Report card: UH shows many areas of improvement, room for growth
The Cougars had a three-game turnaround this season, returning to the postseason after struggling to capture five wins in 2012. The defense took several strides forward, though it still has to improve its size to become a dominant unit. The offense found its quarterback of the future when freshman John O’Korn emerged, but it will need to play better in big moments. The special teams unit was as steady as ever, with punter Richie Leone anchoring the unit.
The Daily Cougar graded each unit and looked forward to its future prospects.
UH presented a balanced attack. Freshman quarterback John O’Korn did a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers, and sophomore running backs Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow showcased lighting and thunder, both rushing for more than 500 yards.
The Cougars had several points scored, but not enough against stiffer competition when it mattered most. On three occasions against good teams — Central Florida, Louisville and Vanderbilt – the offense was shut out in a half. The Cougars lost all three. The offense needs to get better at closing drives with the game on the line.
The defense was the backbone for the Cougars this past season, leading the nation in turnover margin, turnovers forced and stalled offenses. They gave up yards, but really tightened up in the red zone, not allowing as many touchdowns.
The biggest weakness is the defense’s size. It’s listed as the smallest team in the conference and needs to get better on the defensive line. UH can’t count on turnovers to be the bailout every season. The team needs to develop new starting cornerbacks, now that Zachary McMillian and Thomas Bates have graduated.
Senior punter Richie Leone often placed opponents deep in their own territory, forcing them to drive the distance on offense.
Freshman B.J. Singleton tied for second in the country with three kicks blocked, including the one that changed the trajectory in the team’s win against UTSA.
With Leone leaving, the Cougars will not only have to find a new punter, but will also need to develop sophomore Kyle Bullard, who took on kicking duties in the middle of the season, going 6-8 on his attempts.
Football report card
Summary: The Cougars started with a 7-1 record but lost four of its last five. Collectively, they were a team that shined on all three phases of the football; whether it was winning the game with points, stopping opponents on the final drive or a blocked filed goals that played a deciding factor.