The only time Samford was able to get consistent pressure was when they brought the blitz. Quarterback Trevone Boykin seemed to misread the blitz on several occasions and the offensive line let a number of players into the backfield untouched. It put ugly blemishes on an otherwise solid night of pass protection. These misreads need to be handled pre-snap and the offense needs to have an out.
The Air Raid likes to see and take advantage of the blitz. That’s an aspect to the offense that needs to improve, and it starts with calling the right protection. However, when the protections were called out correctly, the offensive line did a good job of creating and holding a pocket. Only a handful of times the 4-man rush was able beat their man to apply pressure to the pocket. In general, the offensive line had their way in pass protection and Boykin had more than enough time in the pocket for his big night.
The run blocking was more up and down in execution. There were several occasions where the linemen looked lost in their assignments, didn’t finish blocks, or got beat off the ball. On the flip side, there were multiple runs that could be used to write a textbook. The offensive line needs some time to grow in the system, and it was evident when you could see them thinking too much on the field, especially during zone blocking.
One big observation I made was that when asked to block downhill, rather than laterally, left tackle Tayo Fabuluje is a force of nature. He can take a block six yards downfield and bring him to the ground almost at will. The problem is that he was the only one seemingly finishing blocks like this and it didn’t occur often enough. The offensive line needs to get more aggressive in run blocking. They all had moments where they absolutely mauled the competition physically, but they showed they were capable of more.
Fabuluje got beaten badly on two notable plays in pass protection. The first was on the 13-yard sack of Boykin. Samford brought the blitz and both Naff and Fabuluje got beaten outside after not getting their kick steps back in time. The second was on a big hold on 2nd and long. Fabuluje got beaten with a speed rush to the outside from the 5-technique, and he had to hold to not let Boykin get drilled. Fabuluje can be an absolute beast in running plays, but hesitates on smaller shiftier targets when he should dominate them.
On a couple of occasions, left guard Jamelle Naff bit on a stunt and went after the wrong guy. He was too slow to drag step back into position and got beaten inside. Quick pressure up the middle is an offensive guard and quarterback’s worst nightmare. On the near TD that Boykin barely missed to wide receiver Kolby Listenbee, Naff recovered after the initial stunt, but Boykin felt the pressure and pulled the trigger early.
Right guard Brady Foltz was solid in pass protection and only lost on a bull rush followed by a rip move late in the game. The pressure didn’t amount to a sack, but it was the only time he was dominated off the ball in the passing game.
Center Joey Hunt looks like a really good center and a technician. When asked to go one-on-one he more than handled his own, he transitioned his blocks expertly, and seems to have a solid grasp when zone blocking.
I think the most solid pass protector of the night would have to be right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. On one blitz he left a man unaccounted for, but in 1-on-1 situations he was more than solid. His man rarely got within 3 yards of the QB.
Overall, in a 48-14 win the trenches had to be dominated. There were things that need to improve, but there is a lot to be excited about. Samford’s linemen were physically overmatched all night, and if the Horned Frogs can eliminate the simple mistakes, then we will see more wins like the one on Saturday against even better competition. The Samford Bulldogs are hardly the best pass-rushing team in the nation, but I saw a well-coached line that is starting to come together as a unit. I expect them to build on this performance.