#47 Houston Football 2017 Preview

Houston Cougars
Overall Rank: #47
#2 American
Houston has evolved into a stepping stone job for head coaches as Tom Herman became the latest one to leave for greener pastures in the University of Texas after last season. Now it is Major Applewhite’s turn as head coach and the Cougars were smart by making Applewhite sign a five-year contract with a very cost prohibitive buyout. Overall, the shelves are still relatively stocked with talent so it will be interesting to see how Applewhite does in the head coach position for Houston.
2016 Record: 9-4, 5-3
2016 Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl vs. San Diego State, 10-34 L
Coach: Major Applewhite (0-1 at Houston, 0-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Johnson
Defensive Coordinator: Mark D’Onforio, Clay Jennings
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Duke Catalon, RB, 528 yards
Passing: Kyle Postma, QB, 210 yards
Receiving: Linell Bonner, WR, 1,118 yards
Tackles: Matthew Adams, ILB, 82
Sacks: Ed Oliver, DT, 5.0
Interceptions: None
Other Key Returnees: WR Steven Dunbar, LT Josh Jones, C Will Noble, RG Marcus Oliver, RT Braylon Jones, OL Na’Ty Rodgers, DE Jerard Carter, CB, Jeremy Winchester, S Garrett Davis, S Khalil Williams, P Dane Roy, QB D’Eriq King
Key Losses: QB Greg Ward Jr., WR Chance Allen, K Ty Cummings, OLB Tyus Bowser, OLB Steven Taylor, CB Brandon Wilson, CB Howard Wilson
Kyle Allen will be the frontrunner to take over for Greg Ward Jr. at the quarterback position. Allen was a highly touted quarterback by all the recruiting services coming out of high school and after transferring from Texas A&M. Allen should be able to maintain the Cougars ability to throw the football effectively. Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar will lead a talented wide receiving corps that should be licking their chops to take a step forward with the passing game in 2017. Duke Catalon is back at running back and he could be a threat to break 1,000 yards if the offensive line can improve from a season ago. Speaking of the offensive line all five starters return, led by Will Noble. If they can get more consistent as a unit, this offense will be very explosive.
Ed Oliver had an excellent freshman season as Oliver had five sacks and was a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle who recorded 23 tackles for loss. The linebackers will have plenty of position battles as the production of Tyus Bowser and Steven Taylor will not be an easy thing to replace. Matthew Adams will be relied upon a great deal to provide senior leadership and will need to break 100 tackles in 2017. D’Juan Hines and Emeke Egbule are going to be very critical players to keep an eye on at linebacker. If Hines and Egbule can produce at a high level, then look out. In the secondary, Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams will need to be big time playmakers at safety as it will take for the secondary to reload at the cornerback position.
The Bottom Line:
Special teams will have a nice battle at kicker as Ty Cummings graduated and was a very accurate kicker, for the most part, last season. Dalton Witherspoon was signed as a junior college transfer to come in and try to win the job. Dane Roy had a solid season last year as a freshman at punter, averaging just under 41 yards per punt. The schedule is a tricky one early with trips to UTSA and Arizona followed by games with Rice and Texas Tech. If the Cougars can get off to a fast start then they will have a great opportunity to be in contention for the AAC West Division title. And they need to avoid those letdown games like SMU was last season. In the end, look for a bit of an up and down season for Houston as they will win around eight games in 2017.
Projected Bowl: Birmingham Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 147.1 (99th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 296.3 (17, 3)
Total Offense: 443.4 (41, 5)
Scoring Offense: 35.8 (26, 5)
Rushing Defense: 100.2 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 219.5 (51, 4)
Total Defense: 319.6 (13, 2)
Scoring Defense: 23.5 (30, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.54 (107, 10)
Sacks: 3.00 (14, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.85 (111, 11)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#214 Bryan Jones