4. Houston Cougars College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– Technically, 11 starters return from a defense that was second in the conference in sacks and fourth in total D, but that doesn’t could leading tackler Grant Stuard and DE Payton Turner who were out late last year getting ready to do their work at the next level. Even so, this is a deep and experienced group with a whole lot of nice parts, but has to be stronger after allowing 32 points per game.
– The defensive backs made all of the tackles when Stuard didn’t. Thanks to the super-senior season, four of the top five tacklers – all defensive backs – anchor the D, and that doesn’t sound speedy corner Marcus Jones. The safeties can pop and the corners are solid, and now the big plays have to come after picking off just three passes. More on that in a bit.
– There’s no replacing the pass rushing talent of Turner, but super-senior David Anenih is back after coming up with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss – second on the team in both – and fellow end Derek Parish was third in the categories. There isn’t a ton of bulk inside, but there’s enough of a rotation to be okay against the run.
There might not be another Stuard, but there are lots and lots of options and veterans to play around with. Not only are most of the key guys from the New Mexico Bowl back, but the defense gets back Donavan Mutin, who made 61 stops in 2019 but missed most of last year hurt. Not only is this group deep, but it can fly.