It shouldn’t be a surprise that Houston’s defensive line brings excitement to its fans, but this year will look a little different. Players like Ed Oliver and Payton Turner have elevated their play to get into the NFL, but there wasn’t much depth behind them. This year, Houston’s defensive line boasts a number of talented players that will push for playing time. With the offense still trying to figure things out, the defense prepares to carry the team until things balance out.
OTHER POSITIONS: QB, RB, WR, OL
As long as he’s on the field, Nwankwo is a future star for the Coogs. Though undersized at tackle, Nwankwo has insane strength and power to help him battle in the trenches and make plays. He utilizes leverage well, and his play warrants double teams frequently. It’s fitting that he wears number 10, because the last guy to wear it played similar to how he does. Nwankwo knew the challenges and the expectations of wearing that number, and he’s never shied away from them.
Anenih’s one of many that’s endured a transition to a new position, and he’s improved every season since moving to defensive end. A player with great speed around the edge, he’s also added size to help him adapt to life in the trenches. Consistency has been the name of his game, as he’s produced nearly identical numbers the last three years, and he could be in store for a career season in 2021.
D'Anthony Jones is so good at timing snaps, and this is just one example. He's the first player to move after the center snaps the ball pic.twitter.com/IduEUrabxr— Joe Broback (@joebroback) February 17, 2021
If there’s one player who stands out in an explosive way, it’s Jones. He’s mastered the timing of the opposing teams’ snaps, and often times puts the tackle trying to block him in a tough spot. Jones knows how to use speed to win, and he’s working this offseason to add more power to his arsenal. Limited in his reps last year, Jones now has a chance to be the starter at defensive end, and show why Brian Early brought him to Houston. If there’s one player who’s ready to explode, it’s Jones.
If Houston fans are wondering what they're getting in Latrell Bankston (@trellbankston), here's a glimpse pic.twitter.com/DzqSeMFq8o— Joe Broback (@joebroback) March 12, 2021
The Iowa State transfer was just looking for a fresh start and a chance to compete on the field, and that’s what he’ll get. Sources say Bankston dominated in the spring, and should be a menace for teams on Houston’s roster. A powerful player that operates quickly, he should rack up multiple tackles for loss in 2021.
He’s also listed as a fullback, so watch out for that if that’s true. Parish showed off his ball carrying skills last year, and the offense clearly saw something they liked. Like Anenih, Parish transitioned from linebacker to defensive end, and he’s found a way to succeed. He might not be the most physically gifted on the roster, but he’s found a way to play within his skillset well.
Logan Hall’s made the transition to defensive tackle, but could be moved outside to end if they need depth. The inside appears crowded with plenty of depth. Olivier Charles-Pierre rotated with Nwankwo last year, and is extremely tough to move out of his gap. Jamykal Neal and Atlias Bell were paired frequently in the rotation last year. Sedrick Williams dealt with a medical issue last year, and appears ready to make an impact this year. Alexander Duke moved to end from linebacker and might see time in the rotation. Hakim Ajijolaiya, Justin Beadles, Garfield Lawrence, Nelson Ceasar and Rafal Szymanski are the future of this group, but will be lucky to see the field with so many options ahead of them.