2009 Houston Preview - Offense
Houston QB Case Keenum
Houston QB Case Keenum
Posted Jul 18, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Houston Cougar Offense

Houston Cougars

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Houston Preview | 2009 Houston Offense
2009 CFN Houston Defense | 2009 Houston Depth Chart
- 2008 UH Preview | 2007 UH Preview | 2006 UH Preview

What you need to know: A year ago, Houston had a new staff, a new system, and a new set of skill position players, yet averaged 562 yards and 40 points a game. What will Dana Holgorsen’s wide-open attack accomplish now that just about everyone is back? It’s a scary thought for Conference USA defenses that had few answers for Case Keenum and his band of precocious freshmen backs and receivers. Almost overnight, RB Bryce Beall and receivers Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards blossomed into dynamic playmakers, giving the quarterback a slew of dangerous weapons. The only thing that’ll keep the Cougs from bettering their 2008 numbers is an offensive line in transition. If it can gel in a hurry, with the help of a couple of JUCO imports, this offense will be borderline unstoppable.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Case Keenum
397-589, 5,020 yds, 44 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Bryce Beall
198 carries, 1,247 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Tyron Carrier
80 catches, 1,026 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Case Keenum
Players who have to step up and become a star: Junior OT Roy Watts
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Bryce Beall
Best pro prospect: Beall
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keenum, 2) Beall, 3) WR Tyron Carrier
Strength of the offense: Passing Attack, Skill Players
Weakness of the offense: Line, Pass Protection


Projected Starter: Junior Case Keenum isn’t just a good quarterback. He’s the nation’s most prolific returning quarterback after accounting for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a breakthrough sophomore season. Tailor-made for this pass-happy attack, he climbed up the school’s passing charts, while stringing together 13 straight games of at least 300 yards passing and finishing No. 9 nationally in passing efficiency. While not exactly the prototype at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he has a feel for the position that you’d expect from a coach’s son and great footwork, especially when the pocket begins to collapse. 

Projected Top Reserves: Here’s where the drama begins. Senior Blake Joseph, a seasoned veteran, opted to transfer before spring, leaving the Cougars with a giant vacancy at the No. 2 spot. For now, the favorite to be Keenum’s caddy is 6-0, 190-pound Cotton Turner, a recent transfer from Blinn (Tex.) Junior College. A high school sensation in Houston, he’s actually a pretty nice fit here, but has to be game-ready by the time the season begins.

Challenging Turner will be 6-1, 196-pound sophomore Austin Elrod and 6-1, 180-pound redshirt freshman Crawford Jones, a couple of scout team players a year ago. If either gets on the field this fall, it’s either a really bad sign, like injuries, or a really good sign, such as a blowout.  

Watch Out For…Turner. All of a sudden, the kid from the junior college ranks has a very important role in Houston’s success this season. Originally recruited to be the No. 3 guy to be used only in case of extreme emergencies, he’s now one twisted ankle or late hit away from being in the huddle.              
Strength: Keenum. Would he fit every team’s system? No. In Houston, however, he’s a perfect match for an offense that likes to spread the ball around and asks its quarterbacks to be nimble. He’s got enough zip on his passes to make all the throws, and is a year wiser in Dana Holgorsen’s complex system.  
Weakness: Depth. Hey, if Keenum remains healthy, this will never become an issue. However, he’s not very big and likes to tuck and run, so durability could become a factor. If Kevin Sumlin needs to go to his bench, he’ll be calling on someone with zero experience at this level.
Outlook: As long as Keenum is upright, Houston boasts one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks. If he can throw 44 touchdown passes with a new staff, a new offense, and a completely green supporting cast, what happens now that everyone has spent a year together? If the Cougars can pick off an FBS opponent, like Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, Keenum is capable of getting into the Heisman discussion.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: In one of last year’s really big upsets, the pass-first Cougars had a 1,000-yard rusher. Even more surprising was the author, true freshman Bryce Beall, the first rookie in school history to eclipse that mark. A revelation by every possible measure, he rushed 198 times for 1,247 yards and 13 touchdowns, adding 34 catches for 496 yards and four touchdowns. A 5-11, 205-pounder, he’s got outstanding vision through the hole and enough explosiveness to get into the secondary in a hurry. His soft hands mean he has value to the offense on every down.   

