In the preseason we discussed the position groups we were high on and those we were concerned about. At the halfway point, let’s revisit those.
Ryan Monceaux: Before the season started you were excited about the corners. Are you still high on them?
Brad Towns: Hell yes. I had high hopes for the corners and they have not disappointed. As I wrote about last week, Damarion William’s ascent has pushed this group to the next level. Alex Hogan and Art Green have also played well when they have been called on.
Having reliable corners allows the defense to be a lot more creative in what they do with attacking the QB and this defense is attacking with reckless abandon.
The corners have exceeded my expectations in every way. They have covered well, they have tackled extremely well and they have forced turnovers. The corners currently have 4 INT’s, they had one last year and 2 in 2019. And to top it off, they play with a swagger we haven’t seen in years.
Monceaux: I love everything about Damarion Williams. With Marcus Jones focused only on defense and punt returns, I think we will see a shutdown-level of play out of the cornerbacks.
In our preview, I was highest on the defensive line and have now bought some prime real estate on Sack Ave. UH is 3rd in the country in sacks, one of just three FBS programs averaging more than four per game, and is tied for third-best in tackles for loss per game. ECU allows a ton of sacks and TFL, so expect the dominance to continue this week.
I thought depth would be the position’s strength and that is exactly what has happened. Derek Parish, Logan Hall, David Anenih, Latrell Bankston, and D’Anthony Jones are playing at or near an all-conference level. Each has at least three sacks in the first six games.
When you add Nelson Ceaser, Atlias Bell, and Chidozie Nwankwo, that’s a pretty stout two-deep. Chidozie is getting into game shape after missing the first few games and should be a significant contributor in the second half of the season.
Towns: You were concerned about the OL going into the year…
Monceaux: Well, the offensive line has trended in the right direction in the Tulsa and Tulane games. Because of their improved play, UH has run the ball better, sacks are down but more importantly, total TFL are down considerably. After four games, UH was allowing eight tackles for loss per game but against Tulsa and Tulane, that dropped to four and five, respectively.
Russey has been good at center, Patrick Paul and Dennis Bardwell are ok to good at tackle but the guards have continued to be weak spots. Backup Cam’Ron Johnson has actually played more snaps than starter Keenan Murphy at LG and has allowed significantly fewer pressures (.9% of snaps vs. 3.6%). Other than the Navy game, Johnson has kept the quarterbacks behind him clean. I really thought they’d make the starting change earlier in the season but if the plan is to platoon them then I guess it really does not matter.
Most importantly, this group has been together for six straight games which is a major key to their improvement.
Brad Towns: In August, my biggest concern was at wide receiver (but my concern for the offensive line is now greater). Early in the season, it was a one-man show with Nathaniel Dell but in the last two games, Tune has spread the ball around more. That gives me hope that there’s at least a chance more receivers can be productive.
The problem is that Dell is both your deep threat and your possession receiver. Dell leads the team with 51 targets – he averaged nine in the first five games but was limited after an injury vs. Tulane. KeSean Carter and Trahan have 23 targets apiece; that is a wide disparity but it’s even worse when you see that nine of Trahan’s targets were against Tech and 8 of Carter’s targets were in the Tulane game. Jeremy Singleton has made an impression in the last two games – will that continue?