WEEK 5: North Texas vs Houston:
Two Texas teams who suffered significant roster losses this week squared off in Denton this past Saturday. The Mean Green lost explosive wide receiver and projected high draft pick Rico Bussey to a knee injury. His presence will be sorely missed by this North Texas team, especially by senior quarterback Mason Fine who is one heck of a find. The Oklahoma native has produced a prolific career in Denton while setting many North Texas passing records. Though undersized for the position while standing around 5-10, Fine is a quarterback first and athlete second, as he really impressed me with the strength of his arm, his mobility, the clear ability to work through his progression, and his toughness to keep coming back when hit.
Helping to protect up front for the Mean Green is left guard Elex Woodworth, who overcame some serious adversity this offseason after suffering a ruptured Achilles in the winter. A testament to his work ethic and mental fortitude, Woodworth returned three weeks ago and only needed a week to start looking like his old self. Woodworth is an athletic blocker who bends very well in his hips and knees. He’s also a versatile player who has repped snapping the ball in practice and filled in some last season at left tackle when needed.
On defense for North Texas, defensive end LaDarius Hamilton has been a monster for the Mean Green while flashing great twitch with his hands to disengage blockers and come off to tackle. Hamilton possesses a real athletic build, but what impressed me most was his ability to come out of hips engaging offensive linemen and producing some serious “knock back” to reset the line of scrimmage. He’ll be known as a pass rusher, but don’t discount Hamilton’s ability to also play the run.
On the backend, North Texas has two senior safety prospects in the rangy Taylor Robinson and the feisty Khairi Muhammad. Robinson – who plays to the field side of the ball – shows some solid man-to-man cover skills matching up with opposing receivers. There are times where I’d like to see greater urgency to the football, but there are also some plays where he comes flying up ready to get physical as well. Muhammad – who plays to the boundary side – took about two plays of film to quickly become one of my favorite players this year. Despite being generously listed at 5-11 (he’s really about 5-9), the Dallas native is a missile of a player in the secondary. It will be important for him to test well in the spring (especially in the 40), but he’s the type of prospect who gets discounted by most because of his size before making it in the NFL — first on a practice squad before really earning his keep on special teams.
For the Cougars, it was devastating news when electric QB D’Eriq King decided to redshirt and sit out the remainder of the season. Both he and fellow senior wide receiver Keith Corbin were two of Houston’s three legit prospects, leaving left tackle Josh Jones as the stand-alone guy from a scout’s perspective. Jones is a very athletic tackle with good arm length that he consistently plays with to maintain space between him and defenders. He showed his athleticism early in the game by pulling out on run plays and then finishing them with some good ol’ fashioned nastiness.