(Photo: USA Today)
Texas will kickoff the 2022 season Saturday night when they welcome Louisiana-Monroe to Austin. The Warhawks, who are under second year coach Terry Bowden, are coming off a 2021 season where they started 4-3 but went winless in their final 5 games to miss bowl eligibility.
Bowden has had to replace both coordinators this offseason and turnover a good portion of his roster. Let's take a look at what to expect from ULM on Saturday night.
The majority of the returning experience for ULM comes on the offensive side of the ball. The bad news for the Warhawks is the offense was not very good in 2021 and lost several key pieces this offseason, including offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez. Replacing Rodriguez is Matt Kubik, who actually previously served as the offensive coordinator at ULM from 2016 to 2019. Kubik will have to his work cut out for him, as ULM rushed for a measly 3.2 yards per carry a season ago. ULM does return their top two leading rushers in Malik Jackson (451 yards in 2021) and Andrew Henry (485 yards in 2021).
At quarterback, Bowden named sophomore Chandler Rogers the starter. Rogers started a handful of games in 2021 and appeared in all 12. He finished the season completing 63% of his passes for 1311 yards and 9 touchdowns to go along with 3 interceptions. Rogers also uses his legs fairly well (367 rushing yards in 2021). His favorite target will be senior Boogie Knight, who had a team high 588 receiving yards in 2021 with 3 touchdowns.
A big unknown for the Warhawks is the offensive line. Projected starting LT Willie Tyler, who started his career at Texas, transferred to Rutgers this offseason and the offense will also have to replace C Garrett Hirsch. Bowden has previously mentioned depth along the OL as a concern and ULM will be breaking in several young starters.
Former West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning was hired by Bowden this offseason to take over the ULM defense. The Warhawks were abysmal against the pass in 2021, allowing over 290 yards per game through the air. Things were not much better on the ground, as ULM ranked 91st in the country in rush defense allowing 175 yards per game.
Nose tackle Caleb Thomas is a multi-year starter who does a good job in the run game, but the rest of the defensive line is a major question mark. ULM is replacing both starting defensive ends from the 2021 squad.
If there is a strength of the defense, it is at linebacker. Middle linebacker Zack Woodard is an all-conference player who is extremely active. Tristan Driggers figures to see a lot of snaps at the other primary LB spot and is undersized at 6'0 200 pounds.
ULM is replacing 5 players in the secondary who had starting experience. The Warhawks hit the portal and junior college ranks in an attempt to fill some holes in the backend of their defense. It will be hard for the unit to be as bad as they were a season ago, but the number of new faces makes this unit an unknown.
Terry Bowden took over a program that went 0-10 in 2021 and improved their win total to 4 in his first year, which is impressive. The Warhawks could very likely be an improved team from a season ago, but it tough to see a scenario where they are able to hang with Texas. ULM has too many holes defensively and the Longhorns should be able to move the ball without much resistance. It is possible that ULM lands a few punches on offense early in the game to make things interesting, but the question marks on the OL will make life difficult for Chandler Rogers.