Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Houston Preview
2008 CFN Houston
2008 Houston Depth
2007 CFN Houston Preview
2006 CFN Houston Preview
need to know:
While there’ll be subtle differences based on personnel, Houston
is basically installing the same Texas Tech spread that’s
perennially among the nation’s leaders in passing. The first
order of business will be to decide between quarterbacks Case
Keenum and Blake Joseph, who split time a year ago. Joseph has
the stronger arm, but Keenum is more accurate on intermediate
routes and moves well outside the pocket, making him a nice fit
for Holgorsen’s system. If the offense is going to hum early,
the receivers need to step up, putting pressure on last year’s
backups L.J. Castile, Tim Monroe, and Chris Gilbert. After
missing most of 2006 and 2007 with a knee injury, promising T
SirVincent Rogers is a welcome addition to a line that’s
replacing Jeff Akeroyd on the right side.
Passing: Case Keenum
187-273, 2,259 yds, 14 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Terrance Ganaway
109 carries, 550 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Mark Hafner
40 catches, 445 yds, 35 TD
Star of the
Sophomore QB Case Keenum
Players who have to step up and become a star: Sophomore
WRs Chaz Rodriguez and L.J. Castile
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman LG Chris
Best pro prospect: Senior LT SirVincent Rogers
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior LT Sebastian
Vollmer 2) Rogers 3) Senior WR Mark Hafner
Strength of the offense: Quarterbacks, the offensive line
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at the skill
positions, pass protection
Projected Starter: After sharing time a year ago,
6-2, 210-pound sophomore Case Keenum and 6-2, 215-pound
junior Blake Joseph are back at it again, going
toe-to-toe in the race for the starting quarterback job. Keenum
actually earned the lion’s share of the snaps, completing a
school-record 68.5% of his passes for 2,259 yards, 14
touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 412 yards
and nine touchdowns, a distinct advantage in this tight
Joseph, on the other hand, is a more traditional pocket passer
with the better fastball, a plus in a system that favors quick
reads and even quicker connections. He went 100-of-155 for 1,324
yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions in five starts,
taking a back seat to Keenum late in the year. The gap, however,
was narrowed in the April, as he went 37-of-41 for 421 yards and
five touchdowns in a sterling spring game audition. He can help
his cause even further by developing more touch on his passes.
Projected Top Reserves: If someone other than
Keenum or Joseph throws a pass, it means the Cougars pulled a
trick play out of the playbook or someone got injured. Their
spots on the two-deep are set in stone. Neither 5-11, 175-pound
Austin Elrod nor 6-0, 200-pound sophomore Andrew
Stewart, a Texas Lutheran transfer, is considered much more
than a camp body at this juncture.
Watch Out For…the starting assignment to go to the
more cerebral player. As much as execution matters here, to
really be successful in Dana Holgorsen’s system, the quarterback
must be able to read defenses and quickly get the ball in the
hands of the right receiver. Physical ability alone won’t cut
Strength: Two quarterbacks that can start.
Assuming both can somehow be kept happy, Houston has multiple
quarterbacks with ample experience and the skills to blow up in
this offense, a luxury enjoyed by very few programs.
Weakness: Turnovers. Keenum and Joseph had a few
more picks last year than the current regime is going to
tolerate. If the problem isn’t rectified by an additional year
of experience and maturity, the culprit is going to wind
spending a lot of time watching from the sidelines.
Outlook: Considering the Cougars are a little over
a year removed from the graduation of Kevin Kolb, they’ve made a
heck of a rebound at the position. In a system designed to make
a star out of the quarterback, both Keenum and Joseph are
capable of delivering as the starter. Both will play, but the
pecking order isn’t likely to be decided until just before the
opener with Southern.
Projected Starters: Houston’s tallest order this
year will be to replace do-everything Anthony Alridge, one of
the fastest and most versatile players in school history.
Although the leader coming out of spring was 5-10, 195-pound
sophomore Andre Kohn, he won’t be expected to shoulder
the load by himself. A slippery back with good hands, he
appeared to be a nice fit for an offense looking for even more
versatility from the backs. As a reserve last year, he had 28
carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns, adding four catches,
including a 67-yard scoring jaunt in the Texas Bowl.
