Spring is here, and it represents a fresh start for the Houston Cougars. After going 15-10 the last two years under Major Applewhite, Houston brought in Dana Holgorsen to turn things around. With a new coaching staff comes plenty of questions, but they represent a good change. Curiosity about the program spiked with the coaching change, and it seems that fans have an excitement about this year’s team. Houston returns talent and production on both sides of the ball, but there will be plenty of competition despite that. Today, we take a look at the top storylines surrounding the Cougars during spring practice.
Replacing Ed Oliver
The most obvious storyline is that a new coaching staff is here, but we’ll stick to others for now. Replacing the best player in school history is the biggest task facing Holgorsen, but he may not ever solve this one. It’s nearly impossible to replace a talent like Oliver, so they won’t try. Instead, the new defensive staff already changed the scheme they’ll run in 2019. It should improve a defense that was riddled with injuries and inconsistencies last year. It all starts up front, and players like Isaiah Chambers and Payton Turner become the leaders. Oliver’s talent and production will be missed, but this defense may just be better as a whole without him.
Heir to King’s throne
D’Eriq King is one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and there shouldn’t be much of an argument against that. But Houston found out that they need depth behind him. When King went down with a season ending injury, the offense struggled. Clayton Tune was thrust into action as a freshman, and his inexperience showed. Tune will presumably have to fend of Logan Holgorsen for the backup spot, but the competition should help ensure that quarterback depth isn’t an issue in 2019.
A deep defensive backfield?
Houston was one of the worst pass defenses in the country last year. Luckily, the only way to go from there is up. Defensive Coordinator Joe Cauthen is tasked with turning the unit around, but it’s not like there isn’t talent to find. Especially in the secondary. Gleson Sprewell and Deontay Anderson both saw significant time at the safety position last year, and are strong candidates to start again. Incoming transfers Jordan Moore and Thabo Mwaniki will provide competition at the safety position, while Damarion Williams could snag one of the cornerback spots. Cauthen has options on the backside, so this should be a much better group this year. Even an average defense will be seen as an improvement.
With Linnel Bonner and Steven Dunbar graduating, Houston needed new receivers to emerge fast. Not only did they emerge, but they exploded onto the scene. Marquez Stevenson, Keith Corbin, and Courtney Lark gave Houston three explosive options out wide, and helped make D’Eriq King into the passer he was last year. The question becomes if they can repeat that performance. Stevenson had the best year of the three, so teams may start to focus on him. That leaves opportunities for Corbin and Lark to have breakout seasons. In Holgorsen’s offense, these three should be a problem for opposing secondaries once again.
Spring Game Attendance
It might have to with the previous regime’s lack of enticing marketing, but the spring games weren’t attended well the last two years. Holgorsen’s already said a few spring practices will be open to the public, so it’s a safe bet that he’ll get fans to come to the game. It’s still going to be far from a sellout, but the aforementioned buzz surrounding the program increases the attendance by itself. We will see how much of a buzz there is, but it’s a safe bet that it will be more than the previous two years.