Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #36 Sione Houma

Sione Houma
Name: Sione Houma
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 240 lbs.
High school: Salt Lake City (UT) Highland
Position: Fullback
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #39
Last year: I ranked Houma #52 and said he would be the backup fullback and special teams player. He had 2 catches for 14 yards, 1 kickoff return for 19 yards, plus 8 tackles.

Houma was a part-time starter (two games) last season, as he was locked in a battle with Joe Kerridge. Both played decently well, but neither stood out. It's tough to be a standout fullback, though. Houma looked pretty quick on a 9-yard catch against Akron, returned a short kickoff 19 yards against Iowa, and caught a 5-yard pass against Kansas State. He has always looked like the best athlete of the fullbacks, but Kerridge has supposedly been the better blocker.

This is the year I'm expecting the tide to turn at the position. When Houma was a freshman in 2012, you could see the inexperience and tell that he wasn't really ready for college football. Things were moving too fast for him, and Kerridge was the best option. Last year Houma seemed to catch up mentally. This year the edge Houma has on Kerridge physically should help him win the job, relegating Kerridge to a backup role. Based mostly on my gut, I think new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will prefer a more athletic fullback on the field (whenever the position itself is deemed necessary). Nussmeier likes to spread the field a little more than the departed Al Borges, and Houma has running skills that Kerridge lacks. I wouldn't expect either to touch the ball very much, but I think Houma is a guy you can play as an H-back type and hit in the flat occasionally with positive results.

Prediction: Starting fullback; 3 catches, 20 yards, 1 touchdown


  1. To this day I can still hear Bob Ufer calling the offensive set -- "Two tight ends and a balanced line ... Huckleby deep and Davis close ... Ricky Leach under center." It was the classic "I" formation, and I recall Davis at FB got the call more than a few times (Davis stats: 523 carries for 2,550 yards).

    What the story behind the FB position diminishing? And do you see the position eventually fading into obscurity?

    I hope Houma has a great season, by whatever standards that position would indicate.

  2. "The Spread" is mostly the story. People in the day talked about the point of attack. You would attempt to get numbers to a spot and overwhelm a defense. Think "Student Body Right/Left".

    Now, they want to make you defend the entire width of the field and "get players into space".

    The iso is kind of a remnant of that thinking that is still around in various schemes and there are guys who still want to hit you in the mouth, Harbaugh being one of the notables. But I think it'll be awhile before you see teams lining up tight and attacking a point on the field in mass. Which is ok with me. I'm sick to death of I Formation Football. I may have said that before.

  3. I can remember the days when FB carried the ball alot. Think Larry Csonka and Jim Otis

    1. We used to use fullbacks as actual ballcarriers, into the late 80's. Russell Davis, Larry Reid, Stanley Edwards, Leroy Hoard. Not really at all since the Moeller era.

  4. If you advocate for walk-ons at FB you imply their skills are easily replaced and/or not that important. That was for an offense that actually uses the position (under Borges); Now we have an OC who leans toward NOT using it AND we have depth. Kerridge is the returning vet and we have a few other youngsters who might fit the role too.

    I like Houma. I think it'd be nice to add athleticism into the mix at FB. And I think you're right that he might surpass Kerridge on standard downs...but if he got injured for the season I'd pretty much shrug and think the team was unaffected. Whereas if you told me Charlton was hurt, I'd think we were in trouble at SDE and expect some position changes. If Mone or Hurst got hurt, I'd worry about depth and our DT rotation. If Hayes got hurt, I'd wonder who was going to handle 3rd downs and hurry-up situations, start contemplating Norfleet going back to RB. The Heitzman/Williams blocking TE role is probably more important than FB, and that's assuming Butt is healthy. Heck, we might use a 4th CB more often than we use a FB.

    Maybe that's an exaggeration, maybe not, but with an OC from the single-back school of thought, a QB who can run, I don't know how much FB we'll see, even in goalline sets. And when we do go goalline, Kerridge is probably the guy anyway. There's just not that much room for Houma to be an impact player, IMHO.

    The one thing I see as an argument for Houma to be in the top 40 is the possibility that he draws into the mix for single-back duties on passing downs. I've argued that it's Hayes' job, but if Houma proves adept at picking up blitzes or if Hayes is hurt, it could be him. But, I'm not expecting that to happen.

    Other than Hollowell, Thomas, Kerridge, I think most of the last 10 plus guys will get more snaps than Houma...but we'll see what Nuss ends up doing with FBs. It seems to me that coaches don't change that much, or at least revert to what they know when put in stressful situations.

  5. Houma has been terribly under utilized. I hope he is catching passes and running some too this year. To have him ramming into blockers is a waste.

    1. Now that Borges is out of the way I'm hoping we'll see more of what players have to offer.

    2. We've used fullbacks pretty much just as battering rams for the last 25 years or so, and to some extent, tight ends as well. Maybe two carries and one catch a year from that position. Largely the result of plodding, unimaginative, predictable offenses that focus on trying to overpower one point of attack with brute force, rather than spreading the field and using unpredictability and athletic superiority to create mismatches.

    3. C'mon guys, he's a fullback. What do you expect? UM is not going to time warp back to '70's football and start handing off to a FB. There are reasons no teams do that anymore. To get Houma the ball, he'll need to have some H-back skills to go along with being a blocking threat. Not sure if he has that, but I remember liking Houma's speed out of HS. He came to UM on the small-side for the position, but seems to have bulked up nicely. But at best, he's a part time player.

  6. Personally would've rated him and Kerridge in the mid 40s together, solely for their special teams abilities.