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Last season’s Cougars look to make impact in NFL

Junior wide receiver Demarcus Ayers had a big game for the Cougars — he hauled in 10 catches for 121 yards. |

Former Cougar wideout Demarcus Ayers has made an impression on Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaches and is on the verge of earning a coveted roster spot | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

With NFL training camps beginning and team’s first preseason game on the horizon, many rookies are battling to prove they have the talent to compete on the professional level.

Several former UH players across the country are looking to polish and expand the skills they obtained while playing with the Cougars. Few players have a guaranteed roster spot, as they are first forced to fully endure the struggles of an NFL training camp.

William Jackson III

The fan-favorite from the 2015 football season began his NFL career with a bang.

The shutdown cornerback was drafted 24th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, the fourth cornerback overall. The late first-round selection is no indication of Jackson’s skill set, as he has proven his talent could’ve been worthy of a top-10 pick so far.

Jackson’s young career took an unexpected turn in the first week of training camp when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. This injury often warrants a season-long recovery, but head coach Marvin Lewis has stated Jackson could return sometime this season.

The former Cougar was slated to make an early and significant impact for the defense as a starting cornerback, but his first team dreams will be temporarily on hold.

Elandon Roberts

The former leader of the Cougar defense  was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft, 214th overall by the New England Patriots.

Roberts led the nation in 2015 with 88 solo tackles. His elusiveness and quickness to the ball caught the eye of the Patriots and landed him in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Roberts faces a situation many rookies can attest to: fighting an uphill battle through every workout and practice. Roberts enters training camp behind a stacked linebacker core led by two of the best linebackers in the game, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower.

Roberts has an extensive training camp ahead of him as he attempts to force himself in the linebacker conversation in New England. In order to earn a roster spot come September, Roberts will have to make a significant impression on head coach Bill Belichick.

Demarcus Ayers

The offensive specialist departed the high-powered offense of the Cougars, and landed at the highest powered offense in the NFL. Ayers was selected in the seventh round, 229th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers have managed to put together the best receiving core in the league and add another highlight-potential player in Ayers. He enters training camp behind a bevy of elite receivers with the same big-play capabilities that he also possesses.

If Ayers is able to penetrate the 53-man roster, he could find himself in some four-receiver sets, and on kick return duties as he was on the Cougars.

Kenneth Farrow

Farrow was not selected in the 2016 NFL draft, but he signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in May. He still has an opportunity to seize a roster spot.

The Chargers’ selected a running back, Melvin Gordon, in the 2015 NFL draft and they expected him to lead the backfield in San Diego. After struggling through his rookie season, the Chargers are now looking for other contributions at running back. Farrow enters training camp as the fourth running back behind Gordon, an aging Danny Woodhead and an unproven Branden Oliver.

If Farrow can put together a successful training camp, it is possible we will see him getting snaps in the regular season.

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