BELTON — With head coach Pete Fredenburg absent from Andersen Field House on Monday morning, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s weekly news conference featured offensive coordinator Jeff Shinn and defensive coordinator Larry Harmon, who gave their takes on the Crusaders’ recently completed bye week.
“My wife was ready for me to go back to work,” Shinn joked. “I got the kids all off of their routines and they missed nap times. I think I was more trouble than it was worth.”
Fredenburg was unavailable because of a doctor’s appointment, according to the school.
It could be argued that Harmon’s defense didn’t need an extra week of work. The Crusaders (5-0, 1-0 American Southwest Conference) rank first in the country against the run, seventh in total defense and ninth in points allowed.
The 12th-year UMHB defensive coordinator was glad to have the open date, though.
“Last week was primarily about getting fundamentally better,” Harmon said. “Plus, it helped us get healthy because we were pretty beat up on defense.
“Our guys were complaining more than normal about being really dead-legged. We had been doing the gauntlet with our practice, really pounding them. Hopefully last week has taken care of being dead-legged.”
One player who couldn’t be healed in one week was tackle Silvio Diaz (foot), although the ASC preseason defensive player of the year is getting around better than he was.
“Silvio is walking now,” Harmon said. “He hasn’t practiced and we don’t know when he will, but we might have got lucky and not lost him for the year. We don’t know when he’ll be back, but he’s at least walking.”
Diaz did not play against Trinity two weeks ago but will be missed more come Saturday afternoon, when No. 2 UMHB hosts Louisiana College (4-1, 2-0) and bruising, running back Ryan Montague.
“They’re setting everything up through Montague. They know he is a guy who can beat people,” Harmon said. “You have to really have a plan for him because he’s very talented.
“They’re a little more physical this year. Montague will make people not want to play defense. He’s physical and hits it going downhill.”
The Crusaders are strong against the run on an annual basis and have shored up their pass defense this season with a combination of strength up front (21 sacks) and experience in the secondary (11 interceptions).
“We have the most experienced back end that we’ve had since I’ve been here, and our D-line is pretty good,” Harmon said. “I think people feel like there’s a clock in their head and they have to get the ball off.”
On the other side of the ball, Shinn believes his offense can keep the explosiveness that has helped it average 38 points per game and produce 10 scoring plays of 20-plus yards, while also limiting the mistakes that have led to 15 turnovers.
Now he wants the unit to go out and prove him right.
“Offensively, it’s time for us to go execute,” the second-year coordinator said. “Layoff or no layoff, we’re going to come to work this week because we have something to prove. Let’s be an error-free team that takes care of the ball and takes what the defense gives us.”
The Crusaders should be boosted by the return of senior running back Elijah Hudson, who has a team-high 404 rushing yards but did not play in the last two games because of an injured ankle.
“We’re still working on getting Elijah completely healthy, but he’s come a long way,” Shinn said. “He’s going to be good to go this week.”
While Harmon touched on preparing for the odd formations and trick plays that LC usually shows, Shinn spoke about taking advantage of match-ups.
“We’ve got some (tricks) that we work on from time to time, but first we have to get better at taking what the defense gives us,” he said. “If people are going to load up to stop the run, we need to make plays on the perimeter. If people are going to protect the perimeter, we need to make plays in the run game.”