Major Applewhite's second squad finishes up spring ball on Saturday with the Cougar's spring game. For Applewhite it's a big season, another 7-5 season or worse warms the seat a bit. Here's what we're looking for when the Coogs get all controlled scrimmagy.
Last year Houston had perhaps the best quarterback depth in college football. Kyle Allen started, a former five-star who transferred in from an SEC squad. Kyle Postma, a multi-year backup with starter skills and loads of experience was ready to go at a moments notice. The Cougars best quarterback, D'Eriq King, was a receiver/slot when the season started. Now Allen and Postma are gone, and Houston is looking for depth.
Clayton Tune and Bryson Smith are both in the running. Several P5 schools offered Tune, including Ole Miss. Smith redshirted last year after coming down the Tyler to Houston pipeline. There won't be any live action on Saturday, so take the results with a grain of salt, but whoever emerges from the spring and fall camp, when called upon, will be taking their first college snap. We may not see much of King on Saturday, so the game will be a showcase for Tune and Smith.
The best bet is to keep D'Eriq King upright and healthy. Maybe Kendall Briles can work that out.
Depth isn't an issue at linebacker per say, more how does Mark D'Onofrio deploy the talent. Houston received good news when the NCAA granted Austin Robinson a sixth year. Robinson, Emeke Egbule, David Anenih, and Leroy Godfrey all played outside last year but with Matthew Adams and D’Juan Hines gone inside the holes are there. We like Coog Fan's suggestion of moving Egbule inside. At 6-3, 245 he's size is ideal for the position, but he's got to learn shed and move inside the tackle box rather than set the edge.
Miami transfer Darrion Owens should be a staple inside and might be the best candidate to fill Adams' and Hines' shoes. Other than Owens, the pickings inside are slim on the experience side, but Derek Parrish is a talented player out of Pearland who benefited from a redshirt year.
Elijah Gooden is a nice athlete who played quite a bit as a freshman. He led Boling to the state title game at running back. His size indicates he's an edge player/rush specialist, but he's got great quicks.
Houston has the athletes; they need to figure out how to use them.
We're excited to see Briles' offense in Houston, especially with a little Lane Kiffin sauce learned from a year in Boca. The Coogs replace Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar at receiver, two of the most prolific pass catchers in the AAC.
Courtney Lark, a former four-star recruit from Bellaire hasn't lived up to his lofty star ranking yet, but his size and athleticism might meld well with Briles' vertical passing approach, especially if Houston establishes its run game. Could he fit the mold of a Corey Coleman, Kendall Wright, or Antwan Goodly, Baylor flyers who took the top off defenses? Keith Corbin is in the mix as well, he has elite size but has yet to produce to any significant level.
The best options at receiver might be a bumper crop of redshirts. Jeremy Singleton out of Louisiana had offers from Arkansas, Missouri, and others. Tre'von Bradley is a real burner who spent last fall working at receiver after playing quarterback at Cleburne.
Sophomore Marquez Stevenson has battled injuries in his two seasons, and after missing last season, he's got a real chance to be in the rotation. ACLs are tricky recoveries and trusting the repair takes time.
Former Judson quarterback Julon Williams moves to receiver after an ultra-productive high school career. He might be a project, but he's got all the athletic skills to make the transition.
We're eager to see Briles' offense and one or two of these receivers are due for a big 2018.
Houston has the potential and the schedule to compete for the AAC West, that was the case last year as well, but Houston stubbed its toe. If Houston can figure out a few questions this spring and into fall camp they'll be able to compete with anyone on their slate.
Houston's spring game starts at 3:30 at TDECU Stadium an is free to the public.