Projecting the key players for Houston next season
Finishing with an overall 8-5 and a win over Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl was a pretty good season for the Houston Cougars football team, but the program is looking for better.
An entirely new coaching staff has been brought in to push this program to the next level.
With a little over three months until the season starts, a lot could change between now and then, but it is never too early to look ahead at what this team will carry out.
Offensive MVP: Junior Quarterback Greg Ward Jr.
Picking the starting quarterback as the most important player is not exactly a revelation, but it is no less true.
Last season Ward did not even play QB full-time until the sixth game of the season. When he did take over, he lead the Coogs to a 6-2 record while under center, throwing for over 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns and completed a respectable 67 percent of his passes.
Ward also provided a rushing threat from the pocket, amassing 573 yards on the ground with six touchdowns.
In his first season under the new-look Cougar offense, expect Ward to pass for over 3,500 yards, rush for another 1,000 and record around 45 total touchdowns.
It may be a little cliché, but as Ward goes, so goes the offense and I think he will carry this team on his back next season.
Runner-up: Senior Running-Back Kenneth Farrow
While Farrow did breakout for the first 1,000 yard season of his career, along with 14 TDs on the ground, there are only so many snaps to go around.
He is a solid player, more than proving his worth as a workhorse back, and should only build upon that success with an even better season in 2015.
Deffensive MVP: Junior Outside-Linebacker Steven Taylor
In 2014, Taylor proved himself a force on defense.
The linebacker finished his sophomore season as the Cougars’ second leading tacklerwith 76 total stops while also leading the team with nine tackles for a loss and four sacks.
At 6’-1” and 220 pounds, he may not have the measurables that coaches covet, but he has already displayed all the traits on the field that new defensive-coordinator Todd Orlando said he wants in his rushers.
Look for Orlando to bring the same aggressive style that he employed at Utah state, and for Taylor to be the anchor of the new scheme in 2015.
He can be expected to push his sack total into double digits in his junior campaign while leading the team in total tackles and tackles for a loss.
Runner-up: Senior Safety Trevon Stewart
This senior safety has already proven to have a knack for being around the ball throughout his career, racking up 18 pass deflections, six fumble recoveries, and eight interceptions.
In 2015, look for Stewart to be a big beneficiary of the new aggressive style on defense, and if the front seven can get some pressure on the QB, look for Stewart to take advantage.
Breakout player: Junior Wide-Receiver Demarcus Ayers
The cupboard is looking pretty empty at the receiver position headed into the 2015 season.
Gone are most of the top targets from a year ago, who combined for more than 150 receptions, along with almost 1,900 yards and 12 TD’s.
Ayers has been a good return man and backup receiver in his time with the Coogs, averaging 10.6 yards per reception and accumulating 2,078 all-purpose yards.
With no other experienced players ahead of him on the depth chart, look for Ayers to be a key contributor on offense, with the ability to finish the year with about six or seven touchdowns and around 1,000 yards.