Hues­man says he’ll be picky about pick­offs

Rich­mond’s QBs threw 18 in­ter­cep­tions in 11 games last sea­son

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR

Some came on tipped balls. Some were caused by poor pass pro­tec­tion, or an in­cor­rectly run route, or an over­throw. And there were many other fac­tors.

The “how” doesn’t mat­ter as much to Univer­sity of Rich­mond coach Russ Hues­man as the “how many?”

Spi­ders quar­ter­backs threw 18 in­ter­cep­tions in 11 games last sea­son. When UR be­gins spring prac­tice on March 1, aerial turnovers will be the cen­tral is­sue Rich­mond will ad­dress.

Hues­man said he gave of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jeff Dur­den a two-word di­rec­tive as the UR staff be­gan pre­par­ing for spring

ball: “Fix it.”

Sub­par de­ci­sion-mak­ing by quar­ter­backs led the list of rea­sons for in­ter­cep­tions, in Hues­man’s es­ti­ma­tion.

Add nine fum­bles lost and the Spi­ders (4-7, 2-6 CAA) com­mit­ted 27 turnovers. Their turnover mar­gin of mi­nus-9 ranked No. 107 among 124 FCS teams.

“If I can make one guar­an­tee to you, we’re go­ing to cut that,” Hues­man said. “One is go­ing to be too many this year.”

Hues­man was the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the 2008 Rich­mond team that won the FCS cham­pi­onship. Those Spi­ders com­pleted a 13-3 sea­son with a turnover mar­gin of plus-24.

“That’s why you win a na­tional cham­pi­onship. You don’t win cham­pi­onships with­out play­ing great de­fense and hang­ing on to the foot­ball,” Hues­man said. “Two things will hap­pen [this] year. We’ll play great de­fense and we will not turn the ball over.”

Only one FCS team among the di­vi­sion’s 124 threw more in­ter­cep­tions than Rich­mond, and that was VMI (19). The Key­dets, who went 1-10, av­er­aged 53 pass at­tempts, the most in FBS or FCS. The Spi­ders av­er­aged 33 pass at­tempts.

Kevin John­son, who be­gan the sea­son as start­ing quar­ter­back and resur­faced as the backup, threw eight in­ter­cep­tions in seven games. Joe Man­cuso be­came the starter af­ter back­ing up John­son, and Man­cuso threw 10 in nine games.

By the end of the sea­son, Reid Chenault started. He threw none in four games he played (64 pass at­tempts).

John­son trans­ferred from Rich­mond. Man­cuso and Chenault re­turn this year as ju­niors. It seems prob­a­ble that the Spi­ders will try to bring in a trans­fer quar­ter­back be­fore sum­mer prac­tice be­gins.

“Most peo­ple in [the CAA] are one or two play­ers away from win­ning the cham­pi­onship, and one or two play­ers away from be­ing at the bot­tom,” Hues­man said. “That’s what this league is all about.”

An­other em­pha­sis for Rich­mond this spring is re­main­ing healthy. The Spi­ders fin­ished the 2018 sea­son with eight play­ers who started ev­ery game. Only three played of­fense, each a line­man.

“We’re go­ing to have to be care­ful this spring, ob­vi­ously, how much hit­ting we do, how much tack­ling we do,” said Hues­man, who’s in his third year as Spi­ders coach. “You’ve got to be smart in the con­tact that you have, the rest that you’re giv­ing.

“We’ve had just about ev­ery­thing hap­pen … a hip, a shoul­der, a knee, a ham­string. You name it and we kind of had it. If it was one thing specif­i­cally, you might be able to say ‘OK, what’s go­ing on here?’ But it’s just been kind of a wide range of ev­ery­thing that oc­curred.”

The Spi­ders will play their spring game April 6.

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