Commentary: Houston’s defensive improvement gives hope for 2020 and beyond
The beginning of Houston’s 2019 campaign included allowing 686 yards to Oklahoma, 318 to Prairie View A&M, 489 to Washington State and 511 to Tulane. They did so while creating six takeaways.
Though the Cougars’ team statistics, in terms of yards allowed, have not boomed since their 1-3 start, they have, on tape, shown significant improvement since their initial defensive struggles.
Last Saturday, UH’s defensive improvement enjoyed a coming out party in a 24-14 win over Tulsa, in which they tallied four takeaways and allowed -1 rushing yards.
Houston has shown improvement all while playing a gauntlet schedule, including matchups with six ranked teams – a record for the program.
“I give our players a lot of credit,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday. “They play hard.”
“They line up and they try to get better weekly. Our coaches, Joe Cauthen and Doug Belk, are doing a heck of a job,” he added. “All the coaches are. They are coaching them hard and our guys have responded.”
Houston’s defense will close out their season against Navy (8-2, 5-1 American Athletic Conference). After that, they are looking to build upon their improvement in 2019 for 2020, where they will see all but one starter, senior defensive lineman Aymiel Fleming, return.
Houston’s 2019 season was dismal (4-7, 2-5 AAC). It highlighted their lack of depth and youth. However, it also brought experience to the squad to solidify the roster heading into a rebound 2020.
“We have a lot of youth and inexperience, and we don’t have a whole lot of depth,” Holgorsen said. “Those keep playing and fighting.”
The Cougars’ defense should only get better in 2020. Next season, they will receive an influx of talent via transfers, including 2018’s No. 4 recruit and five-star Alabama edge rush sophomore transfer Eyabi Anoma.
Junior cornerback Kelvin Clemmons (Minnesota), redshirt freshman safety Hasaan Hypolite (Colorado), junior safety Thabo Mwaniki (Oklahoma State) and junior cornerback Marcus Jones (Troy) will all join Anoma in 2020.
“They are going to be straight,” said Fleming on the 2020 Cougars defense on Monday. “They are going to be good. They got great players. I can’t wait to see them.”