Castile shows potential

If UH’s 55-3 win over Southern was any indication, Cougar sophomore wide receiver L.J. Castile is ready to bank on the potential that made him a three-star recruit out of LaMarque High School in 2006.

Castile put on a show against Southern, catching five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown grabs were nothing short of superb.

The first was a 30-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Case Keenum that was tipped off the hands of sophomore wideout Kierrie Johnson before Castile corralled the ball in the back of the end zone with 11:58 left in the second quarter. The second involved a little more work from Castile, who used his 6-3, 210-pound frame and a spectacular leap to snag a 22-yard strike from Southern senior defensive back Glenn Bell with 2:27 remaining in the first half.

"I just played as fast as I could, and when the ball was in the air I jumped as high as I could to make the catch," Castile said.

Perhaps this is the impact former UH head coach Art Briles envisioned Castile would have when he convinced the former high school standout to switch from quarterback to wide receiver. But that impact was hardly seen last season.

Castile saw action in all 13 of the Cougars’ games, but he only caught seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. For unknown reasons, Castile wasn’t given a more meaningful role.

That will almost certainly change this season with new head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen on board. The Cougars lost three veteran wideouts from last year’s squad with the departures of Donnie Avery, Jeron Harvey and Perry McDaniel, and they’ll need promising young receivers.

Castile already has one key supporter.

"L.J. did an incredible job," Keenum said. "It is good to have someone like that to bail you out whenever you need it. He is very talented and has the ability to go up and get the ball."

Go-to guy?

With Avery (1,456 yards, seven TDs last season) no longer in the fold, Keenum needs a new go-to guy. Early indications are that senior tight end Mark Hafner (seven catches, 103 yards, two TDs against Southern) will be that guy, but who says Keenum can’t have two?

In 2006, Vincent Marshall and Avery were both favorable targets for former quarterback Kevin Kolb. In 2003, Marshall and Brandon Middleton received an almost equal number of passes from Kolb, though Middleton (1,250 yards, 14 TDs) was clearly the main go-to guy.

The next great UH wide receiver has yet to be named. Maybe Castile will write his name into that slot someday.

"We had some shoes to fill," Castile said. "We had guys like Donnie Avery who came through for us last year. Coach Sumlin told us to play our best game, and that is what we did."

Sky’s the limit

Whether Castile becomes Keenum’s main go-to guy is an issue for another day. But one thing’s for certain: Castile will be given a chance to showcase his talents this season.

Too often last season, Castile was lost in the Cougars’ offense. He was talented enough to be somewhat of a difference maker, but he had few chances to do so.

This year, however, Castile will be running routes with a purpose.

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