2017 Recruiting class joins the takeover
National Signing Day last Wednesday saw the Houston Cougars adding 17 players to head coach Major Applewhite’s first recruiting class.
With four spots still open, the Cougars sit at No. 76 nationally and No. 5 in the American Athletic Conference, per Rivals’ ranking. Central Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis and South Florida are all ahead of the Cougars, with Navy tying them at No. 76.
According to 247 Sports, Houston is No. 69 nationally and No. 4 in the AAC, behind UCF, Memphis, and Cincinnati, respectively.
“Like 127 other coaches, this is the greatest class we’ve ever had,” said Applewhite in a news conference last Wednesday. “I feel very good in terms of the foundation of the kids that are coming in. Winning programs, winning values, and also, in the end, getting some guys that are going to help us on the field.”
The highest-ranked recruit for the Cougars was Bryan Jones. The 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound defensive end from Baton Rouge, Louisiana was the Cougars’ only four-star recruit, according to ESPN and Rivals.
He was ranked as the No. 11 defensive end and the No. 11 overall player in Louisiana by Rivals.
Jones had initially committed to Ole Miss but de-committed in October. He visited both Houston and Texas A&M in January before committing with the Cougars on Jan. 29.
Houston’s trend of dual-threat quarterbacks from John Tyler High School continues with Bryson Smith. Following the path of Greg Ward Jr., Smith took the No. 1 jersey and is already under pressure to perform on the same level.
“It seems like everybody that we got from John Tyler has been an all-conference player for us or better. So I would expect nothing different from (Smith). I am going to put pressure on him because I think he can be really good,” said Applewhite. “That guy’s an extreme competitor.”
Smith, 5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds, was ranked as the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by ESPN. In his senior year, he threw for 3,227 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for 1,653 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Cougars also signed David Anenih, a linebacker from Mansfield Timberview High School. Anenih’s mother and father live in Nigeria while he lives with his aunt and uncle who have four children of their own.
Anenih stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. He was named to his district’s first team and received an All-State honorable mention. He’s expected to play outside linebacker.
The Cougars picked up D.J. Small from Dickinson, Texas to add some depth to the cornerback position. Small didn’t play varsity football until his senior year in high school, but despite only playing for one year, he was named to his district’s first team.
“For not having a tremendous amount of experience on the field, (Small is) very productive and has great instincts for the game,” said Applewhite.
The 5-foot-9-inch, 160-pound cornerback was a two-star recruit according to Rivals and 247 Sports.
With the four remaining spots, Applewhite is looking to sign another cornerback and an offensive lineman. He is interested in an experienced cornerback possibly transferring from another school to fill the gap in the 2018 season.
Even though this incoming class will be far younger and less experienced, Applewhite believes they have the potential to contend for starting positions.
“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” Applewhite said.
The 2017 recruiting class took a major hit with the departure of Tom Herman to the University of Texas. In the months of November, December and January alone, 11 players de-committed from the Cougars, according to 247 Sports.
However, the Cougars are not alone in their struggle to maintain players in the American Athletic Conference. Tulane had 13 de-commits in total, UCF had 10 and Temple had nine.
With four slots left in the 2017 recruiting class, the Cougars have an opportunity to jump a couple of rankings.