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2024 Houston Cougars National Signing Day Recap

Cougars land 22 transfers and 14 high school recruits in Willie Fritz’s inaugural year on staff.

UH-FRITZ Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

The Willie Fritz era is in full swing in Houston, TX.

Houston hired the former Tulane head coach in the first week of December, just two-and-a-half weeks prior to the early signing day of Dec. 20. And when a coaching change transpires, it’s often a hectic time for a collegiate roster.

As expected, Fritz’s inaugural class is a very transfer laden class, and a highly-regarded one. 247Sports ranks the Cougars’ transfer class as the 24th-best in the FBS and fourth-best in the Big 12. Houston brings in 22 players from other collegiate rosters, including 18 from the FBS level — with plenty of starting experience to go around. Four of those transfers (Keith Cooper Jr., Corey Platt Jr., Kentrell Webb, and Pierson Parent) traveled west from Tulane, following Fritz from his former stomping grounds.

The Cougars also landed 14 high school recruits with seven hailing from Texas, three from Alabama, two from Louisiana, one from Missouri, and one from Australia. Similar to years past, Houston’s high school recruiting prowess was especially evident in the skill positions. According to the 247Sports ratings, the Cougars landed two four-star talents in running back J’Marion Burnette and wide receiver JayShon Ridgle, who both played high school football in the state of Alabama.

Most of the work on the recruiting trail was completed by Fritz’s staff in December and January, as Wednesday’s national signing day only featured two commitments — Burnette and Australian punter Liam Dougherty. With a blend of transfers and incoming recruits, here is a full rundown of Houston’s 2024 signing class:

Houston’s 2024 class

FBS transfers (18)

  • Zeon Chriss, QB — Baton Rouge, LA (Louisiana)
  • Mekhi Mews, WR — Grayson, GA (Georgia)
  • Maliq Carr, TE — Inkster, MI (Michigan State)
  • Jayden York, TE — Austin, TX (Texas Tech)
  • Cedric Melton, OT — Houston, TX (Ole Miss)
  • Dakota White, OT — Katy, TX (Louisiana Tech)
  • Jake Wiley, OT — Centennial, CO (UCLA)
  • Keith Cooper Jr., DE — Dickinson, TX (Tulane)
  • Quindario Lee, DT — McKenzie, AL (Central Michigan)
  • Everett Rogers, DT — Killeen, TX (Tulsa)
  • Michael Batton, OLB — Houston, TX (ULM)
  • Kendre’ Gant, OLB — Port St. Joe, FL (Louisiana)
  • Corey Platt Jr., OLB — Little Rock, AR (Tulane)
  • Jeremiah Wilson, CB — Kissimmee, FL (Syracuse)
  • Hershey McLaurin, FS — Friendship, MS (West Virginia)
  • Kentrell Webb, SS — Katy, TX (Tulane)
  • Teagan Wilk, SS — Berwick, PA (East Carolina)
  • Pierson Parent, LS — Giesmar, LA (Tulane)

Other college transfers (4)

  • Larry Crawford, OT — Monroe, GA (Georgia Military College)
  • Hingano Hautau, OT — San Jose, CA (Foothill College)
  • Xavier Stillman, DT — St. Joseph, MO (Hutchinson CC)
  • Kriston Davis, CB — Mobile, AL (Southern)

High school recruits (14)

  • J’Marion Burnette, RB — Andalusia, AL (Andalusia High School)
  • DJ Butler, RB — Mobile, AL (WP Davidson High School)
  • JayShon Ridgle, WR — Athens, AL (Athens High School)
  • Koby Young, WR — New Orleans, LA (Holy Cross High School)
  • Kaleb Thomas, TE — Houston, TX (North Shore High School)
  • Traville Frederick Jr., TE — Jeanerette, LA (Jeanerette High School)
  • Ray’Quan Bell, OL — Houston, TX (Westfield High School)
  • Derek Joiner, OL — Kansas City, MO (Grandview High School)
  • Ronnell McLain, OL — DeSoto, TX (DeSoto High School)
  • Darius Washington, DE — Mansfield, TX (Lake Ridge High School)
  • Zion Taylor, DE — Pearland, TX (Shadow Creek High School)
  • Demarcus Johnson, DE — Missouri City, TX (Fort Bend Marshall High School)
  • Maurice Williams II, S — Pearland, TX (Shadow Creek High School)
  • Liam Dougherty, P — Geelong, Australia (St. Joseph’s College [Australia])