Projected Top Reserves: Behind getting injured, 5-11, 195-pound junior Andre Kohn, not Beall, was the starter at the beginning of the season. He wound up playing a secondary role, but clearly has the all-around talent and open field moves to be an every-down player if needed. When he got on the field, he played well, running 63 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns, while making 25 grabs for 301 yards and two scores.

The Cougars’ version of a short-yardage back is 6-1, 220-pound sophomore Justin Johnson, the biggest and most physical of the runners. A former high school quarterback, he’s actually trimmed some weight in the offseason in an attempt to improve his speed and quickness. He had 24 carries for 97 yards as a rookie, representing a nice change-of-pace for defenses to stop.

Watch Out For… the backs to continue excelling, much the way they do in Lubbock. Hey, neither Beall nor Kohn is going to average 25 carries a game, but when he does get touches, he’ll usually enjoy wide running lanes and plenty of open areas in an offense that loves to spread the field out.
Strength: Overall talent. In Beall and Kohn, the Cougars harbor two quality backs, who’d start for a bunch of schools in the country. Plus, in an offense that leans so heavily on the pass, it’s a huge bonus that both players are so sharp as receivers out of the backfield.
Weakness: Ball security. As a team, Houston put the ball on the turf way too often, fumbling 32 times and losing 17. Obviously, it wasn’t all the fault of the backs, but Beall and Kohn have to make sure they maintain a firm grip on the ball and avoid drive-killing turnovers.
Outlook: No way Houston can recover from the 2007 graduation of Anthony Alridge, right? Beall has been an unexpected blessing for an offense that can now run the ball almost as effectively as it throws it. None of the top three backs are seniors, so the Cougars are set in the backfield for the next few seasons.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: What a difference a year makes. Last spring, the Cougars had to put out an APB for quality hands. Today, they are loaded at the position, welcoming back six of last year’s top seven wideouts and some ready-made recruits. The top returning player is sophomore mighty-mite Tyron Carrier, who debuted spectacularly in the slot with 80 receptions for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns. While just 5-8 and 162 pounds, he played bigger than his size, and literally has the track speed to blow past defenders.

The other inside spot, the Y receiver, is far less certain. Houston needs to replace reliable Mark Hafner, last year’s leading pass-catcher. First dibs on the job goes to 6-2, 185-pound senior Chaz Rodriguez, a regular in the lineup and two-time letterwinner. While he doesn’t have Hafner’s width or hands, he is more of a downfield option, making a career-high 40 grabs a year ago for 418 yards and a score.  

On the outside, 5-9, 175-pound sophomore Patrick Edwards and 5-10, 175-pound junior Kierrie Johnson will handle the X and Z positions, respectively. Edwards came virtually out of nowhere to become one of the team’s top receivers, making 46 catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns before being lost for the year with a leg injury at the end of October. A former walk-on and track guy in high school, he’s quickly developed into a dynamite playmaker.

In his first season out of Blinn (Tex.) Junior College, Johnson made an immediate impact, starting four games and catching 32 balls for 499 yards and five scores. Yet another one of the really athletic Cougar receivers, he glides when running patterns and showed a knack for picking up extra yards after the reception.

Projected Top Reserves: It took a couple of seasons, but junior L.J. Castile has officially made the transition from quarterback to outside receiver. In mostly a reserve role, he hauled in 31 passes for 531 yards and eight touchdowns. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he’s more physical than his peers, especially near the end zone, and is one of the team’s better downfield blockers.

Challenging for playing time at the big slot will be 6-6, 240-pound junior, 6-6, 240-pound Wesley Scourten, an imposing figure with the hands and agility to deliver a breakout. Mostly a special teams performer the last two seasons, he caught three passes in 2008, but has a chance to do so much more now that Hafner is gone.

Sophomore E.J. Smith impressed the staff enough as a first-year player to make nine appearances and pick up some of the slack after Edwards went on the shelf. A combination of nice speed and open field moves in a 6-1, 185-pound frame, he could triple last year’s nine-catch total.

