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Christmas in July: Houston Cougars devour watch lists

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Six UH players and head coach Tom Herman were named to 11 awards preseason watch lists

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Florida State v Houston Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 12 Days of Christmas in July — otherwise known as Watch List Season — were very kind to the Cougars. Houston was represented on nearly every major list as the preseason excitement continues to build.

With AAC conference media days set to begin August 1st, let us feast on these bountiful awards lists until then:

Head coach Tom Herman was named to the Dodd Trophy watch list presented by the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl that will honor the nation’s top coach at the end of the season. You know the results of last season that vaulted many fans into a stratosphere of elation beyond their wildest hopes and expectations, but did you know …

Coach Herman was just the fourth coach in NCAA history to guide his team to 13 or more wins in his first season.

Greg Ward, Jr. was named to pretty much every watch list available for a quarterback. Here they are, in ascending order of prestige: Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Walter Camp Award and the Wuerffel Award.

And let’s be honest, once you’ve been named to the Wuerffel Award watch list, is there really anything else to accomplish as a collegiate athlete???

Maybe one little thing — if Sir Gregory of Ward performs the way he did last season and the Coogs go undefeated, he will almost certainly find himself on the ballot for the Heisman Trophy. Sure, it’s no Wuerffel Award, but it’ll do.

Linebacker Steven Taylor also racked up the nominations. He landed on the lists for the Nagurski Award, the Butkus Award and the Bednarik Award.

Here’s the quick breakdown of the awards: the Nagurski Award is given to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers of America Association. The Butkus Award is given to the best linebacker in the country by the Butkus Foundation. The Bednarik Award also goes to the nation’s top defensive player, but this one is presented by the Maxwell Football Club.

Taylor was the AAC’s sack leader in 2015 with 10 and is UH’s top returning tackler with 92 stops last season. If you can’t remember Taylor’s specific plays from last year, here is a spicy cocktail of highlights to wet your appetite for 2016.

Taylor’s teammate and fellow starter at LB, Tyus Bowser, was also named to the Butkus list. Bowser started 13 games last season and totaled 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in addition to three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

They will be a seriously fun tandem to watch this year. And keep your eye out for up-and-coming linebacker D’Juan Hines who I profiled in the spring. This is will be a fun, fierce and fast unit.

Back on offense, Chance Allen was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the nation’s best wide receiver. Allen is UH’s leading returning receiver with 56 receptions for 752 yards and six touchdowns last season.

But the stats that fans hope they will see more of this year are his numbers on deep balls: he had 25 targets, 12 receptions, 355 yards and 4 touchdowns on passes more than 20 yards downfield.

Cornerback Brandon Wilson landed a spot on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented by the Louisville Sports Commission to the nation’s most versatile player.

Wilson was the only player in the country to score touchdowns in all three phases of the game last year. He accounted for two TDs on offense, two on defense and two on special teams.

Last, but certainly not least, true sophomore Will Noble was named to the Rimington Award watch list for 2016. Noble had a remarkable freshman campaign that earned him Freshman All-American honors from the FWAA, Scout.com, USA Today and ESPN.com.

Obviously his performance as a youngster commanded respect but what made it even more impressive was the fact that he was redshirted for the first five games of the season. The coaches burned the shirt for game six versus Tulane. He immediately took over the starting job and never looked back.

He helped lead an offensive unit that ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense at 40.4 points per game, 13th nationally in rushing offense at 235.8 yards per game and 20th nationally in total offense at 484.1 yards per game.