It’s that time again. Houston’s Red & White game is tomorrow, and the Cougars have been pegged as a team to watch in 2018. Major Applewhite is entering his second season as head coach, but there are still numerous questions to get answered. Turnover with his players and coaching staff means the spring game should give us a glimpse at how this team will differ from last year. Today, we take a look at five questions that fans may have for this season.
What will the offense look like under Kendal Briles?
We might have to wait for this to be answered, as spring games typically don’t showcase much of the playbook. Saturday will be more about position battles than playcalling, so don’t expect to learn much. That being said, this is still a question that will be in the minds of fans, as many were not pleased with the previous offensive coordinator. Briles has said that his offense will look to go vertical in the passing game, but we most likely will have to wait until the fall to really see that.
Speaking of vertical, who are the options at receiver?
Courtney Lark is the player that will receive a lot attention given his past. The former four star recruit is getting his opportunity to prove why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. He showed some flashes late in the season last year, and showed some chemistry with quarterback D’Eriq King. Keith Corbin caught just 10 passes last year, but there isn’t much experience after him. Marquez Stevenson has battled injuries, but has the talent to be a starter. Incoming freshman Julon Williams switched from quarterback to receiver, and was electric with the ball in his hands in high school. It’s a wide open competition at this point, and there will be a lot of fresh faces contributing at this position.
What will the running game look like without Duke Catalon?
Catalon left the team earlier this spring, and that suddenly leaves this position inexperienced. Mulbah Car will be the starter, but the depth behind him suddenly becomes extremely important. Patrick Carr was the leading rusher in last year’s spring game, Kevrin Justice saw playing time two years ago, and so did Davion Mitchell. With Catalon gone, Car will need some help.
How good can defensive line be?
This should be the strength of the team, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be competition. Obviously, no one’s taking Ed Oliver’s position, but there’s still room for players to step up around him. Jerard Carter returns after an injury filled season, and should fill one of the defensive end positions. He has some good competition to fend off in the meantime. Payton Turner saw a lot of time as a freshman, and looks like he’s put on some good weight in the offseason. Zach Vaughn is another option, but the player that everyone seems to be intrigued with is TCU transfer Isaiah Chambers. Chambers is a former four star with a great frame, and could give the Cougars another star next to Oliver. Regardless of who wins the jobs, Houston’s defensive line could be a force in 2018.
What will Houston do without Matthew Adams and D’Juan Hines?
Applewhite addressed a few positions with graduate transfers. The aforementioned Chambers is one, but another big signing was Miami transfer Darrion Owens. Owens was an important piece in the Hurricanes defense, but wanted to be a starter. He should fill one of the inside positions, but the are depth concerns as well as who will start next to him. Austin Robinson is one option after receiving another year of eligibility, Emeke Egbule played outside last year, and Leroy Godfrey saw a lot of time as well. So those could be the other three starters at inside and outside backer, but the depth will be something to watch Saturday.
There are other questions that can be answered in the spring as well (such as what do the Cougars look like in the secondary), but that shouldn’t give fans too much worry. Houston has a ton of talent, and the spring game will give us a chance to see it for the first time.
The Red & White Game starts at 3:30pm in TDECU Stadium and is free to the public.