Houston Cougars 2009 NCAA Football Preview

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Houston Cougars

Conference USA


2008 Record: (8-5, 6-2)

2008 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Air Force (W 34-28)

Coach: Kevin Sumlin (8-5 at Houston, 8-5 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Dana Holgorsen and Jason Phillips

Defensive Coordinator: John Skladany


Returning Leaders

Rushing: Bryce Beall, RB, 1,272 yards

Passing: Case Keenum, QB, 5,020 yards

Receiving: Tyron Carrier, WR, 1,026 yards

Tackles: Marcus McGraw, LB, 103

Sacks: Tyrell Graham, LB, 1.5

Interceptions: Brandon Brinkley, CB, 4; Loyce Means, CB, 4


Other Key Returnees: LB C.J. Cavness, WR Patrick Edwards, RB Andre Kohn, LB Matt Nicholson, WR Chaz Rodriguez, P Chase Turner

Key Losses: DT Ell Ash, S Kenneth Fontenette, WR Mark Hafner, DE Phillip Hunt, LB Cody Lubojasky, S Ernest Miller, OT SirVincent Rogers, OT Sebastian Vollmer


It sure did not take Coach Kevin Sumlin long to get his offense rolling. In his first year at the helm, Coach Sumlin saw his team rank second in the nation in passing offense and total offense. With all the skill players returning, year two could be even more impressive. Watch out Texas Tech.



Quarterback Case Keenum threw for an incredible 5,020 yards and 44 touchdowns as a sophomore. With nearly all of his receiving targets back, the passing attack will be extremely impressive. Tyron Carrier caught 80 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman. Those are some great numbers for a freshman even in this pass heavy offense. Patrick Edwards and Chaz Rodriguez are more than capable of filling in for the departed Mark Hafner. Add Chris Gilbert, L.J. Castille, Kierrie Johnson and former Arizona basketball player Fendi Onobun to the mix and Keenum can spread the ball all over the field. What makes the Houston offense so special is Bryce Beall. As a freshman the 5-11 back rushed for 1,247 yards and 13 touchdowns and even caught 34 passes for 496 yards and four touchdowns. The fact that the Cougars can be dangerous in the air and on the ground makes them one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation.



However, the offensive line has some rebuilding to do. The interior of the line returns, led by center Carl Barnett, but nobody is going to replace tackles SirVincent Rogers and Sebastian Vollmer very easily, although Roy Watts and Josh Bell are experienced players. Yet, it is the defense that is the largest problem. The unit only returns four starters and replacing end Phillip Hunt, who tallied 14.0 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss will be impossible. The front four has to find a new rusher or the defense will be worse than it was last year. Cornerback Brandon Brinkley has to become a leader in the secondary while safeties Kenneth Fontenette and Ernest Miller are replaced. Most of the experience on defense is at the linebacker position. Marcus McGraw had a superb freshman campaign and led the team in tackles and C.J. Cavness and Matt Nicholson are experienced seniors, but some youngsters have to step up and fill in all the holes on that side of the ball.


The Bottom Line:

Houston will win plenty of games by outscoring their opponents. But they have to be able to stop somebody if they want to compete for a C-USA championship. Keenum and company averaged over 40 points per game last year and that number could be more impressive this time around. However the defense gave up nearly 31 points per game in 2008 and that number could actually go up even higher. Either way, the Cougars will be fun to watch if you like offense, but it will all come down to how much the defense can improve and that will be the difference between a good season and a great season.


2008 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 161.15 (47th in nation, 5th in conference)

Passing Offense: 401.62 (2, 1)

Total Offense: 562.77 (2, 2)

Scoring Offense: 40.62 (10, 3)

Rushing Defense: 175.15 (94, 8)

Pass Defense: 238.31 (91, 6)

Total Defense: 413.46 (100, 7)

Scoring Defense: 30.92 (91, 7)

Turnover Margin: -.46 (88, 11)

Sacks: 1.85 (64, 4)

Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (71, 7)