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Houston Cougars Spring Position Previews: Offensive Line

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Maybe the most important offensive unit needs to find two new replacements.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We three parts into this series, and we’ve reached arguably the most important unit on the team: offensive line. They say you can’t win if your line is bad, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Houston has one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and even he needs to be protected. Center Will Noble and left guard Mason Denley are gone, but three starters return to the Cougars front. Let’s dive into who will step into the openings and who else could see time this year.

POSITIONS: QB, RB, WR/TE, DL, LB, DB, S/T

Returning Production

BRAYLON JONES
13 starts at right guard (36 career appearances)

JARRID WILLIAMS
13 starts at right tackle (24 career app.)

DENNIS BARDWELL
8 appearances (10 career app.)

KAMERON ELOPH
6 appearances (22 career app.)

KEENAN MURPHY
13 appearances (15 career app.), 1 start at left guard

JOSH JONES
13 starts at left tackle (36 career app.)

COLE MILLER
8 appearances (9 career app.)

BO ALEXANDER
13 appearances (13 career app.)

Player Previews

Braylon Jones, Senior

Jones and Jarrid Williams work so well together. Give these two a double team and it’s game over for the defenders. First thing you notice about Jones is his size. He’s going to move his man simply because he’s bigger and stronger than him. He may not be the quickest when he pulls (he tends to give away when he’s pulling), whoever he hits better use good technique against his blocks.

Jarrid Williams, Senior

I present you with the best lineman on the team. Williams makes it look easy with just about everything he does. If he can get his hands on his man, they don’t have a chance of getting off of his block. Williams uses great technique in his blocking, and uses his hips well to create power. He also happens to be the most athletic lineman on the team as well, which allows him to get back quickly against pass rushes and also get downfield to the second level. Dana Holgorsen also gets a tackle that can play both the left and right sides.

Dennis Bardwell, Junior

One of the first things you see on film about Bardwell is his strength. He appears to have strong legs, and never has a problem using them. His upper body also is built well, so even if his technique isn’t perfect, he can fend off his man. It will be tough for him to start at either tackle position, but he still might see the field if Williams or Josh Jones need a break.

Bo Alexander, Senior

Where will Alexander play this year? He came to Houston as an offensive lineman, but was put at blocking tight end last year. He did well in his new role, but it will be interesting to see where the new coaching staff puts him in his final year.

Josh Jones, Senior

It seems like Jones has been on campus forever, but that might have to do with the frequency we’ve seen him on the field. Any lineman that wears a visor on their helmet also grabs my attention quickly. Jones is left tackle for a reason: he’s good at protecting D’Eriq King’s blindside. Pass protection is his strength, and he gets the all-important task of making sure no one destroys his quarterback.

Kameron Eloph, Senior

Will Noble is gone, meaning that someone has to take over at center. Eloph should be that guy. He’s been under Noble’s wing for years now, and it’s his time to shine. A new system requires him to learn quickly to win the job, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Eloph’s vision might be his best attribute. He’s great at seeing various twists and blitzes, and adjusts accordingly.

Keenan Murphy, Junior

A good candidate to take over at the vacant left guard opening. Mason Denley is gone, giving Murphy a chance to take that open spot. He should fill in just fine. Murphy’s got a strong base, and relies on his hips to prove power on his blocks (versus bending at the waist). Limiting pressure up the middle will be his biggest task, but it helps having King at quarterback too.

Others on the roster: Dixie Wooten III, Sophomore; Kordell Snyder, Junior; Jack Freeman, Redshirt Freshman; Jordan Boatman, Sophomore; Max Banes, Redshirt Freshman; Kameron Lewis, Redshirt Freshman; Cole Miller, Junior

Recruiting class additions: Rodquice Chaney; Cam’Ron Johnson, Patrick Paul, Chayse Todd

Outlook

How does D’Eriq King see over this group? 10 of these guys are 6’4” or taller. Eloph himself is 6’4”, which is tall for a center. Williams and Josh Jones are both 6’7”, so it’s going to be tough for 5’11” King to see over these guys. That size is a good thing though, as this group presents a strong front before even taking a snap. Protecting King is their primary objective, and they need to do better than last year. King’s elusive, but he can’t avoid everything. Pressure up the middle was the biggest concern last year, so that needs to improve. Dana Holgorsen’s going to pass the ball a lot, and he needs his quarterback to stay upright for it to be successful. This group has plenty of potential, and could be a great group in 2019.