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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Football

JUCO recruits ‘critical’ in bolstering injury-ridden roster


Head coach Dana Holgorsen said adding JUCO recruits is a "good way" to fill holes in the roster, ringing especially true for the injury-ridden Cougars. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said adding JUCO recruits is a “good way” to fill holes in the roster, ringing especially true for the injury-ridden Cougars. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

There is no finite way of building-up a college football program. In Houston, for Dana Holgorsen in his second year, that notion is all too true. 

From high schoolers to transfers to junior college recruits, Holgorsen and Co. are building a team with more variance than similarities. A building block to his roster are JUCO players. 

On Wednesday, the start of the early signing period, UH brought-in a litter of JUCO signees to compliment the group he already brought over for 2019. 

The Cougars officially signed linebacker Malik Robinson, wide receiver Nathaniel Dell, cornerback Jayce Rogers and defensive tackle Sedrick Williams. 

Bringing in four JUCO athletes is no fluke. After doing so, Holgorsen emphasized their ability to patch holes in the roster. 

“If there are needs, that’s a good way to do it,” Holgorsen said on Wednesday. “By being able to bring in four of them in the midterm, I think that’s critical.”

Three of Houston’s four JUCO recruits play on the defensive side of the ball. 

Robinson is ESPN’s No. 2 JUCO linebacker. Previously a North Carolina Tar Heel, he transferred to Fort Scott C.C., where he posted 42 combined tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in six games in 2019. He is a mid-year enrollee who will begin in January. 

Robinson adds depth to Houston’s linebacking corps that struggled with injuries in 2019.

Incoming junior Jordan Carmouche played two games due to a shoulder. Senior Jordan Milburn played five contests. Promising transfer Nathan Fox (Northwestern) played two games before abruptly leaving. Incoming senior Terrance Edgestone battled with a high ankle sprain, in turn, limiting him to seven outings.

Originally a Holgorsen recruit at West Virginia, Rogers, a cornerback, found himself at Northwest Mississippi C.C., where he helped them earn two berths in the MACJC Championship. He earned All-MACJC first team as a sophomore. 

Rogers is another body in a Cougars cornerback room that could not field a healthy unit all year long. 

Incoming senior Javian Smith missed his second full season in three years (knee). Promising UCLA transfer Colin Samuel never got a chance to contend for a starting spot due to a lingering knee injury; his status for 2020, as a graduate transfer, is unknown.

Finally, senior Ka’Darian Smith was arrested in November for aggravated assault and was subsequently suspended indefinitely. 

Williams wreaked havoc at Kilgore College. As a defensive tackle, he earned Southwest Junior College Football Conference MVP and first team JUCO All-American as a sophomore. The 6’1”, 302 pound force is now a Cougar and will enroll in January.

Like Robinson and Rogers, Smith will fill-out the depth chart at his respective position. 

The Cougars will lose starting defensive tackle Aymiel Fleming to graduation. Defensive ends Isaiah Chambers and Noah Jones recently announced their intentions to transfer. 

“If you have a plan in wanting to get an older guy at a position, that’s the main way to do it,” Holgorsen said. 

Houston’s lone offensive JUCO recruit, Dell, figures to be a cog in Holgorsen’s offense. A speedster out of Independence C.C., he hauled in 52 receptions for 766 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. He is also a capable punt-returner who will onboard in January will three years of eligibility remaining. 

“I think what this class shows you right here,” Holgorsen said, “is getting a couple of guys that can help you right now.”

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