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Houston 2006 Preview - Offense
Houston Cougars
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2006


Houston Cougars Preview 2006 - UH Cougar Offense

What you need to know ... The nation's 19th best offense should put up yards and points in bunches this season with a tremendous receiving corps and fourth-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb to deliver the ball. The key will be consistency as well as finishing off drives. The Cougars averaged 439 yards per game last year, but averaged a pedestrian 28 points per outing. The ground game will be a work in progress with Jackie Battle a good, pounding running back, but not necessarily a dangerous threat to crank out big yards. Depth is a problem on the offensive line and quarterback, but not at receiver where the second team would still form one of Conference USA's best corps.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kevin Kolb
254-420, 3,258 yds, 19 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Jackie Battle
106 carries, 408 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Vincent Marshall
71 catches, 939 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Kevin Kolb
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Harold Taylor
Unsung star on the rise: Junior G Jeff Akeroyd
Best pro prospect: Junior OT SirVincent Rogers
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kolb, 2) WR Vincent Marshall, 3) Rogers
Strength of the offense: Receivers
Weakness of the offense:
Depth on the offensive line and at quarterback

Quarterbacks
Kevin Kolb could be the signature star in Conference USA this year as long as he cuts down on his interceptions. He has a tremendous receiving corps that should help him finish his career with eye-popping stats, and there's no questioning his leadership of the offense and the team. The concern is at backup where there's no experience between redshirt freshmen Clint Walraven and Blake Joseph. One of them has to see quality action this year to be ready for 2007.
The key to the unit: Finding the number two guy early on and getting him work behind Kevin Kolb.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- Kevin Kolb, Sr. - 254-420, 3,258 yds, 19 TD, 15 INT, 104 carries, 200 yds, 5 TD
Kolb can be an All-America-caliber, Conference USA Player of the Year type of quarterback at times, and he can look like a shaky true freshman at others. Back for his fourth year as the starter, there's no denying Kolb's talent or knowledge of the system, but he has to be far, far more consistent and can't try to make plays that aren't there. He's big, mobile and has a receiving corps that should help him put up huge numbers. Now he has to make sure he doesn't have the meltdown passing games like he had in losses to UTEP and Kansas where he threw for a ton of yards, but also threw a ton of interceptions. With 36 starts under his belt, expect him to come up with a better, more consistent season.

Top Backups
- Clint Walraven, RFr.
The 6-1 Walraven isn't all that big and doesn't have a huge arm, but he can move adding more speed and mobility than Kevin Kolb. No, he won't get into the starting mix unless Kolb gets hurt, but he should see action this year to prep him for next season when he's expected to take over the starting role.

- Blake Joseph, RFr.
Bigger and more of a pure passer than fellow backup Clint Walraven, Joseph will get every shot at winning the number two job and being in the mix for the starting spot in 2007. He has a live arm and good mobility.

Running Backs
The 1,037 yards and 6.1 yard-per-carry average of Ryan Gilbert is gone leaving a big hole that'll try to be filled by 250-pound power back Jackie Battle. He has the size and the strength, but he's not going to rip off the big runs like Gilbert could. That's why Harold Taylor and former safety Roshawn Pope have to play big roles in providing more flash to the mix. Without a lot of experience among the reserves, one of the four speed backs from this year's recruiting class could emerge as a factor.
The key to the unit: Finding someone to consistent crank out big runs to go along with the power of Ryan Gilbert and develop some experienced depth.
Running Back Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- Jackie Battle, Sr. - 106 carries, 408 yds, 3.8 ypc, 5 TD, 1 catch, 5 yds
The 250-pound bruiser will be the main man taking over the role left by Anthony Evans. Battle went from being a star in the making as a freshman with 560 yards and nine touchdowns to a backup after suffering a finger injury as a sophomore. He can be a workhorse and will pound out the tough yards, but he isn't going to break off too many big runs and isn't much of a receiver. At least he won't be used much as a pass catcher.

Top Backups
- Utility Back Roshawn Pope, Sr.
The former defensive back last year will be used on offense this season as a physical, quick option. He was a solid safety making 40 tackles last year, but he's athleticism is better suited for offense where he'll be a do-it-all third down type of back.
- Harold Taylor, Jr. - 29 carries, 77 yds, 3.8 ypc, 8 catches, 71 yds
The 200-pound junior will provide the speed to balance out the hard running of Jackie Battle. He's a phenomenal athlete and an excellent receiver who should see the ball around ten times a game to get him more in the flow after getting next to no work over the second half of last year. 
- Fullback Chris Mitchell, RFr.
Mitchell will make the switch from defense to offense to use his speed at fullback. The former linebacker isn't a huge fullback at only 215 pounds, and it remains to be seen exactly what his role will be as a blocker.