What two months of recruiting looked like under Fritz

Willie Fritz took to the podium Wednesday to discuss the 2024 class. In his personal assessment, he acknowledged the minimal amount of time allotted for his staff to assemble the 36-member class, but he credited the coaches, recruiting coordinator, nutritionists, and even academic staff for selling the university to recruits and transfers these past two months.

“For the short amount of time we had, I thought we did a fantastic job,” Fritz said. “Most of January was devoted to 2025 recruiting. As you can see, we only signed two guys. Everybody else was signed on the first signing period.”

Texas is unquestionably a high school football hotbed, and this is Fritz’s first time operating in the Lone Star State as an FBS head coach. At Houston, capitalizing on the state’s talent is Fritz’s No. 1 focus, as evidenced by his seven high school recruits from the state. But the former Tulane head coach also keeps an eye on his former residence Louisiana — located a manageable distance from Houston — and signed a pair of offensive recruits from the bordering state.

“We’ve had a very, very good reception across the state,” Fritz said. “Our focus is gonna be on the state of Texas. We divided up 10 different ways to recruit the Houston area, and obviously, we’re also recruiting the whole state of Texas. We’re gonna get into Louisiana as well.”

Due to the abundance of nearby talent, Fritz claimed he didn’t need to travel far to manufacture his 2024 signing class.

“I think it’s an advantage when you can drive places,” Fritz said. “I did not get on a flight the whole month of January recruiting. I was driving to all my different spots. I just think that’s a huge advantage to be able to have great players within driving distance. I didn’t have that at Tulane. Louisiana was a smaller state and we weren’t able to sign enough guys who could play big time Division I football so we had to get on planes and get all over the place.”

Although Fritz was required to learn a new recruiting area these past two months, not everything about the state of Texas is foreign to the 63-year old head coach. Fritz established relationships with Texas high school coaches at several of his previous endeavors. He coached Sam Houston in Huntsville, TX from 2010 through 2013 and Blinn College in Brenham, TX from 1993 through 1996. Some of those connections, especially from the Sam Houston days, still prolong to the present, which has helped the Cougars in the recruiting world.

“The reception that we’ve gotten from the high school coaches has been tremendous,” Fritz said. “A lot of guys I’ve just rekindled relationships with and I’ve been going around all sorts of places speaking at events. I’m not great with social media, taking pictures, and sending it out — I need to do a better job of that, but I think I’ve spoken at six different high school associations or clinics so far, and I’m gonna do three more next week.”

Fritz has been incredibly active in establishing his footprint through the state since arriving at Houston in early December. He’s visited countless areas to connect with coaches and prospective student-athletes, discovering nearby talent factories which he can probe for future use.

“The recruiting part is trying to get out and go places where they’ve got bona fide Division I student-athletes with character that have played at the ‘Power Four’ level,” Fritz said. “I’ve gone to some high schools, and coaches will tell me, ‘I’m not sure if he’s quite your level,’ and that’s been good. They’re very honest here, just like when the pro scouts come in, I’m very honest as well.”

The last two months have certainly been a chaotic time for Fritz, who is taking on his first new job since onboarding at Tulane in 2016. But from assembling a new staff to recruiting the next crop of Cougar football standouts to meeting with the current players, the coach with more than 40 years of experience in the profession has thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

“I love coaching. I love recruiting,” Fritz said. “So it’s been fun.”