Dana Holgorsen didn’t waste any time addressing vital needs to his program. He also didn’t just put band-aids on the problems. Houston’s new head coach also inherits some elite talent offensively, but needs to fix a broken defense. Who are the guys to watch for this team? Let’s take a look at some superlatives for Houston.
Breakout Player: S Gleson Sprewell
We saw a little of what Sprewell can bring to the defense. After Garrett Davis was lost for the season with an injury, Sprewell took the starting job and never gave it up. Now, he’s set to start at safety opposite of Deontay Anderson. His performance against Memphis late in the season showed how much progress he made, and he’s ready to explode in 2019.
Comeback Kid: WR Courtney Lark
An injury limited his season, one that was going extremely well. Lark also fits the category for breakout player. His frame and game fit Dana Holgorsen’s scheme well, and that adds up to a potential breakout season. Staying healthy will be the key, but he has the tools to be the best receiver on this team. Lark excels at the snap of the ball with his footwork, and gains separation with ease. With teams focusing their attention towards Marquez Stevenson and Keith Corbin, he’ll likely see one-on-one matchups frequently.
Rising Star: DE Isaiah Chambers
Chambers only managed to play four games before being injured for the season, but he was off to a great start. In just four games, he produced 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The TCU transfer’s game is disruptive, and was sorely missed last year. He’s capable of dominating a game, which is something the Cougars defense missed when both Oliver and Chambers were out. Make no mistake, Chambers is a dude, and he’ll show his potential this year.
Don’t Forget About: QB D’Eriq King
It’s weird to put him here, but hear me out. We’re spoiled watching D’Eriq King play quarterback, because he makes it look so effortless. In fact, we all forgot how important he was to this team until he got hurt and the offense imploded. Let’s also remember that this will be the last season King wears the Cougar red and white since he’s a senior. Someone this good deserves even more attention than we already give him.
Needs to Rebound: DT Payton Turner
An injury limited his effectiveness, but now his job is in jeopardy. A lack of quickness hurts Turner’s ability to get to the quarterback, but he makes up for it with strength and long arms. Dana Holgorsen brought in a number of defensive line transfers to compete for starting positions, so he’ll have to fight to win a starting position. Iron sharpens iron, and hopefully the competition makes him a better player. However, the incoming talent might be better than him, meaning he’d move down to a rotational player instead of a starter.
Dark Horse MVP: Offensive Line
King needs protection this year, and the coaching staff hopes he runs less. If he produces similar numbers to last year, the line will play a huge role. Braylon Jones, Josh Jones, and Jarrid Williams return, but the two guard positions remain unfilled. This is the only group on offense that has questions, but they could be the most influential in the group’s success.
Under the Radar: Secondary
Houston finished dead last in passing yards per game. You can make that seem better all you want, but this group struggled mightily. Which means that opponents will assume they can take advantage of them. The only problem is this group’s loaded with talent. We mentioned Sprewell and Anderson before, but they’re joined by intriguing players. Grant Stuard and Texas A&M transfer Jordan Moore compete for the nickel spot, and JUCO All-American Damarion Williams should lock down one of the corner positions. If this group doesn’t improve, it will be a stunner. How high they go remains to be seen, but they’ll be much better than last year.