Projected Top Reserves: Right behind Kohn is
sophomore Terrance Ganaway, who erupted for 550 yards and
six scores on 109 carries as a true freshman. At 6-0 and 220
pounds, he’s a powerful back, yet has unexpected speed and
quickness around tackle. He’ll need to do a better job of
catching passes out of the backfield, a job requirement for
running backs in the new system.
The Cougars’ top option in short yardage could be redshirt
freshman Justin Johnson, a 6-1, 233-pound bruiser running
third on the depth chart. A former quarterback in high school,
he’ll be an interesting change-of-pace, especially when Houston
is looking to wear down opposing defenses late in the game.
Watch Out For… the backs to be used like they are
at Texas Tech, as additional receivers and occasional runners to
catch the defense off guard. There’ll be opportunities to pick
up big chunks of yards for Kohn and Ganaway, who’ll usually be
running in wide lanes and open areas.
Strength: Talent. When the current No. 2 rushed
for 550 yards as a first-year rookie, it’s a flashing signal
that there will be life beyond Alridge after all. Kohn and
Ganaway are quality backs with bright futures in Houston once
they digest their new roles.
Weakness: A sure-thing. Kohn has limited
experience and most of Ganaway’s production came in blowouts
versus weak opponents. Neither is a lock to move into a feature
role without any hitches or blown assignments.
Outlook: Although you don’t get better by losing
Alridge’s jets and explosiveness, Houston will land on its feet
at the position, thanks to the recent recruiting of former coach
Art Briles. Out of Kohn and Ganaway, whoever is the more
consistent pass-catcher and pass blocker will earn the majority
of the first-team reps.
Projected Starters: Not unlike the situation at
running back, Houston is enduring some major hits at wide
receiver, parting with last year’s top two players, Jeron Harvey
and current St. Louis Ram Donnie Avery. The Cougars will need a
slew of receivers to step up if the spread attack is going to
click. The one given in the corps is 6-3, 235-pound senior
Mark Hafner, the leading returning receiver with 40 catches
for 445 yards and three touchdowns. A tight end in the old set,
he’s now at Y, a slot receiver lining just outside the right
tackle. He has the sure hands and disciplined route-running to
catch a ton of passes in his final year.
At the other slot, the H position, redshirt freshman Tyron
Carrier is making it difficult to keep him out of the
lineup. While only 5-7 and 150 pounds, he’s a member of the
Houston track team and is the one player with the jets to help
offset the loss of Avery. With space and a chance to hide behind
the linemen, he’s capable of taking a short toss and turning it
into a long touchdown.
On the outside, sophomore Chaz Rodriguez entered and
exited spring as the starter at Z receiver. One of the few
receivers with relevant game experience from a year ago, he’s
6-2 and 185 pounds with the speed and burst to be a downfield
The Cougars remain hopeful that 6-3, 210-pound sophomore L.J.
Castile is ready to capture the other outside opening at X
receiver. Arguably the best combination of size and athleticism
among the receivers, he’s getting a stiff challenge for the
starting job. In his first season since shifting from
quarterback, he made seven grabs for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Projected Top Reserves: The veteran among the
reserves is 5-8, 170-pound junior Chris Gilbert, a
two-time letterwinner who can play either of the slot positions.
While he only has nine career catches, he’s a tough, sure-handed
receiver who’s not afraid to cross the middle to make a grab.
Battling Castile for the job at Z is redshirt freshman
Patrick Edwards. The antithesis of Castile, he’s only 5-9
and 165 pounds, but can fly on post patterns. A track star in
high school, he’ll need to become more than just a burner in
order to win the job.
If the Cougars opt for size over speed at H receiver, 6-6,
240-pound sophomore Wesley Scourten will get the nod.
Built like an agile tight end, he has good hands and is able to
box out defenders on the intermediate routes, especially when a
first down is needed.
