4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HOUSTON DEFENSE
– The defense didn’t keep up its end of the bargain last year, and now five starters, Ed Oliver, and five of the top seven tacklers are gone. The run defense was awful, the pass defense was worse, and now the fourth-worst D in the country – giving up 497 yards and 37 points per game – has to undergo an overhaul.
– There’s no replacing Oliver at tackle, but JUCO transfer Olivier Charles-Pierre is an interesting 345-pound option on the nose, and 295-pound senior Aymiel Fleming is experienced – but he doesn’t get behind the line.
There’s a promising young rotation on the ends, but they need to do more after the D came up with just 23 sacks. A slew of JUCO transfers will play a role, and Isaiah Chambers is back after coming up with 4.5 sacks in his five games or work before getting hurt.
– Is Nathan Ceaser ready? The team’s top recruit is eventually going to be the linebacking star, but for now, the starting two or three – or four, depending on how you want to define the role of the hybrid Bandit position – has to replace the top-tackling tandem of Austin Robinson and Roman Brown, who combined for 241 tackles.
Leroy Godfrey has to play a bigger role as an all-around playmaker who can get into the backfield, but 245-pound sophomore Derek Parish is a good one who’ll be a stat-sheet filler.
– The secondary will be okay at safety, needs a few new corners, and has to hope for the transfers to play a big role. Colin Samuel is coming in from UCLA, and Kelvin Clemmons is arriving from Minnesota, but early on, the Cougars need the junior safety tandem of Gleson Sprewell and Deontay Anderson – the team’s two leading returning tacklers – will be the early main men.
It’ll be a fall camp fight for the starting corner gigs, with JUCO transfer Damarion Williams likely locking down a spot on one side.