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Fans welcome first look at Applewhite’s Cougars at spring game

After a busy offseason, the Cougars return to TDECU Stadium on Saturday for the first time in 2017 for the annual Red & White game. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

Every spring, college football programs all over the county compete in their annual intrasquad games. For Houston, the 2017 Red & White game will take place Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.

For many fans, this will be the true first showing of a Major Applewhite-led team, after an offseason as head coach. The game also serves in giving Cougar fans a chance to look at the 2017 squad, which is looking to replace a number of starters.

Redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Allen will see his first live action as a Cougar after sitting out last season following his transfer from Texas A&M University. The Arizona native took a majority of reps in the scrimmages, going 44-of-71 for 373 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

One of only two Houston quarterbacks cleared for full contact, Allen is the current favorite to get the nod at signal caller after two-year starter Greg Ward Jr. closed out his career in December.

“Greg (Ward) was an unbelievable player when the play broke down,” Allen said. “Obviously, I’m not near the athlete Greg is, but I think that I bring a lot to the table from the mental side and from the pocket presence side.”

In addition to Ward, the offense will lose two of its top targets — seniors wide receiver Chance Allen and tight end Tyler McCloskey. With junior Isaiah Johnson switching to cornerback, seniors Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar will look to be the top options in 2017, sophomore Terry Mark emerged as one of Allen’s top targets in the first scrimmage.

On the defensive side, the Cougars are aiming to reload as five starters from the 2016 team graduated or left for the NFL. Anchored by sophomore All-American tackle Ed Oliver, the defense allowed just six touchdowns, while scoring one of their own, in two scrimmages.

The Third Ward D will look to its experienced safeties for guidance in the secondary. Despite losing both starting corners to the NFL, senior Khalil Williams and junior Garrett Davis have combined for 27 starts, appearing together in all 12 games in 2016.

“We’ve got a young team. We’ve got to grow up in one year and become closer,” Davis said. “I told the team we have to grow up together, and it’s a thing where we’re all trying to do great things and progress as players.”

Admission to Saturday’s Red & White game is free to all comers, and kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at TDECU Stadium.

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