Major Applewhite did some work on the graduate transfer recruiting trail this offseason, and fans should be excited about the talent that hits the field this fall. Applewhite added some valuable depth at key defensive positions, and his team will need that side of the ball to thrive more than last year.
One pickup was former Miami Hurricanes linebacker, Darrion Owens. Owens will step in at a position that needs starters and depth in a hurry, but he’s still relatively unknown to the Cougars community. I reached out to Cam Underwood, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Miami Hurricanes Blog “State of the U” to get some information on Owens. Here’s what he had to say about one of the Cougars newest additions.
Joe Broback: What are his Strengths/weaknesses?
Cam Underwood: Strengths: Owens has a perfect physical build for LB at 6’3” 235lbs. He’s played both inside and outside, and will probably be an inside LB in Houston’s defense, and he’s well built to handle that. Owens also has plenty of game experience from his time at Miami, and that’s a positive as well. He’s better as a run defender than pass coverage player, but does well making tackles in space.
Weaknesses: Owens isn’t the fastest player, a fact that’s noticeable when he’s up against quicker RBs and WRs. Owens also missed time in 2016 after tearing his ACL, so there’s an injury history there, as well. He has plenty of physical gifts which should have helped him be a frontline defender, but he was always just 1 skill away from putting it all together.
JB: For those who don’t know, why did he decide to leave Miami?
CU: Owens left Miami for more playing time, really. Owens was good as a rotation player at LB, but he was on a path to start early in his career, before a knee injury forced him to miss the 2016 season. In that season, Miami started 3 freshmen at LB, and those guys continued to start as sophomores. That trio (Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud) will continue to start as juniors for Miami. Owens saw that, and decided to leave to be a more featured player and just play more snaps that he would have at Miami.
JB: Can he play both inside and outside backer? And which one is he better at?
CU: This is really a scheme-based answer, but Owens is more outside LB than inside. However, in a 3-4 defense like Mark D’Onofrio (Miami’s former DC and Houston’s current DC) runs, Owens could be one of the 2 main “inside backers” in that defense. Owens is better at 4-3 OLB, but he has the size and athleticism to be a good player at ILB in Houston’s defense.
JB: Houston’s had a few duds for graduate transfers (e.g. Kyle Allen) in the recent past, will Owens be different and how?
CU: Owens has more stats to his credit than Allen did, for example, so that’s a start. Also, Owens is older than Allen was bc he’s a 5th year guy not a 2nd year guy as he transfers to Houston. Also, the bust rate at QB is exponentially higher than at LB, a position where multiple players see snaps in every game, and the performance -- be it good or bad -- generally has less impact on the outcome of a game than QB. On top of that, Owens is a good guy and he’s reuniting with the DC who recruited him out of HS. So, that sense of camaraderie should go a long way to helping Owens be comfortable to play his best, and be an impact player for Houston this season.
JB: Houston is losing their two starting inside backers in D’Juan Hines and Matthew Adams, can Owens step up and be a leader?
CU: As I alluded to above, I fully believe that Owens can step into a starting job for Houston. He’s big, strong, has plenty of experience at the P5 level, and he’s got to want to prove himself as a 5th year senior with the NFL on the horizon. And, even if he’s a “super sub” like he was at Miami, Darrion Owens should be a welcomed addition and solid player for the Houston Cougars this year.
Owens could be a valuable asset to a defense that is looking to vastly improve from 2017. He can step in and be a leader with plenty of inexperience stepping up. Thanks again to Cam for giving us an insight into what the Cougars are getting. Houston’s expecting the offense to thrive, but the defense now has some talent as well to be one of the best in the AAC in 2018.