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Thursday, June 1, 2023


Cougars start 2016 strong with record-setting recruiting class

The Peach Bowl-winning Houston Cougars. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The Cougars have even more to celebrate after bringing in the 40th-ranked recruiting class in the nation. | File photo/The Cougar

Football’s most arguably successful season is in the rear view, but the program kicked off their 2016-17 campaign in the same way they finished out last season: with a bang.

Thirty-five days after the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory, the No. 8 Cougars added 23 new members to the roster in a jam-packed National Signing Day.

With the help of a troupe of Houston’s finest that included D.J. Hayden, Case Keenum, Dallas Keuchel, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Andre Ware and J.J. Watt, the program welcomed its newcomers on Houston Football digital platforms. What really stood out, however, was the quality of the class the Cougars brought in.

“I am very excited about this signing class. We made history. We have signed the highest-ranked non-Power 5 recruiting class in the history of college football, and that should be commended,” head coach Tom Herman said in a news release. “Our staff, support staff, coaches, everybody who has a hand in recruiting should be commended for that. That is something that we don’t take very lightly. We know that we are a lot better coaches when we have a lot better players.”

The class includes three players in the ESPN 300 – defensive tackle Ed Oliver, receiver Courtney Lark and quarterback D’Eriq King – and seven players ranked in the top 10 nationally for their positions:

  • Quarterback Kyle Allen, No. 1 quarterback in 2014
  • Running back Duke Catalon, No. 10 running back in 2014
  • Defensive back J.J. Dallas, No. 9 junior college cornerback
  • Offensive lineman Keenan Murphy, No. 5 center
  • Offensive lineman Na’Ty Rodgers, No. 4 junior college offensive tackle
  • Defensive back Terrell Williams, No. 9 junior college safety
  • Oliver, No. 2 defensive tackle

Although many consider this past season a tremendous success, with a little analysis, the team had weaknesses in a few areas.

The Cougars allowed opponents big plays throughout the season, due to lack of depth on the offensive front and in the backfield, lack of receiving threats (besides Demarcus Ayers) and other frequent mishaps in the secondary.

When you consider the fact that seven defensive backs, six offensive linemen, the two lead running backs and that one consistent receiving threat will not be returning next season, you have even more cause for concern.

The worst part is that those are sheer numbers, and they don’t nearly quantify the loss of production the Cougars will need to replace. The devil is found in the details: the 2016 team will lack players with pivotal roles in the 2015 run, such as William Jackson III, Adrian McDonald, Trevon Stewart, Kenneth Farrow, Elandon Roberts and the aforementioned Ayers.

However, Herman says there is no need to fret and feels this incoming class will help remedy those kinks in the team’s armor.

“We have to recruit really good players, and we did that,” Herman said. “We addressed quite a few needs.”

Going over the roster of spots filled in this incoming class, you can clearly see the coaching staff had an agenda to fill those voids.

The class covers seven position groups with six defensive backs, four offensive linemen, four receivers, three quarterbacks, three defensive linemen, two running backs and one tight end.

With the most difficult phase in the past, the newcomers will start getting acquainted and comfortable because football season is not so far away. Spring practice starts March 7, and Houston will hold its 2016 Spring Game on April 16 at TDECU Stadium.

This was another huge step in the right direction for UH, and Herman said he was particularly proud of what they were able to accomplish.


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