The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Houston Cougars.
No. 67: Houston Cougars
Spring Practice Starts: March 5
Spring Game: April 7
Houston Cougars Spring Status
It wasn’t quite the big debut hoped for under Major Applewhite – at least coming off of the clunker of a 2016 Las Vegas Bowl loss – going 7-5 with a Hawaii Bowl loss to Fresno State. More than anything else, the offense didn’t roll like it should’ve.
The downfield passing game struggled, the defense was was too inconsistent, and there was a strange problem closing out close games. The Cougars beat Arizona 19-16 to start the season, but four of the five losses were by four points or fewer.
Good enough to beat South Florida and Navy, they were flaky enough to lose to Tulsa and Tulane.
The defense gets back Ed Oliver to anchor everything up front, but most of the linebacking corps has to be replaced along with two starters in the secondary. The offense needs more at receiver and has to replace two starters on the line, but the talent is there to do more.
Houston Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Linebacker. Replacing top receivers Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner is a big deal, but four of the top six tacklers are gone including top guys D’Juan Hines and Matthew Adams from the linebacking corps. Emeke Egbule is a good guy to start with, and Leroy Godfrey has to be a bigger factor, but finding the four starters for the right spots will take most of the offseason.
Houston Biggest Issue
The secondary has to stop someone who can throw. The Cougars lose S Terrell Williams and CB Alexander Myres, but they need to improve. They allowed 300 passing yards or more in six of the final ten games, getting ripped apart by Memphis, East Carolina and Fresno State for 400 yards. They only allowed ten scores and came up with 15 interceptions, but they have to keep the big plays to a minimum.
Houston Biggest Positive
Houston has its quarterback. It took a while to figure out who the main guy was, and then D’Eriq King took over, running for 379 yards and eight scores and throwing for 1,260 yards and seven scores with two picks, doing most of his work in the final five games. He’s a baller who showed off his upside, and now he might have to do even more with top RB Duke Catalon leaving the program for personal reasons.
Really, Why Are The Houston Cougars Ranked Here?
The Cougars have the best defensive player in college football in Oliver, and they have just enough talent offensively to be better if Applewhite and the coaching staff are stronger.
Catalon not being a part of the backfield – at least for now – is a problem, and the defense might have to replace five starters in the back eight, but the expectations were set by previous coaching staffs – being in the American Athletic Conference title chase is a must.