“I played against UNLV and got about three series of reps,” said Shawn Doman. “It was my first game since the Tulsa game and it felt great to be back out there.”
As mentioned, Doman has been held out of the past several games due to back problems, which have limited his play over the past two years. Doman now feels that the worst of his back problems are behind him, and he looks to add depth and athleticism to the linebacking corps.
“I had a bulged disk in my back that I’ve battled through,” said Doman. “They told me that it was a bit worse than what I’ve had before, so I had to just wait and see how it healed. Trainers felt I was good to go this last game, so I did and I feel I did pretty well.”
Although he hasn’t played in any games since the game against Tulsa, Doman hasn’t missed much practice time. Feeling fine overall, yet unable to play due to a nagging injury, has been frustrating for the sophomore, who at the start of the season was pegged to play a big role in the defense.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating for sure,” said Doman. “You feel like you can play, but you can’t get cleared. I understood the nature of my injury, and the bye week really helped. I feel now that I’m over it and I’m ready to go for the rest of the year.”
Doman’s ready to renew his role as the rotating inside linebacker opposite starter Kelly Poppinga. It’s a role he shares with Markell Staffieri and adds depth and some different athleticism to that which Staffieri brings to the field.
“It’s important for our defense to have [Doman] back,” said inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell. “Shawn is really going to be a great player here and already does everything he needs to for us to have as much confidence in him as the other guys out there.”
What Doman adds - besides the obvious depth as he rotates in and out with Staffieri - is above-average speed, which aids him in the open field and in coverage during passing downs. This season, Doman has looked to add strength so he can increase his ability to fill gaps, which will subsequently increase his playing time.
“I run very well,” said Doman. “I’m very good in the open field, but I’ve worked very hard [on] adding strength so I don’t get run over in the gaps. So far I’ve done well and I’ve reached the point where I can sub in during most situations.”
“I won’t hesitate to use Shawn in any situation,” said Tidwell. “He runs better than most of our other inside backers and he can do a lot of things well. We’re thankful to have him back so he can rotate and get equal reps with Markell.”
After returning to action, Doman met his first test as he faced UNLV’s big, bruising running back Frank Summers, who has made a living running over the opposition. So how did Doman fare against him?
“I met him once and I got him down,” said Doman.
Shakeup at Cornerback
Andre Saulsberry has assumed starting responsibilities from starting boundary corner Ben Criddle during the past two games due to a combination of disciplinary reasons and injury setbacks with Criddle. Last game saw Saulsberry start and sub with Criddle throughout the game.
“I don’t know if I’ll start this week,” said Saulsberry following Monday’s practice session, when he practiced with the second-teamers and Criddle saw all of the reps with the first-teamers. “I’ll just do whatever the coaches ask. If they want me to start, then I’m good to go. I just want to help the team.”