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Houston Cougars Spring Game Recap

Health was a priority, and many new faces saw the field as a result.

NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Houston vs San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There may be a new regime leading the Houston Cougars, but that hasn’t diluted the excitement surrounding the upcoming season. Along with new faces on the coaching staff and roster, the campus is getting some exciting additions as well. A new Cougar statue was revealed outside of the stadium Saturday, and construction on the Cougars’ new indoor practice facility progresses as well.

Distractions may be just what Houston needed heading into the game, as the Cougars have been working smaller number on each side of the ball. With the coaching turnover and plenty of injuries, Head Coach Major Applewhite had plenty to juggle heading into Saturday’s glorified scrimmage.

So what did we learn? Well, first, the Red (offense) team beat the white (defense) team 51-33. Staying healthy and finding depth at multiple positions were goals, and the Cougars took a step towards those goals on Saturday. The passing game needs work, but that was expected coming in.

Missing two starting receivers and having a new quarterback will cause some hiccups. Houston will need to be a running team, but that wasn’t a problem in the spring game. Defensively, the secondary appears to be the most polished, and proved so by intercepting three passes and knocking down many more. Here is a breakdown of each position group.

Quarterback

  • Kyle Allen made fans question why he was the chosen starter by throwing two interceptions in the first half. After correcting his mistakes, he didn’t throw another the remainder of the game.
  • Mason McClendon was the clear backup with Kyle Postma not participating due to injury.
  • Allen went 12-18 for 62 yards with two picks while McClendon went 6-14 for 27 yards and a pick.
NCAA Football: Tulane at Houston
Catalon will lead the backs in the fall, and there is good depth behind him
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Running back & Fullback

  • Duke Catalon will be the starter due to his unique skill set in both the run and pass games.
  • Dillon Birden appears to be the backup, but Mulbah Car will compete with him and probably split carries in the fall.
  • After Patrick Carr, there is a drop off to the rest of the depth at this position. Carr led the spring game with 15 carries for 122 yards.

Tight end

  • Romello Brooker has tremendous size, and while he wasn’t targeted much, could pose a big threat in both the run and passing games.
  • This position may not be utilized a lot. It could end up getting combined with fullback/H-back if Brooker doesn’t pan out.

Wide receiver

  • Starters Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner did not participate in the game, but will retain their spots once fall camp opens.
  • Derek McLemore and Keith Corbin stood out. While McLemore didn’t score, he caught multiple screens, and made some shifty moves to gain extra yardage.

Offensive line

  • With center Will Noble out, multiple players were moved around on the line, which could provide experience heading into fall camp.
  • Houston’s run game was solid all game, while also keep Allen and McClendon from being sacked frequently.
  • Braylon Jones and Na’Ty Rodgers shared time at right tackle, and Rodgers both can spell left tackle Joshua Jones if needed.
  • Alex Fontana and Kameron Eloph took over for the injured Noble.
  • Right guard Marcus Oliver will need a partner, as Mason Denley was seen on the sidlines with crutches.

Defensive line

  • No one is taking Ed Oliver’s spot at defensive tackle. The sophomore played very little during the spring contest, and as we know, he’s a lock to play heading into fall.
  • Nick Thurman appears to have one defensive end spot filled, but there will still be plenty of competition for the other side.

Linebacker

  • D’Jaun Hines makes the transition from outside to inside to join Adams.
  • Outside backer positions are up for grabs, and replacing Tyus Bowser may be done by committee.
NCAA Football: Texas Kickoff-Oklahoma vs Houston
Johnson, right, was playing receiver last year, but could become one of Houston’s top corners this season.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive back

  • Plenty of experience returns, led by safeties Khalil Williams, Garrett Davis, and CB Jeremy Winchester.
  • Spending most of his time with the second group, cornerback Isaiah Johnson could be competing for a starting spot in the fall. At 6-4, Johnson’s size and speed could give the Cougars a lockdown corner opposite Winchester. His hands from playing receiver the last two seasons should also help him immensely.

Conclusion

Overall, this game was about finding depth within the roster. With multiple players forced to the sideline with injuries, second and third string players received opportunities to showcase their talent.

There is plenty of work to be done, but the Cougars now have time to rest up, bring incoming freshmen onto the roster, and heal those injured players.