Watch Out For… newcomers James Cleveland, a key JUCO signing, and freshman A.J. Dugat. Cleveland actually began his career at Iowa, where he had 36 catches for 464 yards as a rookie. Dugat is a four-star player, who got a bunch of invites to play in the Big 12. The staff is going to put its four best players on the field. Although neither has caught a pass for the team, Cleveland and Dugat are both capable of being one of those guys.
Strength: Speed. With jackrabbits, like Carrier, Edwards, and Johnson, Houston has enough legitimate blazers to give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. If the Cougars can get these guys into space, they’ll do plenty of damage after the catch.
Weakness: A go-to guy at Y receiver. While Houston has a mess of returning talent, it won’t be a snap replacing Hafner and his team-high 86 receptions. Especially on third down and near the end zone, Keenum used him as a security blanket, a role that has to be filled by Rodriguez or Scourten.
Outlook: A ton of credit needs to go to this coaching staff for turning a flashing question mark into a strength in under a year. Not only is Houston flush with exciting playmakers at wide receiver, but the offense is beginning to attract big-time recruits, such as Dugat. Especially if Edwards makes it all the way back from injury, Keenum will have no shortage of quality targets when he drops back to throw. 
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The rebuilt Cougar front wall is more likely to slow down the offense than any of this year’s defensive opponents. Three full-timers are gone, leaving senior C Carl Barnett as the new anchor of the offensive line. More steady than spectacular, he’s started 26 consecutive games dating back to the beginning of 2007. A little undersized at 6-2 and 285 pounds, he’s agile, quick off the snap, and in control of this unit.

A couple of sophomores, 6-2, 295-pound Chris Thompson and 6-3, 270-pound Jordan Shoemaker, are expected to line up at guard for the opener. A member of the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, Thompson flashed his versatility in 2008, he started the first seven games at left guard before shifting to right tackle. One of the budding cornerstones up front, he plays with outstanding burst and power.

Shoemaker played in all 13 games as a freshman, logging starts in each of the final six games. He’s a little behind after sitting out the spring with an injury, but does expect to be back in time for August drills. A little undersized at this stage of his career, he’ll benefit by adding some girth without sacrificing any quickness and agility.

Senior Josh Bell, too, is working his way back from the trainer’s room thanks to Achilles injury suffered last October. If health isn’t an issue, he’s the frontrunner to protect Keenum’s blindside at left tackle. A former top tight end recruit of Kansas, he’s now 6-5 and 315 pounds, with the long arms and light feet to finish his Cougar career with honors.

Holding on at right tackle is senior Matt Hart, a veteran of three career letters. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, he has ideal size, but that hasn’t translated into peak performance at this level. He’s had a marginal college career, and could be vulnerable if one of the newcomers steps it up.

Projected Top Reserves: The Cougars went into the junior college ranks and appear to have plucked a couple of gems. Lurking behind Hart at right tackle is massive junior Roy Watts, a coveted prospect who began his career at Texas and was fielding offers from some top-shelf BCS schools. The 6-6, 315-pounder needs to sharpen his footwork and make sure his weight doesn’t soar.

Junior Jarve Dean is another wide-body with the upper body strength to pancake defenders, especially on straight-ahead running plays. Even at 6-3 and 325 pounds, he moves surprisingly well for such a large player. Initially, he’s lining up at guard, but could switch to tackle when Shoemaker comes off injured reserve.

Although he’s just a redshirt freshman, LT Jacolby Ashworth has caught the attention of new coach B.J. Anderson, and has gotten reps with the first team when Bell was out. He can stand to add a little more muscle to his 6-3, 275-pound frame, but is very athletic and well ahead of the curve in terms of technique and fundamentals.

Watch Out For… the new guys. Watts and Dean aren’t just your ordinary transfers from JUCO program. They’re a couple of sizable additions with the talent and size to crack the lineup and have an immediate impact.           
Strength: Barnett. The offensive line is going to be raw, and in certain spots, inexperienced. Because of his demeanor and years in the trenches, Barnett will have a calming effect in the huddle, while playing the role of mentor everywhere else.
Weakness: Pass protection. Yeah, the numbers are a little inflated by the numbers of times they throw the ball, but the Cougars have to start doing a better job of keeping Keenum from running for his life. Houston has yielded 61 sacks the last two year, and this group may not be ready to alter that trend.
Outlook: While there’s raw talent up front, there are also plenty of legitimate concerns that if this group doesn’t gel, the offense may not hit the high note. Right now, it’s an average unit that’s lacking a dominant player. It’s a lot of pressure, but to become better than average, Watts and Dean must emerge right away.
Rating: 5.5


Related Stories
2009 Houston Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009
2009 CFN Houston Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009
2009 Houston Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Houston
[View My HotList]