Louisiana-Monroe football coach Todd Berry is a firm believer in the adage, “If you want things done right, you have to do them yourself.”
After the Warhawks started last season winning three of their first four games, they stumbled on their way to a 4-8 finish. The way the season ended, Berry knew there had to be change. He decided he needed to put more of his fingerprints on the team, so he took over play-calling duties for the offense.
“I just felt like it was a good way for me to get more involved with the team and help our offense out,” Berry said Monday at Sun Belt Media Day. “Nothing against what our offensive coaches did for us last year, but I just felt like getting more involved with the play-calling would be a good way for us to shake things up a little bit.”
Getting more production out of the offense will be key for Berry, considering the Warhawks finished in the top 25 in passing yards per game last season but were able to manage only 20.1 points per game — 115th in the nation.
ULM’s inability to convert yards into points was a reason it lost five games by seven points or fewer.
“We just didn’t do a good job of playing poised in those close games last year,” Berry said. “We had opportunities to win just about all of those games, but we just weren’t able to make that big play when we needed it. I think being a more mature team this year should be able to help us on that front.”
Despite starting the season with a new quarterback for the second year in a row after the departure of senior Pete Thomas, Berry returns an experienced receiving group that boasts three pass-catchers who had at least 800 yards last year — including preseason all-conference selections Rashon Ceaser and Ajalen Holley.
Ceaser, a former East Feliciana High standout, was voted to the preseason All-Sun Belt first team for the second consecutive season. He said he already has seen the effect on the offense from Berry taking over.
“We have been making big plays all summer,” he said. “When the summer first started, it took us a little while to adjust. But as time went on, we started going back and forth with the defense more and getting a lot of those big plays down the field.”
While Berry hopes he can have a positive impact on the Warhawks offense, he understands the most important aspect of the team will be the play of the defense. ULM returns nine of its starters from last year’s defensive unit that finished 47th in the nation, including preseason All-Sun Belt first-team selections Gerrand Johnson and Mitch Lane.
Berry said if the Warhawks can continue to make plays on defense the way they did last season, it would make his job a lot easier.
“We’re a really confident unit, and we believe in all the guys we are bringing back,” said Lane, a senior defensive back. “Our main focus as a unit is to just bring the same kind of intensity as we did last season, but doing it with a better focus and eliminating the small mistakes.
“Those small things always come back to bite you in those close games.”