Receivers
It'll be a shock if this isn't the best receiving corps in Conference USA. Vincent Marshall is the nation's leading returning receiver in career catches and should open things up for the rest of the group with his warp speed and talent. Making life better for the passing attack is the arrival of Biren Ealy from Arizona, who'll push for time on the outside along with Jeron Harvey. Donnie Avery is a solid number two receiver who won't get much recognition, but will be an invaluable playmaker. The concern is at tight end with no returning experience whatsoever, but there's promise with athletic Mark Hafner returning from a wrist injury, and basketball player Rodney Hannah providing an interesting option.
The key to the unit: Developing a reliable tight end and finding enough passes for all the talent at receiver.
Receiver Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Vincent Marshall, Sr. - 71 catches, 939 yards, 13.2 ypc, 6 TD
Back for what seems like his 14th season in the Cougar attack, the lightning-fast senior has 192 career catches for 2,791 yards and eight touchdown passes. He wasn't as much of a deep threat last year as he was in 2004, but he became a more reliable, steadier number one target. One of Conference USA's fastest players, the 5-8, 175-pounder is a top sprinter for the Cougar track team. 

- Donnie Avery, Jr. - 44 tackles, 688 yds, 15.6 ypc, 5 TD
Avery stepped up his game in a big way last year turning into a good deep threat while also turning into a consistent target late in the season. He's not as fast as Vincent Marshall, but he can move with a 76-yard touchdown catch against UCF and a 63-yard scoring grab against Memphis. With everyone focusing on Marshall, Avery should put up even bigger numbers.

- Jeron Harvey, Jr. - 14 catches, 258 yds, 18.4 ypc, 1 TD
The 6-5, 210-pound former JUCO transfer adds some needed size to the mix along with some good deep speed. He wasn't thrown to often last year, but he made the most of his chances making several big plays. Now he'll battle Arizona transfer Biren Ealy for the starting spot on the outside.

- Tight end Mark Hafner, Soph.
A broken wrist kept Hafner out for most of last year, but he has the hands and the skills to be a good receiver. He has mostly spent his time on special teams, but he's a fast 220 pounds who should become a reliable safety valve.

Top Backups
- Biren Ealy, Sr.
One of Arizona's top receivers from 2002 to 2004, Ealy sat out last year and now is ready to add yet another dangerous target to the mix. He'll battle Jeron Harvey for time out the outside and could end up seeing time in the slot if needed. He caught 55 passes for 809 yards and six scores for the Wildcats.
- Perry McDaniel, Jr. - 15 catches, 105 yds, 7 ypc, 1 TD
McDaniel has carved out a role as a nice reserve over the last two seasons as a quick, short range receiver. He caught at least a pass in every game but one last year as Vincent Marshall's backup in the slot.
- Anthony Alridge, Jr. - 13 catches, 295 yds, 22.7 ypc, 3 TD
A phenomenal deep threat with great moves and home-run hitting ability, Alridge will have to battle a bit for playing time with the return over of Jeron Henry and the arrival of Arizona transfer Biren Ealy. He's not as big as those two, but he can make big plays when he gets the ball on the move.
- Tight end Rodney Hannah. Sr.
An interesting prospect, the 6-8, 245-pound senior is a basketball player who's jumping back into football again after playing hoops for two years at Yuba College before transferring to Houston. He was a star receiver in high school and should pose matchup problems with his athleticism and size.

Offensive Linemen
The line was excellent last year doing a decent job in pass protection while paving the way for 4.2 yards per carry and 166 yards per game from the ground attack. The strength is at tackle where SirVincent Rogers and Dustin Dickinson are all-conference caliber performers, while steady Sterling Doty is a good anchor at center. The problem is the depth; there isn't any. There are plenty of big bodies backing up the experienced front five, but no one outside of center Jake Ebner can be counted on right away.

The key to the unit: Stay healthy. There's almost no experience whatsoever among the reserves.
Offensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- OT SirVincent Rogers, Jr.
The 305-pound Rogers started to play up to his promise earning third team All-Conference USA honors last season as he grew into one of the best players on the line. He's a good run blocker who has the potential to be a dominant pass protector over the next two seasons.
- OG Jeff Akeroyd, Jr. 
One of the line's most versatile players, the 6-3, 300 -pound junior can play either tackle spot, but will start out the season at left guard. He's back this year after suffering an injury in spring ball of 2005, but now he's back and should be a tremendous pass protector on the inside.
- C Sterling Doty, Sr.
One of the line's most consistent blockers, the 295-pound senior is in his third year as the starter and anchor in the middle. He's quick on his feet and a good, reliable run blocker.
- OG Byron Alfred, Jr.
The 6-2, 290-pound junior missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he's experienced with ten starts in 2004. He spent the year getting bigger and stronger, and now should be a rock on the right side.
- OT Dustin Dickinson, Jr.
After starting every game last year, the 300-pound Dickinson should be in the hunt for all-star honors if he keeps progressing. He's strong enough to play guard if needed, but he has the feet to be a sound right tackle.

Top Backups
- C Jake Ebner, Soph.
One of the few Cougar lineman with any experience at all, the 290-pound Ebner will play behind Sterling Doty in the middle. He's a smart player who should grow into the backup role before taking over the job next year.
- T Mark Kimmey, Soph.
Kimmey has all the talent to be a big-time player at one of the tackle positions, but he didn't see much action last year and spent the off-season recovering from two knee surgeries. He's 6-5 and 300 pounds with as much athleticism as anyone on the line.
- T Sebastian Vollmer, Soph.
One of the team's more interesting tackle prospects, the 6-8, 260-pound native of Germany could see time at tight end in blocking situations. He broke his leg working out this off-season, but is expected to be back this fall.

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