coordinator. Yet they were all united in recognizing the success Memphis had built over the past three seasons.

Johns said Memphis’ reputation for its high-powered offense was part of why he applied and Norvell’s uptempo style is like what he was used to in coordinator jobs at Indiana and Texas Tech.

“Any offensive coach would love to work here and learn from Coach Norvell and I feel very blessed that I get the opportunity to do that,” Johns said. “But make no mistake about it, it’s very well known that this place can score points and score on anybody.”

Fuller said his defense will be aggressive and wants people to say that his unit is fundamentally sound with great technique. He wasn’t worried about how long it’d take to build cohesion on the staff because he embraced the growth that comes from being uncomfortable.

He and Adams share a similar philosophy of a strong defensive front that attacks the ball. He complimented Clune’s history of developing linebackers and defensive backs coach TJ Rushing’s work with cornerback TJ Carter.

“I think we have a tremendous defensive staff and it’s going to take some work just like it would if I knew everybody so it’s just one step at a time with those guys,” Fuller said.

The staff will hit the recruiting trail for next three weeks leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 6.

While Norvell stressed that it’s going to take time, he and his staff were also confident the foundation they set in the past few days hinted that the process wouldn’t be as stressful as it is enjoyable.

“In this profession you can worry about egos sometimes,” Johns said. “There’s none of that here at this school. It’s just a lot of good guys who really just want to win and develop young men and we take that from Coach Norvell,”

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