Which position group are you most concerned with?
Brad Towns (Former UH athlete): Wide Receiver – Receiver is a big concern because we know so little about the plan. It appears Bryson Smith is no longer with the team, something we’d heard was coming since last fall. That leaves just a few guys with experience and a lot more with no track record all vying for playing time. So much will depend on development and that’s a question mark due to the WR coaching change made in May.
Ryan Monceaux: Offensive Line – The offensive line is my question mark. Dana Holgorsen has pointed out several times that 8 guys have starting experience under their belts. But other than Kody Russey (46 starts at Louisiana Tech) at center and Keenan Murphy (15 of his 16 starts have been at LG), the rest of the group has little starting experience at their projected spots.
Towns: Obviously, Nathaniel Dell is the leading candidate to step forward out wide. Due to Marquez Stevenson’s limited playing time in 2020, Dell led the team in catches and yards but almost half those catches and yards came in lopsided losses to UCF and Hawaii. He’s got to lead this group all season and consistently be an option for Clayton Tune.
The positive for Dell is his ability to get behind the defense. He is the one guy that defenses will have to account for at all times. Dell has plenty of speed and UH has a short supply of that in the last two years.
Monceaux: Dana is right that 8 guys have started games on the line but only two Russey and Murphy have more than a season’s worth of starts. Otherwise, returning starts shake out like this:
Returners (# of starts)
Jack Freeman (12)
Dennis Bardwell (10)
Max Banes (8)
Reuben Unije (6)
Patrick Paul (5)
Jordan Boatman (2)
Keenan Murphy has been dependable at left guard for the last two years but the staff eventually wants to see freshman Cam’Ron Johnson in this spot. And while Jack Freeman has 12 career starts, all of them have come at center, where Russey will take over. If he lives up to his billing, Tank Jenkins will be an immediate answer at right guard but he hasn’t played a snap in college.
In the last two years, the offensive line has had 16 different starting combinations in 20 games. It is imperative that this starting group can have consecutive games (and really, consecutive practice weeks) so they can start to play as a unit. Presnap communication and trusting that the guy next to you can execute his responsibilities are vital.
But that communication and trust are built over time – in the film room, the weight room, and on the practice field. That’s where my apprehension comes from.
Towns: Other than Dell, there’s not much returning in terms of catches, yards, or TDs. Jeremy Singleton is a solid receiver but otherwise, there are very few snaps returning. The position group was thrown into even more turmoil after WR coach Tyron Carrier was let go in May.
Dana and new WR coach Daikiel Shorts are putting a lot of hope in guys from the transfer market. UH found Kesean Carter from Texas Tech and Jaylen Erwin from UCLA and both seem to be very good gets. Carter will be a shot in the arm after a solid 2020 season for Texas Tech, where he caught 30 passes for 290 yards and 4 TDs. Erwin had a solid 2019 season for the Bruins and UH needs him to be a solid third or fourth option.
There’s little on paper that I can point to that gives me confidence. And with a first-time on-field coach, the receivers are definitely a concern.
GoCoogs 2021 Season Preview