In the third quarter of last Saturday's UConn game, the UC coaching staff noticed something a little strange with the Huskies defense. Although senior receiver Mardy Gilyard had accumulated nine catches for 127 yards in the first half, UConn wasn't focused on him quite as much when the third quarter began.
Instead, for the first time this season, the opposing defense began to roll its coverage to junior Armon Binns, leaving Gilyard facing a man-to-man defense. Since UConn redshirt freshman Jerome Junior, the replacement for the late Jasper Howard, was inexperienced vs. Binns - and because Binns had made an impact already in the game - the Huskies coach put a safety over the top to help Junior, who was about three inches shorter than Binns. It took the Bearcats coaches a few minutes to notice that Gilyard, all of a sudden, wasn't the main target for the defense.
And really, that's the power of UC's receivers. Basically, there are just too darn many of them to effectively defend them.
You can't double-team Gilyard, because otherwise, this will happen:
"I've been saying this since the summer: if a defense wants to be - how can I put it - ignorant to our other receivers and just mirror me like I'm Mr. Superman, then of course, they're going to get murdered on the back end with Armon and D.J. (Woods)," Gilyard said. "We have weapons for everything, as you can see. We have so many weapons, it makes it hard for a defense to defend us."
You can't double-team Binns, because otherwise, Gilyard will record 12 catches for 172 yards, like he did vs. UConn. And you can't double-team Woods, because of Gilyard's big-play ability and speed and because of Binn's leaping ability.
It is quite the conundrum.
"I've been telling you to watch out for Armon," Gilyard said. "I don't think a lot of people believed me. I've seen him so much. He's been my backup for the last two years. There can't be nothing but good things coming for this kid because he does nothing but good. Just seeing what he does on the field, it's amazing to watch him take off on that one foot and watch him go, go, go like he has a stepladder. He just plucks the ball out of the air so naturally, it's just crazy.
"I expected him to be that good, to be honest. He's filling Goodie's (Dominick Goodman) shoes up. For a guy playing his first year, he's making defenses recognize where he is on the field. They can't play him one-on-one. He's 6-4, 210 pounds, jumping out of the gym and snatching everything out of the air. If you want to double me and go one-on-one with him, Armon is going to go ham.
Pike said after Tuesday's practice that he's pretty close to feeling 100
percent, and he seems OK with Kelly's decision to use him in relief vs.
"Physically, I feel like I'm almost there," Pike said. "The game changes a lot when you're here in practice to the game. That's where that game experience comes in handy. What coach Kelly is talking about doing, mixing me in there a little bit here and there, it's a good idea. Not to have to rush me in and get me a look."
I asked him how much he balanced the prospects of a pro career vs. wanting to be on the field with his teammates when deciding if he can play.
"It's made it a lot easier with how well Zach was doing." Pike said. "If something happened and we were struggling, I'm not going to be looking ahead to what can happen in the future. This team has something special going, and I want to help out as much as I can. The good thing was that Zach came in and did a great job."