Houston To Play Washington State
Photo via John Glaser, TexasHSFootball.com

 

New faces

Following the departure of Tom Herman, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was promoted to head coach. The former Longhorn star brings 13 years of coaching experience from schools including Alabama, Texas and Rice. During Herman’s tenure, Applewhite led the team to 22 wins over two seasons including victories over Florida State and Oklahoma.

His offensive expertise will be matched by new defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. The former University of Miami defensive coordinator brings 16 years of coaching experience, including the last five in Coral Gables. There won’t be Much change on the offensive side, but expect changes in the style of play on defense.

Quarterback Battle

Its Kyle versus Kyle in Houston! Former five star and Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen battles Kyle Postma, who started for an injured Greg Ward Jr. in several games last season. Both are very capable of succeeding:  Postma being the player everyone knows and Allen bringing 14 starts worth of experience with the Aggies and a prolific high school career.

Who’s back?

Steven Dunbar and Linnell Bonner return for the Cougars, they combined for 1,810 receiving yards last year, and are expected to both hit 1,000+ this season. Running Back Duke Catalon returns for his junior season, the former Texas Longhorn transfer should be the starting running back this season. He’s someone who gets the tough yards between the tackles, and can catch the ball out of the backfield, the Kyles will turn to him a lot this season.

On the defensive side, former five-star Ed Oliver is back and will wreak havoc for every offense he faces. Following a breakout freshman year, the Spring Westfield graduate already looks, and plays, the part of a top 10 player nationally. He enters the season as a frontrunner for almost every defensive award applicable. Austin Robinson, the former UTSA quarterback,  comes in at outside linebacker after a promising 2016 season. At inside linebacker, 2016 leading tackler Matthew Adams returns with D’Juan Hines.

In the secondary, safeties Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams return, giving some stability to the secondary that needs to replace both cornerbacks as both Howard and Brandon Wilson, no relation, have moved on to the NFL. Nothing is set at the cornerback position, but expect a committee of players rotating to fill the gaps left.

Schedule

Sept. 2 – at UTSA
Sept. 9 – at Arizona
Sept. 16 – Rice
Sept. 23 – Texas Tech
Sept. 30 – at Temple
Oct. 7 – SMU
Oct. 14 – at Tulsa
Oct. 19 – Memphis
Oct. 28 – ECU
Nov. 4 – at USF
Nov. 18 – at Tulane
Nov. 24 – Navy

Verdict

The Cougars have a great shot at a winning season. They play only one ranked team in USF, as per AP Preseason Top 25. Houston has the talent to go toe-to-toe with every team on the schedule. There’s enough talent on both sides of the ball where reasonably, the Cougars could very well win nine plus games this season. Two potential losses would be USF and/or Navy.

USF has Charlie Strong at the helm and returns Quinton Flowers, a dark-horse Heisman candidate, and many expect them to be the best team out of the AAC. Navy always plays tough and returns 10 starters from an AAC West Division win. Arizona is a tough out of conference opponent, look out for potential trap games in SMU and Memphis, two teams Houston has struggled with the last two seasons.

This season depends on who wins the starting cornerback roles, and how much the defense changes under D’Onofrio. Best case scenario: the Cougars run the table and win the AAC, which isn’t out of question. But at worst, this is remembered as a transition year with the Cougars making a bowl game but struggling to win seven games.

 

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