Major Applewhite was able to steal offensive coordinator Brian Johnson from Mississippi State, and that acquisition will yield large dividends for Houston in 2017. Johnson has experience working with talented quarterbacks, and takes over what should be one of the most talented offenses in the AAC. Fans remember players who make big plays and put up impressive stat lines, and Houston has a number of talented athletes with big names. Here is a look at Houston’s top five offensive players for this season.
Linell Bonner, Wide Receiver
2016 stats: 98 rec. 1,118 yards, 3 TD
After being snubbed from either All-Conference team, Bonner has plenty to prove in 2017 despite a breakout year. He is listed on the 2017 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, and will draw the attention of defensive backfields around the league. While he doesn’t have breakaway speed, he has the athleticism to make acrobatic catches and has consistently shown that one hand does the trick to catch a ball.
Will Noble, Center
2016 stats: Started 12 games, graded out at 87 percent, 30 knockdown blocks
Noble was recovering in the spring from a leg injury, but his starting spot was never in jeopardy. Having him back will be extremely beneficial for quarterback Kyle Allen, as he is the leader of a deep unit. At 6’4” and 297 pounds, Noble can dominate his defender with both strength and quickness off the ball. He was also, once again, listed on the Rimington Trophy Watch List.
Kyle Allen, Quarterback
2015 stats (Texas A&M): 160-283 (56.5%), 2,210 yards, 17td-7int
Make no mistake, just because it’s his first year with the school, doesn’t mean he can’t be one of the best players. Skill-wise, Allen is one of the best in the conference with his arm, but it’s his legs that are extremely underrated. If Houston’s run game can be more consistent than last year, Allen’s arm will be lethal.
Steven Dunbar, Wide Receiver
2016 stats: 53 rec. 692 yards, 5 TD
Dunbar has proven that he can exploit a weak defender and the Cougars will rely on him more with teams potentially focusing on Bonner. In the opening game against Oklahoma, Dunbar was continually targeted in his matchup with Sooners’ cornerback Dakota Austin. His size was a problem for Austin, and the result was a season high 125 yards on seven catches. Should opponents decide to take away Bonner in the passing game, Dunbar is a lethal second option, and should take that pressure away from Bonner’s side of the field.
Marcus Oliver, Guard
2016 stats: played 10 games (eight starts), graded out at 83 percent, 25 knockdown blocks
Ed isn’t the only Oliver that can play, and his older brother is a big reason why younger bro is on campus. Marcus is dynamic on the line, and has experience at both guard and tackle. Oliver can be dominant when healthy, and should receive recognition if he can play a full season. He has 34 games of experience, and was one of four freshman to play on the line in 2014.