National Signing Day came and went, but not without some excitement for the Houston Cougars. While the transfer portal and COVID changed the way teams approached recruiting, it still led for some exciting announcements. Houston inked nine recruits in the early signing period, and added four more today. They also added five players from the transfer portal. Dana Holgorsen and his staff continue to fill needs with guys that fit their system, and they even made quite the splash with one recruit.
RB Alton McCaskill—Conroe, TX
Why is Alton McCaskill signing with Houston a big deal? Because they snatched him away from the big dogs. McCaskill had 32 offers, including the likes of Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Florida State, and Michigan. It helps when the primary (Charles Huff to Marshall) and secondary (Jeff Banks to Texas) recruiters from Alabama leave for different schools, but the lure of the Crimson Tide can’t be understated. McCaskill is a Day 1 starter, and should elevate Houston’s running game.
DE Garfield Lawrence—Tyler, TX
Defensive line coach Brian Early likes suddenness at the snap and physicality in his guys, and Lawrence brings both to Houston. A solid build, Lawrence should get even better under Early’s watch. Payton Turner turned into a potential NFL Draft pick, and it feels like Lawrence is a more complete player at this point.
LB Jalen Garner—Norcross, GA
If you like players that aren’t afraid to hit, Jalen Garner is your guy. His goal on ever tackle is to make the other guy hurt, but do it with good form. Houston went a little unconventional at the linebacker position last year, and the question will just be where Garner is used. I’m not sure what scheme new defensive coordinator Doug Belk will use, but Garner could be used as an inside linebacker or the Bandit position that Joe Cauthen used.
Joshua Atkins—Arlington, TX
Any player that can bring a nasty attitude to the offensive line is welcome, and Atkins fits that description. He might not compete for a starting spot right away, but he provides plenty of power in his game. Houston’s offense stalled at times thanks largely to pressure on Clayton Tune, and shoring up that group is a top priority for the future.
K Caleb Mendez—Pearland, TX
When you’re not complaining about the kicking, you know you have a good kicker. With Laine Wilkins set at punter, Holgorsen and his staff added Mendez to the roster for kicking duties. Dalton Witherspoon was a senior last year, and Bubba Baxa enters his senior season this year, so a future player was needed.
And now the transfers.....
OC Kody Russey (from Louisiana Tech)
Interior offensive line needs some help, and Russey gives them a guy that can be inserted into the lineup right away. As you can see, he plays every snap until the whistle, and he’s never satisfied until he’s punished his man into the turf. Maybe not the most powerful player, but he has a will that can’t be taught.
DT Latrell Bankston (from Iowa State)
Last year for Iowa State, Bankston had 4.5 tackles and 3.5 sacks in nine games. The Cyclones just didn’t have enough reps to go around, and given that 20 of their 22 starters on both sides of the ball return, Bankston decided to head elsewhere. He’ll be a great complement to Chidozie Nwankwo as both are strong and require double teams if you want to move them.
DE Tre Williams (from Missouri)
Someone needs to fill Payton Turner’s spot, and it could be Williams. Another long defensive end who’s quick off the ball, he’ll give Houston another explosive player up front. Again, it depends on the scheme Belk uses, but we could see multiple (and actual) defensive ends playing at one time this year.
CB Alex Hogan (from Texas Tech)
Dana used his former Big 12 connections to reel in transfers, and Hogan adds to the list. He had four passes defended and one interception for the Red Raiders last year, and will compete for time in the defensive backfield. With Damarion Williams and Marcus Jones back, it will be tough to get a starting spot, but he’ll push for playing time.
WR KeSean Carter (from Texas Tech)
Carter brings 831 career yards and six career touchdowns to Houston. Houston suddenly needs a player to step up as the go-to guy, and right now it’s anyone’s game. Carter should thrive more in Dana’s system, and an open competition gives him a chance to have a career year.