By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
The Houston Cougars are looking to improve on its 7-5 record in 2017. Head coach Major Applewhite will have a good majority of players returning.
Applewhite’s first season as the head coach ended with a loss in the Hawai’i Bowl. They were defeated 33-27 by the Fresno State Bulldogs.
The 7-5 record under Applewhite was their worst record since a 5-7 record in 2012 under former head coach Tony Levine.
D’Eriq King is projected to be the Cougars starting quarterback this season. He went 90 of 139 for 1,260 passing yards. He also had seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
King started seven of the team’s games last season. He split time with Kyle Postma.
Duke Catalon is projected to be the team’s starting running back. The redshirt junior had 149 carries for 674 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017.
King will have several weapons back as receivers Courtney Lark, Keith Corbin, and Romello Brooker are all returning.
Lark was the Cougars sixth-leading receiver last season. He appeared in just seven games, including four starts, as he had 13 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman Dennis Bardwell is projected to be the team’s right tackle. He is expected to be the only newcomer to the Cougars offensive line.
Josh Jones is projected to start at left tackle, while Braylon Jones is slated to be the team’s left guard. Will Noble is projected to be the team’s starting center.
Mason Denley is projected to be the team’s right guard.
Like the offense, much of the defense is expected to be back, as well. Freshman Payton Turner is projected to be one of the team’s starting defensive ends along with Jerard Carter.
Ed Oliver, who will be playing in his final season with the Cougars before entering in the NFL Draft next April, is the team’s starting defensive tackle. Since Oliver was a freshman, he has been one of the best defensive players in the entire country.
The defensive coaching staff will have to fill the hole at one of the linebacker positions. Emeke Egbule, Roman Brown, and Joeal Williams are slated to be three of the team’s starting linebackers.
Jeremy Winchester and Isaiah Johnson are expected to be the team’s two starting cornerbacks. Garrett Davis and Khari Dotson are slated to be their starting safeties.
Oliver was third in the defensive leaders last season. Through 12 games last season, he had 73 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and seven quarterback hurries.
He also had one blocked kick.