Looks Like There Will Be Football In The Fall
For about a week I’ve been thinking that we will have a 2020 football season and it will start in September.
A month ago, that was totally up in the air. The panic of the Coronavirus was still fresh and many people envisioned a world where very little would get back to normal in 2020. There was significant talk about a spring 2021 season.
What gave me even more confidence about a fall 2020 season is that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey came out this week in favor of it. In a round of radio interviews, Sankey said that while the virus will determine what happens, it doesn’t stop the league from moving forward. Even if the entire SEC cannot play.
“If there’s a couple of programs that aren’t able, does that stop everyone? I’m not sure it does,” he said to a Jacksonville, Florida, radio station.
Sankey has become the de facto spokesman for other commissioners regarding the Coronavirus and how it impacts the 2020-21 athletics calendar. I think you’ll see a lot of conferences follow his lead when it comes to when football is played. The AAC is likely to be one of them.
The Early UH Schedule Could Be In Trouble
Even with my optimism, I don’t think all 10 FBS conferences will play in the fall and I believe certain members of other leagues will not play. I’d be shocked if the California and Washington schools were allowed to start the season on-time. Washington’s phase 1 stay at home was just extended through May 31 with events involving “more than 50 people” prohibited until phase 4. No Washington or California schools will wreak havoc on the Pac-12 and MWC schools that plan to play as well as nonconference opponents.
On top of that, I don’t believe Rice, as it stands today, will field a football team in time for the season opener on September 3rd at TDECU. Rice President David Leebron will host a virtual town hall on May 15 and the subject will almost assuredly come up.
If there’s no Rice and no Wazzu, there go UH’s first two games; Holgorsen’s program wouldn’t play until week 3 at Memphis. Hopefully, Pez and his staff are working on back-up opponents. In week one, TCU plays at Cal, Michigan goes to Washington, and Utah State hosts Wazzu. Each might need an opponent if California and Washington are shut down. In week two, New Mexico is scheduled to face USC while Toledo is to host SDSU.
Maybe replacement opponents are not needed but there are options.
Looking at the OL in 2020
With Jarrid Williams’ departure, the UH offensive line is as young and inexperienced as it has been in years. Braylon Jones has 34 starts in his career but the other 11 linemen have just 36 starts between them.
Before last season, Braylon had 30 starts while the rest of the 2020 roster had 1.
Going forward, what happens at right tackle will shape the entire line. I believe the decision will be between Gio Pancotti and Jordan Boatman at that spot. Pancotti has proven he can play all over the line: in the second half of last season, Pancotti started at left guard then right guard then right guard again then right tackle then left guard then right tackle in the finale. The two starts at RT late in the year could make him the favorite there.
But I think the OL this season is predicated on Jordan Boatman. If the junior from The Woodlands can win the job at RT, it gives Brandon Jones a lot of flexibility. Keenan Murphy and Pancotti each started 6 games at left guard last year and can slide into other roles if necessary. Patrick Paul took all three starts at LT after Josh Jones went down and he will likely do the same in 2020. The same goes for Jack Freeman at center: Freeman started 7 of 8 games after Braylon Jones was injured and took a redshirt. Braylon will go back to RG where he played prior to 2019.
If Boatman starts at RT, your tackles have four combined starts – not ideal for a QB that has been sacked 35 times in his 9 career starts. Depth is an obvious concern on the OL but there are several guys that can play multiple positions. Last year, the OL had 8 different lineups and never went more than two games in a row without a change.