Ahh, Youth. A great thing to have in life.
In Football, not so much.
UNA has a ton of youth, some of it experienced and some it inexperienced, but youth non the less. It does not end on the defensive side of the ball for UNA, they have it on offense as well. They will be going up against a Lion defense that is very experienced, and as of a few days ago, just got a heck of a lot more talented. So, here are 5 thoughts in defending North Alabama.
- Offenses begin with QB play. UNA’s starter will likely be Blake Hawkins. The 6’5 212 Redshirt Sophomore from Florence, Alabama takes over an offense that averaged 36 points per game and rolled up 419 yards of offense on average. Hawkins does not have a lot of experience. The way to go after this one is to make life very hard for him via blitzing and mixing up coverage schemes when he does throw the ball. Getting him rattled is going to be instrumental in beating UNA. Putting the screws on him early and often might be just enough to beat the guy. The one thing that cannot happen is for him to build up confidence, or he will be tough to stop.
- Dre Hall is the single biggest offensive weapon for UNA. He had over 1,000 yards receiving last year and was Super Region 2 team. The one thing that cannot happen is for him to become a home run threat. You might consider how Carthel and Co are going to defend him. Will it be man to man, or a tight zone, or a combo of both? He is going to be tough to cover and probably won’t be shut down, but he can be contained. The guy basically shattered every UNA receiving record last year, keep an eye out for him.
- Balance is key for UNA. They run and pass and are not one dimensional. That is why I said that QB play is going to be big. If you force them to become one dimensional, that could be their undoing. Looking at stats and film, they like to have it both ways. What helped NE Missouri State beat them in the Title game last year was forcing them to commit to passing as UNA only put up 29 rushing yards in the game. That forced a unit not used to throwing for a living to try that and it did not work well.
- The Running game is something to attack as well. RS-Jr Damon Cox was the Lions best rusher last year and he only tallied 520 yards of rushing for the entire season on 107 carries. He is however, a big time threat out of the backfield. If Hawkins gets flustered and Dre Hall is covered well, expect Cox to be his safety blanket in the flats. Though not very fast, Hall is a hard nosed runner and does not mind contact.
- UNA’s offensive line is probably the least experienced out of the unit. They have to replace 3 seniors and return 2 juniors. The Seniors that left were interior mainly and that is going to be a big deal with as much as TAMUC brings heat and crashes gaps effectively. With most of the D-Line returning and younger guys like Brucks Saathoff and Garrett Blubaugh making plays behind the line last year, this is the matchup I am most interested in.