2008 CFN Houston Preview
Houston WR Mark Hafner
Houston WR Mark Hafner
Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Houston Cougars

Houston Cougars

Preview 200

By Richard Cirminiello   

- 2008 CFN Houston Preview | 2008 Houston Offense
2008 CFN Houston Defense | 2008 Houston Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Houston Preview | 2006 CFN Houston Preview 

Head coach: Kevin Sumlin
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 26, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best Cougar Players
1. DE Phillip Hunt, Sr.
2. FS Kenneth Fontenette, Sr.
3. QB Case Keenum, Soph.
4. WR Mark Hafner, Sr.
5. DT Ell Ash, Sr.
6. NT Cody Pree, Sr.
7. SS Ernest Miller, Sr.
8. LT Sebastian Vollmer, Sr.
9. RT SirVincent Rogers, Sr.
10. RB Terrance Ganaway, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2008 Results: 0-0

Aug. 30 Southern
Sept. 6 at Oklahoma State
Sept. 13 Air Force
Sept. 20 at Colorado State
Sept. 27 at East Carolina
Oct. 11 UAB
Oct. 18 at SMU
Oct. 28 at Marshall
Nov. 8 Tulane
Nov. 15 Tulsa
Nov. 22 UTEP
Nov. 29 at Rice

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2007 Results:

Sept. 1 at Oregon L 48-27
Sept. 15
at Tulane W 34-10
Sept. 22 Colorado St W 35-24
Sept. 29
East Carolina L 37-35
Oct. 6 at Alabama L 30-24
Oct. 13
Rice W 56-48
Oct. 20 at UAB W 49-10
Oct. 27 at UTEP W 34-31
Nov. 4
SMU W 38-28
Nov. 10 at Tulsa L 56-7
Nov. 17
Marshall W 35-28
Nov. 24 Texas South. W 59-6
Texas Bowl
Dec. 28 TCU L 20-13

Although Art Briles is now coaching Baylor, and the dynamic duo of RB Anthony Alridge and WR Donnie Avery are preparing for NFL careers, the Cougars remain a team with an offensive identity. 

New head coach Kevin Sumlin was previously the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. His first offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, plans to remake the Houston attack in the image of the one he just left at Texas Tech, spreading the field and airing it out. Both of last year’s starting quarterbacks, Case Keenum and Blake Joseph, are back on campus. In other words, the Cougar offense won’t slip as much as conventional wisdom is suggesting.      

In two years, the Houston program has lost franchise QB Kevin Kolb and architect Briles, but it’s still planning on maintaining the success of the past couple of seasons. In fact, Sumlin expects to build on it. In a wide open West Division, the offense will birth new stats hounds in the passing game, and the defense has enough talent up front to make a seamless switch to a 4-3 base alignment.  

What to watch for on offense
: Passes. Lots of them. New coordinator Dana Holgorsen is a disciple of Texas Tech’s Mike Leach, the architect of one of the most successful passing games in college football history. While there’ll be differences between the two offenses, the goal will essentially be the same—spread the field with four receivers and quickly distribute the ball with safe passes that move the chains. Unless the new pass catchers are slow getting up to speed, Holgorsen’s system is going to make a statistical star out of Case Keenum or Blake Joseph.    

What to watch for on defense
: Development of the secondary. The fact that Houston led Conference USA in pass defense is a giant tease. Sure, no one allowed fewer yards per game, but the Cougars also yielded twice as many touchdown passes as their number of interceptions. With four starters returning, including all-star FS Kenneth Fontenette, there’s no good reason why Houston shouldn’t begin turning the corner and limiting the number of big plays allowed.                  

This team will be far better if
…it drastically improves in turnover margin. When the Cougars were losing games in 2007, they were on the wrong side of the turnover battle. Finishing 99th nationally and No. 10 in Conference USA in turnover margin is a recipe for another runner-up finish in conference play.    

The Schedule:
The Sumlin era has a chance to get off to a big start with a couple of early road wins. If the Cougars can hold serve at home and pull off a win at Colorado State or East Carolina before going into an off-week, the record should be tremendous. There are back to back October road dates at SMU and Marshall, but they're winnable, they come after the UAB game and before a week off. Getting Tulsa and UTEP at home will help, and closing out at Rice, which is like a home game, is yet another huge break. 

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Case Keenum. Although he hasn’t even locked up the starting job, there’s no question Keenum is a rising star in Houston. He was in a dogfight with Blake Joseph last year as well, but wound up standing out, parlaying 23 total touchdowns, 2,671 total yards, and a Cougar record for passing accuracy into being named the consensus Conference USA Freshman of the Year.    

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Phillip Hunt. The reigning sack leader in Conference USA, he plays hard and fast on every down, creating headaches for overmatched tackles. Hunt’s speed and insatiable appetite for quarterbacks are his calling cards, parlaying those traits into 55 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks in a statement junior year.      

Key player to a successful season: Senior RT SirVincent Rogers. One of the league’s premier offensive linemen before getting injured, he’s missed most of the last two seasons with a slow-to-heal knee injury. If he’s finally whole again, he’ll solidify the right side of a line that’s looking to replace two standouts and needing to pick it up in pass protection.     

The season will be a success if ... Houston wins Conference USA. The Cougars were in the hunt until late last season, and return enough talent on both sides of the ball to be back in the same position in a league with no clear front-runner. If Kevin Sumlin can get the new spread humming without a hitch, Houston could slice through league defenses much the way Tulsa did a season ago.

Key game: Nov. 15 vs. Tulsa. The Cougars got swamped by the Hurricane, 56-7, last November in a game that decided the West Division champion. This fall’s game should have similar implications, with the winner likely to represent Conference USA in the league title game a few weeks later.       

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Houston 101 for 880 yards – Opponents 76 for 674 yards
- Average yards per game: Houston 501.9 – Opponents 365.6
- Punt return average: Opponents 14.6 yards – Houston 8.8 yards