Watch Out For… the depth chart to be fluid
throughout the summer and early part of the season. Players got
shifted around like chess pieces in April, a sign of things to
come on an offense that still isn’t quite sure what the pecking
order will look like.
Strength: Diversity. Between well-sized receivers,
like Castile and Scourten, and speedsters, such as Carrier and
Edwards, there’s a blend of talent that’ll allow the coaches to
mix-and-match depending on the situation and the spot of the
Weakness: Proven talent. With the exception of
Hafner, who’s still basically a tight end, Houston is extremely
thin at wide receiver, returning no one who caught more than
seven passes last year.
Outlook: In an offense that could throw the ball
75-80% of the time, somebody is going to put up great numbers in
this offense. That won’t, however, guarantee that the receiving
corps is lighting it up or doing everything necessary to make
the passing game motor. Dropped balls and poor execution could
be commonplace in the early stages of the season.
Projected Starters: Four players with starting
experience return to an underrated line that’ll be the
cornerstone of the offense. The headline is that 6-4, 315-pound
senior RT SirVincent Rogers is finally back after missing
most of the last two seasons with a serious knee injury. Before
going down, he was on the Lombardi and Outland Watch Lists and
one of the most physical blockers in Conference USA. He’ll have
a lot of catching up to do and a few layers of rust to shake
off, but his presence on the right side will surely be felt.
Over at left tackle is senior Sebastian Vollmer, a 6-8,
290-pound product of Germany entering his second season as a
full-timer. Finally healthy after battling persistent back
problems, he played up to his potential, flashing the long arms,
light feet, and upper body strength that could generate NFL
interest with another solid year.
In the middle for the second straight year is junior Carl
Barnett, an undersized, yet agile, 6-2, 285-pounder who
failed to miss a game in 2007. He’s quickly becoming the glue of
the line, a heady leader with an explosive first step off the
For a third year in-a-row, 6-2, 295-pound senior Michael
Bloesch will be manning right guard. A rugged inside
blocker, he’s nasty when he locks on to opposing defensive
linemen. One of the hardest workers on the field and in the
weight room, he’s an inspirational leader of the unit, even if
his career doesn’t extend beyond Houston.
The lone newcomer to the starting lineup is 6-2, 295-pound
redshirt freshman LG Chris Thompson. He turned heads
throughout the spring, showed outstanding quickness and power
for such a young player. He’s the type of lineman Houston will
build around once the upperclassmen run out of eligibility.
Projected Top Reserves: Backing up Vollmer at left
tackle will be 6-5, 315-pound junior Josh Bell, a
transfer from Kansas who earned his first letter with the
Cougars a year ago. A former top tight end recruit of the
Jayhawks, he has the size, reach, and athleticism to be much
more than just a garden variety reserve.
Quality depth at tackle can also be found in 6-6, 310-pound
junior Matt Hart, another hulking lineman with 20 games
of experience. He’ll be an understudy for one more season before
seamlessly sliding into the starting lineup in 2009. Both Hart
and Bell are like having front line-caliber players on the B
Senior Isaiah Agson has fallen behind Thompson at guard,
but represents an excellent option off the bench. He’s a 6-3,
335-pound bulldozer, who has lettered in each of the last two
seasons, appearing in 11 games a year ago. Thompson is the
future, but if he stumbles, Agson won’t hesitate to move into
Watch Out For… Thompson. He’s a walking conundrum,
part building block for the future and part stumbling block for
the present. The redshirt freshman is a future all-star, but
he’s also the rookie on a starting line with three seniors and a
Strength: Experience. The Cougars go two-deep with
linemen who have a ton of experience with the program. How many
schools can boast a backup at every position who has earned at
least one letter?
Weakness: Pass protection. First-time starters at
quarterback were part of the problem, but the offensive line
also has to be held accountable for allowing 34 sacks a year
Outlook: Even after losing Dustin Dickinson and
Jeff Akeroyd to graduation, the Cougars will still have one of
the top units in Conference USA. The key will be how quickly—and
whether—Rogers can recapture his pre-injury form. If he’s back
to being an all-star, Houston will have four solid, veteran
blockers to help make the offense go.