An Inside Look at the Houston Cougars

Nikki Chavanelle, Publisher
The Hill Topics

Cougars Den Publisher tells you everything you need to know about the 2017 Cougs.

Coaching - Houston head coach Major Applewhite is in his first season as a head coach after serving as Houston's offensive coordinator each of the last two seasons under Tom Herman. Applewhite brought over Brian Johnson from Mississippi State to serve as offensive coordinator. Johnson served as the quarterback's coach for the Bulldogs under Dan Mullen from 2014-2016.

Defensively they lose defensive coordinator Todd Orlando who left to assume the same role at Texas under Tom Herman, Applewhite hired Mark D'Onofrio who was defensive coordinator at Miami from 2011-2015.

Offense - Offensively the Cougars deploy a multi spread offense that utilizes a lot of quick passes and isn't afraid to take the occasional deep shot down the field. They use their backs and receivers in a variety of ways which includes getting the backs involved in the passing game out of the backfield and it's not uncommon to see an occasional running play from the receiver position.

There's been some struggles this season as the Cougars continue to try to find their groove offensively. Kyle Allen started the year under center but Kyle Postma has taken over since late in the game against Texas Tech. It appears that Applewhite will stick with Postma moving forward. Postma gives the Cougars a bit more of a running threat from the quarterback position and maybe a bit more command of the offense. Talent wise, Allen has everything you can ask for, he just hasn't been able to maintain consistency and at times has made poor decisions.

The Cougars have a stable of talented backs in Duke Catalon, Dillon Birden and Mulbah Car. At the receiver position they benefit with a healthy D'Eriq King who is a dynamic athlete at the receiver position. They've got a bit of size with Stephen Dunbar and Linell Bonner who are typically pretty consistent but have had their share of struggles over the last couple of weeks.

Defense - As mentioned above the Cougars utilize a 3-4 defense that features a hybrid safety playing one of the outside linebacker positions. There's no secret that the the playmaker of the defense is true sophomore All-American Ed Oliver who is a sideline to sideline player from the defensive tackle position. Former Texas A&M transfer Reggie Chevis mans one of the defensive end positions, his addition has been key for Houston. Nick Thurman plays the other defensive end position. The Cougars have been pretty solid defensively outside of giving up 521 yards of total offense to Texas Tech. They've held their three other opponents to 16 points or less. They gave up 16 to Arizona, 3 to Rice and 13 to Temple. The front seven is considered the strength led by Oliver and middle linebacker Mathew Adams.

The question mark is within the defensive backfield, which may not bode well for the Cougars against SMU. They are solid at safety with Garrett Davis and Terrell Williams it's the cornerback position that can cause concerns for the defense.The problem at cornerback is they are young and inexperienced. The starters are former wide receiver Isaiah Johnson who's only been playing cornerback since March and then you have Alex Myres who's getting settled in this season. Behind those two are a true sophomore in Ka'Darian Smith and junior Jeremy Winchester who was an expected starter entering the season but has been too inconsistent.

Special Teams- In the kicking game the Cougars are led by 28 year old Aussie punter Dane Roy who prior to walking on at Houston and earning a scholarship was a former ice cream salesman in Australia. Roy is averaging 40.5 yards per punt and has downed 12 of his 22 punts inside the opposing 20-yard line.

Placekicker Caden Novikoff is 5-of-7 on field goal attempts with a long of 47 yards.In the return game it appears Houston may have found their answer to the departed Brandon Wilson. John Leday already has a couple of dynamic returns but has yet to find the endzone. He's averaging 36.4 yards per return on his five return attempts with a long of 81 yards.

Injuries - sophomore cornerback Javian Smith has a knee injury and it's not expected that he'll be back this week. Sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver is the name to watch for Saturday. He injured his MCL after a chop block against Temple caught him in the knee. An MRI ruled out anything serious and he's listed as a game time decision according to Major Applewhite. Knowing Ed Oliver I'd be surprised if he wasn't out there come kickoff.

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