Improvements: What We’re Watching

Leroy Godfrey

Leroy Godfrey puts a hit on a Tulane receiver.

The success of this season should not just be measured in wins and losses. As we wrote last week, this schedule is miles better than last year (Athlon agrees – they just ranked the UH schedule 6th-toughest in the country).
Dana Holgorsen and his staff should be measured by individual and team development in 2019. How much has the program improved since last December? To that end, GoCoogs will track certain metrics to see if improvement is occurring within every part of the program.

Defense: Lots of progress needed

One of our biggest focuses is how much the defense improves in:
Snaps – The Coogs cannot lead the country in defensive snaps again. This is how players get injured and worn out by the end of the year. If UH is near the bottom in defensive snaps again, it means very few of the other statistical rankings will improve, either.
Scoring defense – UH gave up 37 ppg last year. If you can get this down to the four TD range, you’re going to win a lot of games. To achieve that, it will take a major improvement on the defensive line as well as an offense that works for the defense. And much better special teams.
3rd down defense – The Cougars finished 120th in 3rd down conversion percentage but dead last (129th) in the total number of 3rd downs converted (104). That was 8 more conversions than #128.
Go deeper: This is an important category that will improve both the number of defensive snaps taken and scoring defense. But it’s not foolproof.
In the bottom 10 in 3rd downs converted: 12-2 OU (96 converted – 128th nationally), 10-4 Texas (93 – 126th), and 13-1 UCF (90 – 122nd). UCF and Texas were top-20 in red zone defense, though.
Red zone TDs – UH has to get stops in the red zone. The Coogs finished 128th in total red zone TDs (47) in 2018. UH was also second-to-last in total red zone scores – opponents scored 58 times on the Coogs.
Go deep: Pay attention to red zone rushing TDs. In 2018, UH was dead last in the country in giving up rush TDs of 1-20 yards (35).
Deeper: In the 27 games of the 2015 & 2016 seasons, the UH defense gave up 65 total red zone trips and 44 red zone TDs. In 2018, the Coogs gave up 63 trips and 47 red zone TDs. That’s more than double the red zone TDs given up in 2017 (23).
The 28 rush TDs the Tom Herman teams gave up in 27 games are seven less than the 35 that D’Onofrio’s defense gave up last year.

Offense: be more explosive

Drops: GoCoogs charted WR drops after the Tech game last season. I found that UH receivers were dropping double the number of passes as the national average. But anyone paying attention knows that drops were a big issue all season. Can Holgorsen and Tyron Carrier improve this?
King’s continued development: How much does D’Eriq King grow from last year to this season? Does his touch on the long ball improve? King was sensational last year but I want to see him take the next step.
WR blocking – We touched on this yesterday but I think it’s the key to extending drives. Holgorsen’s offense was effective here in 2008-09 in large part because he had receivers who would block. Short- to mid-range gains went for 20+ many times due to downfield blocking.

Overall improvement metrics

We’re also looking for a few markers that show holistic development in these 15 areas:
1. Does the team get better from September 1 until September 13 (OU, PV, Wazzu)?
2. Does the team get better from September 14 until October 12 (Tulane, UNT, off week, Cincinnati)?
3. Does the team get better from October 13 until November 2 (UConn, SMU, UCF)?
4. Does the team get better from November 3 until November 30 (off week, Memphis, Tulsa, Navy)?
5. What position groups made an improvement?
6. What position groups were stagnant or declined?
7. Did the offense progress as the season went on?
8. Did the defense progress as the season went on?
9. Did special teams have a pulse?
10. How did recruiting progress in-season?
11. What impact did the new transfers have?
12. What impact did the grad transfers have?
13. Who were we able to redshirt?
14. How did we perform against AAC West teams?
15. Who do we sign in the early signing period?
You could add a dozen or more points of emphasis or metrics to watch. In any event, I expect continual improvement across the board in 2019.

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