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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Football

Most successful senior class graduates from football program


17 Cougars are leaving Houston, printing their marks on the UH history books. These players leave holes for next season’s team to fill. | Courtesy of @UHCougarFB

With the Cougars’ season ending in Las Vegas, it’s time to say goodbye to more than a handful of familiar faces who have made their marks in the Houston football record books. As these players hanging up their red-and-white jerseys, they leave problems that will need to be addressed for the next season.

Greg Ward Jr., Quarterback (2013-2016)

No matter how many players return, it will take some getting used to seeing the Cougars captained by anyone but Ward Jr. The leader and face of the Cougars is graduating.

Ward Jr. leaves a legacy of success, finishing with a 27-6 record as the starting quarterback, ranking second in school history. His prowess as a dual-threat quarterback is unmatched in UH history, as he’s first in career rushing yards (2,375) and touchdowns (39) by a quarterback. He even ties Bryce Beall for rushing touchdowns regardless of position.

Ward Jr. led the 25-point fourth quarter comeback in the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl against Pittsburgh, helped dismantle No. 9 Florida State in the 2015 Peach Bowl and upset No. 3 Oklahoma in the 2016 season opener. For more than two years, fans have gotten used to seeing an electric quarterback who just couldn’t be tackled, even by some of the best pass rushers. His presence will be missed, and the composition of the offense may be completely different next year.

Brandon Wilson: Cornerback (2012-2016)

Brandon was one of the most versatile players to ever come to UH, and the loss of his flexibility will leave the Cougars without near as many dimensions next season. Wilson played in every phase of the game and excelled wherever he was placed. In the 2015 season, he scored two touchdowns on offense, defense, and on special teams, the only player in the nation to score multiple touchdowns in all three phases.

In 2016, he was the X-factor in the Cougars’ 33-23 opening-weekend win over Oklahoma, when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown. Sometimes, all it takes to blow a game wide open is one play, and Brandon had the ability to pull that play out of his jack-of-all-trades hat in an instant.

Howard Wilson: Cornerback (2014-2016)

The most devastating blow to the Cougar defense comes with the early departure of Howard when he decided to forgo his final two years to enter the NFL draft. The Cougars’ young secondary was picked apart by offenses all year, and Howard leaves the team’s most glaring weakness with an uncertain future. One of the most experienced cornerbacks, Howard had five interceptions and nine pass breakups in the 2016 season. With his absence, the Cougars will have to put a new player in an already struggling part of the team.

Steven Taylor: Offensive Linebacker (2013-2016)

While Ed Oliver was rushing the opposing team’s quarterback and causing mayhem at the line of scrimmage, Taylor danced between blitzing, dropping into coverage and stopping the rush. In 2015, he put up 10 sacks and two interceptions. In 2016, he had eight and a half sacks and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. He also led Houston with 72 stops and piled up 11 tackles for loss, resulting in negative 77 yards in total this last season. Taylor excelled in all facets of his position; the defense will need to adjust to his loss.

Chance Allen: Wide Receiver (2015-2016)

One of Ward Jr.’s frequently targeted receivers, Allen finished the season with 56 receptions and 815 receiving yards, good for second behind Linell Bonner. He averaged 14.6 points per reception and had six touchdowns in his final season. The recent history of exceptional wide receivers at UH will continue with Bonner and Steven Dunbar at the helm.

Tyus Bowser: Ofensive Linebacker (2013-2016)

Bowser may have missed five games because of an injury, but he finished second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. If he had been healthy all season, there’s no doubt those numbers would’ve been much higher.

Tyler McCloskey: Tight End (2013-2016)

McCloskey had a breakout season in 2016 for the Cougars. He finished third on the team with four touchdown passes caught and had a career-high 23 receptions for 233 yards. In the Cougars’ nail biting loss to Memphis, McCloskey caught seven passes for 86 yards.

Ty Cummings: Kicker (2013-2016)

Cummings accounted for 103 points this season. In 2016, he made 16-for-20 fields goals, with three from 40 plus yards.

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