Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Houston Preview
2009 CFN Houston
2009 Houston Depth
2008 UH Preview
2007 UH Preview
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.
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
Junior QB Case Keenum
Players who have to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Bryce Beall
Best pro prospect: Beall
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keenum, 2) Beall, 3) WR
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.