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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Football

UH football 2020 season grades: Linebackers


UH football senior linebacker Grant Stuard puts a big hit on BYU quarterback Zach Wilson | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH football senior linebacker Grant Stuard puts a big hit on BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Examining how the Houston defense performed by position group during the 2020 season, which featured many firsts and had plenty of ups and downs, continues.

After covering the defensive line last time, the attention now turns to the linebackers and how they fared during a shorter season for the UH football team:

Season in review

The linebacker core was led by senior Grant Stuard, who led the Cougar defense with 61 tackles and recently began his preparation for the 2021 NFL draft, along with senior Jovanni Stewart and junior Donavan Mutin.

As a group, the linebacking core was responsible for 142 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble and recovery on the season.

Out of the eight games played, only two linebackers played in five games or more while the rest were in and out of the rotation for the most part, which impacted just how much the group could get going throughout the season.

In a season like no other, the Cougars faced adversity all year and the linebacker position was one of UH’s hardest hit with COVID-19 and injury issues.

The good and bad

The linebackers were not very involved in pass rush, only putting up 4.5 sacks in eight games left a bit of a void in terms of applying pressure and as a result, allowed for more time to throw for opposing quarterbacks.

Forcing turnovers was also a struggle for the defense as a whole, but the linebacker core only came up with a single one all season between the nine active players.

The UH football team’s linebackers did a solid job with tackling and stopping the run at the beginning of the season, preventing big runs and filling in the gaps to make the big stops at the line of scrimmage.

But as the season progressed, the defense as a whole got gashed by their opponents on the ground, and the linebackers specifically struggled to catch quarterbacks when they got outside the pocket, leading to scrambles for big gains.

Injury and players being moved in and out of rotation took its toll, and a lack of depth made the group’s job even harder.

Players like junior Zamar Kirven, who ended up entering the transfer portal, and others would have been helpful but were out the majority of the season, and no one aside from Stuard had more than 25 tackles.

Performance grade

Just eight games were completed this season and like many position groups on the UH roster, many new faces took the field each week and got a feel for the position in terms of depth.

While the linebackers showed positive signs as run stoppers early, they struggled to carry it into the later stages of the season.

Overall, the biggest problem for the linebacking core was the lack of turnovers and quarterback pressure inside and outside the pocket. Sacks were lacking and turnovers even more so.

While Stuard has a solid season and was the biggest positive from the linebackers season, it will take more than just him to make this position a unit.

Overall Grade: C

For more of The Cougar’s 2020 UH football offseason grades, click here

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