It’s finally here. Ed Oliver’s last season with the Houston Cougars is upon us. The junior declared for the 2019 NFL Draft this offseason, and we get one last ride with the best player in school history. Major Applewhite and his staff knew this time would come, so they did everything in their power to bring in talent. The focus was on defense. That means there should be a plethora of talent on this side of the ball this season, but will that mean production? There are many potential stars on this side of the ball, and here are five that will stand out.
Ed Oliver, Defensive Tackle
This one should be obvious. Oliver is the best defensive tackle in the country, and arguably the best player. His level of dominance should be complemented well this year. All he’s done is accumulate 138 tackles, 38.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks, nine passes defended, a fumble recovery and four forced fumbles. In two years, that’s what he’s done for the program. It’s sad to think that we won’t see #10 line up for Houston next season, but he’s more than earned his chance to go pro. Hopefully, 2018 is his best season yet.
Garrett Davis, Safety
The leader of the secondary. He led the team in interceptions and added 51 tackles on top of that. There is talent around him once again, and that could lead to his best year statistically. Davis flies around the field in coverage and is also not afraid to be physical in run support. He’s another player that is looking to get onto more postseason awards lists, and that is a great possibility this year.
Deontay Anderson, Safety
Davis’ partner at safety most likely will be Anderson, who transferred from Ole Miss. Anderson is gifted physically, which is why many believe he will win the job. Losing Terrell Williams certainly hurt, but they have a new face that might just be better than his predecessor. If Anderson is as good as advertised, this will be a group that you don’t want to face. The Davis-Anderson duo could be one of the best in the country, and that should give Cougars fans plenty of excitement.
Isaiah Chambers, Defensive End
Another transfer to watch, and Chambers is hard to miss. He fills out his pads well, and it doesn’t look like there’s much fat on his body. While he’s yet to play a collegiate game, his potential is obvious. He joins Jerard Carter, Payton Turner and Zach Vaughn at defensive end. With Ed Oliver commanding attention of at least two linemen, this group should thrive. They need to. Offenses will always know where the Cougars star is, and Chambers and Co. will get opportunities to make plays regularly.
Leroy Godfrey, Linebacker
This one may not be so obvious, but Godfrey played well last year in a backup role. Emeke Egbule and Darrion Owens will get most of the attention coming into the 2018 season, but Godfrey could be the one that has a breakout season. He had 33 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and two sacks last year, and almost all of that production came in the second half of the season. Linebacker will be a question until players emerge, and Godfrey has the talent to break out.