Coming in the 2013 season defensive linemen James Rouse was a bit of an unknown despite being in Huntington since before even coach Doc Holliday rode into town. Being redshirted in 2009 and then back and achilles injuries had limited to only 15 games going into last season. But once he had a real shot at the field, Rouse introduced himself to Huntington with six sacks, 16 for a loss, while making 39 tackles while also knocking down three passes. Spending so much time in your opponents backfield will do wonders for improving your stock with teammates, coaches and fans, as well as the media. Coming into the 2014 season Rouse has been named to the team’s MVP last year, as well as a preseason defensive player of the year by Conference USA.
When you earn the respect of all those people, especially the coaches’, you can understand why Holliday is resting him a good put through the Herd’s preseason.
“The guy has something in the bank,” Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. “You know who he is. You just try to manage him.
“It’s akin to an NFL veteran player,” he continued. “You know what they’re about. You’re just trying to get them through with their bodies and you just want them at top speed when we’re getting ready to play.”
The coaches don’t want to lose last year’s leader in tackles for a loss and sacks to a injury. Rouse did just fine though with rest (three tackles for a loss and one sack after missing a week against Tulsa) and also doing just fine when Marshall had two games in less than a week as he had a few tackles against Eastern Carolina as well. He didn’t have any sacks or tackles that day, but he made up for it with two pass deflections. When teams tried to protect their quarterbacks with more protection like ECU did, Rouse still cause havoc.
Keeping him healthy is critical for the Herd as he missed four games last year, and if the Herd want to continue with a defense that saw a 20.2 points allowed improvement from 2012 (44.8, one away from dead last at 123rd) to 2013 (24.7, ranked 39th).
Maybe it was just bad luck, but more likely Rouse may be injury-prone. If you are the Herd’s coaching staff the best thing you can do is make sure you aren’t taxing his body any more than necessary.