Round table: too early to worry about secondary lapses?
In this week’s round table, The Cougar sports staff takes a look at UH’s defense, which has been making some big plays this season, but also giving up their fair share of them.
How would you rate the defense’s play through the first couple of games of the season?
Sports editor Bryce Dodds: Overall, defensive play has been decent. The run defense has been spectacular, clogging the middle, as well as outside lanes, and the pressure generated from the defensive line has been great. They’ve also done a great job forcing turnovers, continuing a tradition set by past teams, but the pass defense has been paltry.
Staff writer Tevin Mills: In the first two games, the defense has been pretty underwhelming. Going into the season, the popular belief was that the offense had to match the play of the defense for the team to be successful. It has been the exact opposite as the offense is outperforming the defense thus far. The 55 total points allowed isn’t worthy of panic, but it’s definitely on the minds of head coach Tom Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.
Who has the been the key play-maker for the defense this season?
Staff writer J.D. Smith: Senior safety Trevon Stewart. He has picked up 12 tackles, including 2 for loss and a big sack against Louisville. He was able to recover a fumble and returned an interception for 58 yards, leading to a field goal against the Cardinals.
Staff writer Michael Calderon: Adrian McDonald has been the leader of the defense both in terms of his intangible leadership skills and his production on the field. The senior safety has made his presence felt all over the field, with two quarterback hurries, two pass deflections and two interceptions. McDonald is unquestionably the defense’s best player and he has come through so far this year.
Do you think the secondary is giving up too many yards through the air?
BD: They haven’t played great on the back end, which is a bit surprising to me. With three senior leaders, including corner back William Jackson III, whom many consider to be a lockdown corner, I expected more from the Cougars. However, turnovers have been the biggest emphasis for this defense in the past few years, and that’s something they’ve continued this year. They’ve played some decent quarterbacks so far, but there’s a lot more coming in the gauntlet of the American Athletic Conference, so the Cougars have to find a way to shut down opposing receivers.
JS: Yes, the secondary still has to improve if they hope to have a deep run at the AAC title. The conference is full of pass-heavy teams, and unless the Cougars can keep up with timely turnovers, eventually they will be exposed.
What is going to be the key for the defense against Texas State next week?
TM: Facing another dual threat quarterback in Tyler Jones, the key will be to keep him contained and generate pressure without leaving themselves vulnerable to a quarterback scramble. Texas State really looks to establish the run, so Houston’s 10th ranked rush defense will need to be prepared.
MC: Stopping the potent Texas State running game will be crucial to the Cougars getting a win Saturday night. Through three games, against tough competition, the Bobcats have averaged 287 yards and three scores on the ground. Keeping duel threat quarterback Tyler Jones contained within the pocket will be the first step in halting their opponent’s ground attack.