Houston’s pass defense was the worst in the country last year. There are multiple factors that can explain that, but fans tend to shift their attention to the backside. A change in scheme will put another defensive back on the field, meaning there is another spot up for grabs. All five positions will be open with a new coaching staff taking over, and the competitions for the starting spots will be fun to watch.
Note: Garrett Davis wasn’t included in this. Davis was injured early in the season last year and there was talk about him appealing for a sixth year. I have not heard any updates on that as of now, but he could add some valuable leadership and experience to this group.
81 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 6 passes defended
72 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PD
31 tackles, 2.0 TFL
Ka’Darian Smith, Senior
Cornerback depth is a major concern for the Cougars, but Smith could ease some of those worries. He’s played solid in limited reps, and has a chance in his final season to lock down one of the starting spots. I could see him sliding into the nickel spot as well with his speed and quickness.
Javian Smith, Junior
Great size for a corner, Smith could be the next great Houston cornerback. At 6’3”, he has a great wingspan as well that will allow him to knock down any pass his way. Like Ka’Darian Smith, he didn’t see much time with Isaiah Johnson and Alexander Myres ahead of him, so starting would be new territory for him. No worry though as he’s a confident player and has the size that coaches will like.
Damarion Williams, Junior
No favorites will be played with the new coaching staff, but Williams might make it hard for them to keep it that way. Houston’s getting a player that plays the game fast. He will bring a great attitude to the cornerback position, and his skills should help him push for one of the starting spots immediately. His speed jumps out on tape, and seems to have solid ball skills too. There isn’t any hesitation in his game, especially when it comes to making tackles. Once he sees where he needs to be, he takes off full speed and sticks his nose anywhere.
Deontay Anderson, Junior
The former Ole Miss Rebel took over a starting spot from the beginning when he came onto campus, and he must now defend his spot in 2019. Anderson has all of the skills to be a starting safety, and the competition this year will push him to be even better. Everything he does looks smooth, and it almost as if he makes plays effortlessly at times. I like his speed and ability to read plays, which could help him immensely when it comes to retaining his starting spot.
Grant Stuard, Junior
Where will Houston use Grant Stuard? I don’t think there is a position he can’t play simply because of his motor. Stuard loves the game, and he only knows playing full speed. Anything less simply isn’t on his radar. His long hair makes him easy to pick out on the field, but his play also does that. There isn’t a play he will give up on, and that will help him have an even better year this year. I’m not sure where the new coaching staff will put him, but he needs to be on the field. Stuard makes a football team better, and his effort is equal to that of Ed Oliver.
Gleson Sprewell, Junior
Absolutely fearless. It’s almost as if Sprewell doesn’t know who is bigger or smaller than him. It doesn’t matter when he needs to make a play. He’ll stick it to anyone, and that includes offensive linemen. Sprewell’s combination of aggressive play and quickness make him a great candidate for the nickel spot. Putting him near the line of scrimmage is the best spot for him, but he will also succeed at safety. After Garrett Davis was hurt against Texas Tech, Sprewell took over at safety and didn’t give the spot up.
Jordan Moore, Redshirt Freshman
Normally I wouldn’t put a young player on this list but, like Deontay Anderson, Moore’s talent can’t be ignored. He has a chance to play right away (pending his appeal to the NCAA) after transferring from Texas A&M. If you watch his film, it looks like he’s not trying, but that’s how he runs. He’s so smooth that it doesn’t take much for him to get where he needs to be. If he wins his appeal, the competition at safety only intensifies.
Others on roster: Keandre Powell, Senior;Torrey Richardson, Redshirt Freshman; Bradley Mbu, Senior; Garrison Vaughn, Redshirt Freshman; Darius Gilbert, Senior; Shaun Lewis, Sophomore; Jonathan Phenix, Redshirt Freshman; D.J. Small, Junior
Recruiting class addition: Ronald “Mannie” Nunnery, Thabo Mwaniki
This is a talented group, one that should be much better than last year. Every spot will be a tight race given the small gaps in talent levels. That’s exactly what this group needs, and it will only help them get better. It’s tough to say who’s going to win the starting spots right now, but I’m excited to see how things play out.