It’s no secret that the ULM Warhawks need a complete defensive turnaround if the team is to have any hopes of contending for a Sun Belt title. The Warhawks had the league’s highest-scoring offense in 2017, finishing 4-8 on the year. If the Warhawks defense doesn’t give up 41 points and 532 yards per game, you’re likely looking at a team that’s running the score up on their opponents and contending for a division and conference title.
For Matt Viator and company, that’s the exact philosophy heading into the 2018 football season. With a returning star quarterback, a deep group of running backs and receivers, and a veteran offensive line, ULM is poised to lead the conference in scoring yet again. The only issue is, if the Warhawks return a defense that allows big numbers, the production of the offense will essentially go to waste.
But that’s just the worst case scenario.
I, along with many others, fully expect this team to greatly improve on the defensive side of the ball. With a revamped secondary and an experienced front seven, there is certainly hope that this unit can slow down opposing offenses this fall.
That turnaround is going to have to start up front. While the secondary has been upgraded, the unit still features several new faces and loses multiple key starters. The back part of the defense is certainly the biggest question mark for this team. It’s not an overnight fix, as the incoming defensive backs will need time and experience to build chemistry and trust with one another.
Earlier this week, defensive assistant James Roberson spoke with me on how the defensive front can help bring this new secondary along, as well as other impacts the defensive line will have on the success of the 2018 Warhawk defense.
Jacob Young: Can you give me a general idea of how the defense is looking this fall?
Coach Roberson: We feel really good about our guys. We have had a good camp so far with lots of competition at multiple positions. Something we knew we had to do was keep our guys healthy and for the most part we are in good shape. With the freshman and transfers we brought in during the off-season we have created depth at some positions which will be extremely beneficial for us. The kids are playing hard and they know we have to come out this year and improve off of last season.
Jacob: How important do you think the play of the defensive line will be in helping a secondary with a lot of new faces?
Coach Roberson: I think their play is very important for the help of our secondary. We have some experience in the room that I know will play a big part this season. The guys in our room have worked their tails off this offseason learning some new techniques from our new DL coach, Anthony Camp, and myself. Coach Manny Michel that retired at the end of last season left us with a great foundation to build off of in that room. That being said we feel good about attacking our gaps and stopping runners from entering the second level, and having a great pass rush on the QB. Both of these things will take some pressure off the the secondary. The defensive backs are extremely well coached, but anything we can do to help this is a big positive.
Jacob: Who are some guys up front you could see burst onto the scene and have a big impact this year?
Coach Roberson: I feel we have some really talented guys in our room so that’s a hard question, but a great problem to have. At the DE positions I feel like Donald Louis and Sam Miller will have a really good year for us. On the inside at DT we expect Jaylen Veasley to have a stand out season. These three guys are complimented with some good talent that will also see the field a good portion of the year.
Jacob: How do you see this defense complimenting an offense that looks to once again lead the league in scoring?
Coach Roberson: The defense is going to compliment the offense by going out there and being disciplined and by playing fast and hard. We spent the off-season pushing each other and really trying to highlight the things that we do well. With the addition of some new kids and some new coaches on defense, we feel good about playing well alongside the offense. And it doesn’t hurt when you get to practice against one of the best offenses in the country everyday!
Thanks to Coach Roberson for taking the time to speak with me. You can follow him on Twitter @CoachJMRoberson